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Historic Provo

Oral History of Faye Jeppson


WINN: Today is June 19, 1999. This is Jennifer Winn, and I'm interviewing Faye Jeppson. Faye, what was it like growing up in Provo?

JEPPSON: When I was a little girl I enjoyed playing around. When I started school I went to the old Franklin. That's a long time ago. I enjoyed school.

WINN: What were some of your childhood memories?

JEPPSON: I can remember my dad pulling me on the sleigh. There was no pavement and sidewalks down where my grandparents lived. He was pulling me and got a cramp. He said, "No more pulling in the sleigh."

When I went to school at the old Franklin, there were irrigation ditches along the side of the road. In the winter when the water was in there froze over, I had to walk. I had to walk along and sometimes the ice would break. It wasn't deep but enough to wet my shoes. In those days there were no galoshes. I just wore high laced shoes.

I was always one for out-of-doors. After I got into fourth, fifth, and sixth grade there was a big rain ditch going down over Tenth West. Some of us bigger kids would run and try to jump that. It all depended how full that was at the time we were going to jump it. We could make it fairly well if the supply had diminished a little bit. It's no fun just walking along.

Somebody would be throwing snowballs and I could throw snowballs just as well as the boys could. I wasn't the typical little girl. I was always ready to do something. I would come hike the hills and go swimming in the lake. Sometimes we'd swim and sometimes we'd rather rowboat.

I lived on Sixth South between Third and Fourth West. It was a good walk to the foothills. We were walking all the time. After we got into our teens, two or three girls and I started our usual walk for the evening. We heard three or four guys. The neighborhood boys were in back of us. I said, "Let's speed up just a little bit and find a place to hide." We came to this place that had a hedge. There were three of us and we laid down behind that hedge. Here came the boys. "Which way did they go? Did you see which direction they took?" It was all we could do to keep from laughing. They went right on by us and then we got up and went the other way.

We had to make our own fun. We didn't have money to go to shows all the time. When Frankenstein was playing a girlfriend and I went to see that. You can let it get to you. When we got out it was foggy. It was cold weather. When you walked the snow squeaked. With this fog you could imagine just about anything or everything. If you've ever been out in a thick fog when it was really cold and the snow was crisp so it squeaked when you walked, it can be scary.

WINN: You mentioned that you grew up during the twenties, what were some of the activities that you were involved with?

JEPPSON: When I got a little bit bigger we went to mutual. We were always doing some activity. We'd have the week to go up to Mutual Dell in Provo Canyon and the swimming pool there. Some of the girls would stay around camp. A couple of us would take off and go up into the hills and hike around. I don't think we were supposed to do that. Who was going to keep track of everybody? I enjoyed that. It was getting out. I just wanted to be going in the hills all the time.

WINN: What brought your family originally to Provo?

JEPPSON: My great grandparents came from Denmark in 1867. They finally settled in Provo. He was one of the early force. The building next to them had been remodeled and fixed and was made into a boys' school. The displays were glass. There were boys and rocks and too many got broken, so he gave up his small place and went to work for another forest. He worked there until he was too old to work. His wife died and he didn't have anybody, so he went up to the Eldred infirmary for old people. That's where he died.

My father's people came from Sweden in 1873 and moved here to Provo. Eventually my mom and dad met and married and had me and a sister and then broke up. My father lived at my grandparents' place and my sister went with my mother and lived in our great grandfather's place. We saw each other all the time. We were back and forth.

My dad planted a garden and had all kinds of flowers growing. That's how I learned to grow things. People died off. The old folks died off. My mother stayed here in Provo until she was 80 and then she moved up to Bountiful where my sister lived. That's where Mom died in a rest home. My father stayed down at the old place until he couldn't take care of anything. Eventually he went to the geriatric ward at the state hospital. That's where he spent his last years.

At the old place down there, no one had been keeping track of anything and taxes hadn't been paid for four years, so it was sold for taxes. The company that bought it tore up all the trees and flowers and it's all cemented over down there now. One side of the place has got storage units. The big old barn, where I used to climb up into the loft to read is gone. The big old scotch pine is gone.

They had a coal range in the house and a little coal house sitting by the fence. When the guy came with a load of coal, he just had to raise the trap door and shovel the coal in. When we needed a bucket of coal, we had to go out of the house and over there and get the coal.

There was no water in the house. There was city water outside. You would go out to a tap and haul water in, used it and hauled water out. There was no bathroom. You just had a little back porch with a stove in it. That's where they cooked in the summer time when it was so hot. That was used for people to take a bath out there. You heated your water and got your old tin tub. When you got through with your bath you hauled that out.

There was no electricity either at first. We had lamps. This was my dad's lamp and my grandparents'. After a while we got electricity in and we didn't have to use lamps everyday. With no electricity we still had clothes to iron. They had three sizes of irons. You would wipe a place off on the stove and set these irons there to heat so that you could iron. You had to be sure that you wiped their bottoms off, and not iron on a white shirt. That's ancient history now. I don't even iron clothes anymore. You can buy clothes that don't need ironing. So why iron?

WINN: What were the parameters of Provo? How large was it when you were a younger girl?

JEPPSON: To a smaller child, things looked really bigger than they are. But then after a while, the first thing you know streets were starting to get paved and the irrigation ditches beside the road were curb and gutter. I can remember my son that was here, when he was smaller. I got married and rented here and rented there. This place we finally ended up renting before we moved here. I sent him up to the bakery on west Center. I sent him up to get some rolls or doughnuts. He came walking down the curb and gutter. He dropped the sack with the bread in it. He grabbed it before it got wet. He said that was fun on that little narrow curb. He had to have glasses. He had a lazy eye. It straightened out eventually.

My husband and I both went to the old Franklin School. When we moved where we were before we came up here, he used to go to the old Franklin.

WINN: How did you and your husband meet?

JEPPSON: He was one of the neighborhood kids. There were four or five fellows and three or four of us girls. We just got acquainted and we knew one another. Once in a while we'd have a snowball fight.

My dad used to run the old depot down there. They had lawn in front of the trucks. I lived just across the street from that. As we got bigger, my dad would go out there and my dad would knock balls to whoever wanted to play ball. Someone at the depot told my dad, "That daughter of yours should join the ball team." I could throw very well and I could catch. But I was a nut when it came to batting. I grew up always out doing things.

WINN: How were you affected by the Depression?

JEPPSON: My dad worked for a farmer and got winter potatoes and some meat. He raised our vegetables like carrots, and my aunt baked bread. That's how I learned to make bread, which I did for so many years. I miss that old whole wheat bread. We managed. I even made a dress out of flour sacks. They used to have flour sacks and designs. When they quit doing that and just left it plain old white, it wasn't any use.

I think we did okay. We didn't have enough money. We went to a show once in a while in the old Princess Theater for ten cents. While you were in there there was rats running around. People came in eating popcorn. We watched the thrillers "to be continued next week." By sure we had to be there for that.

WINN: What was Center Street like and how has it changed?

JEPPSON: There was a lot of good stores along there. After I grew up we liked to walk Center Street back and forth. No one had cars. If we went anyplace we walked. I don't think we got into as much trouble as young people do now, with all this crap they show on T.V. We'd go to church on Sunday. After a while we didn't go to church, we went hiking. When you get to be sixteen you don't want to go to church.

When I got kids I sent them to Sunday School, but I didn't get enrolled with any church business until we moved up here. We had been up here for a number of years and the presiding bishop was our neighbor over here. The first thing you know, here they came wanting me in Primary. I was the secretary there.

Then we decided we would sell the place and move. I told them in Primary that I wanted to be released. After a few months we decided to stay right here. I went back into Primary as the second counselor. When the President and First Counselor got pregnant, they asked to be released and that released me. I no sooner got released than Relief Society got me. I served under seven presidents. They knew what I could do and it was necessary that they did correct things. That's why each president said they wanted me as secretary.

I had to take a two or three year break after three years in Relief Society. I had to help raise three grandkids so they could go to school. Then I went back into Relief Society for another four years. I was seventy years old when they released me. When I got to be about 80 I couldn't stand to sit for very long at a time. To go for three hours to church on Sunday was hard. I told the bishop I couldn't do it. I said, "It would be very rude for me to get up when somebody was giving a lesson and go wandering to get some exercise." I told him to excuse me and they did.

Then the visiting teachers and home teachers always came. I kept in touch. I paid my tithing. My visiting teacher said, "I'm supposed to visit and help you. I'll be darned if you aren't helping me. I've learned more coming visiting you." I told her she hadn't better get too friendly or she'd start swearing. I do forget myself once in a while and swear. I don't mean saints. I just say hell if I burn me or bang me.

I get along very well. She thought for a while that she might have to stop coming to teach. Her husband was ailing. But with a little time once a month, she could manage to keep coming. I said, "I sure hope you do. I would hate to have a young person with two or three little kids come." You know how little kids get into every cotton picking thing. You can get after them. But so far she has managed to come.

It got so that I always had the lesson read. When she was supposed to come in the first part of January, I got through January okay. It was before this happened, but then in February, March, April, May, June, she's had to give me the lessons. Otherwise we just discuss about everything. We have a good visit, about an hour. A visiting teacher is only supposed to be about fifteen minutes. We have our own schedule.

WINN: How were you affected by World War II?

JEPPSON: Three brothers-in-law went to war and one of them didn't come back. He was killed in Germany, the land of his forefathers. His father came from Germany. But that was my husband's kid brother. I wrote letters to them. No one else was writing much.

Right now I will sit down and it just crosses my mind, "How about writing so and so." Then it dawns on me, you can't do that. If you can't focus your eyes right, you can't write. That's what is the matter. I can't focus.

WINN: Have you ever used a typewriter?

JEPPSON: I've thought about that. My old typewriter is so old that I would probably get all mixed up. They understand now. Everybody is from Mountain Green in the north part of the state. I always wrote to her and she wrote me a nice long letter to let me know what was carrying on in that neck of the woods. A couple of weeks ago I collapsed on my sofa bed. I thought it must be the phone. That phone just buzzes. It doesn't ring. I got up and answered it and it was her. She said, "I've been wondering why I don't hear from you, so I called you instead." I told her how it was. She said, "We sure miss your letters." I don't hear anyone offering to pick up the pen to write. No one wants to write letters.

WINN: It seems so much more convenient to call or e-mail. What were some of the activities your children were involved in?

JEPPSON: Scouting for the boys. My daughter died at nine of rheumatic fever. The boys got into scouting. They went to Primary and Sunday School until they got too smart to go when they got fourteen or fifteen. The older one that was here graduated from high school and then he went into the Navy. He was in the Navy four years and got out and got married. That ended in divorce. Another marriage ended in divorce. Then he married this girl, Marilyn.

They decided when he couldn't find a real steady job, that if he re-enlisted, instead of going into the Navy, he asked if he could be in the Coast Guard. They said he could. He went into the Coast Guard for a twenty year stretch. While he was in the Coast Guard he made three trips down to Antarctica. He was on an ice breaker. They go and open up so the supply ships can come in. When he got out of the Coast Guard, he had a pension. They stayed with her folks in Spanish Fork and he had to look around to see. He finally got on with Provo City and moved over on Seventh West. He is 63 now and he is opting for retirement.

The next son didn't know what he wanted to do. He ended up not going to school. When he reached seventeen he joined the Army. He spent all of his years going here and there. He was over in Vietnam flying helicopters and was shot down. He got quite bruised up. He is the one that lives down in Arizona. His spine is deteriorating. He has no future to look forward to. When he was in Vietnam he was doing drugs. His wife divorced him, and took the two boys. It was this youngest boy who came here to visit last week. There is a rift between him and his son. I think his mother has done that to a certain degree. He's the one that I was writing a letter to. When I quit he wondered what was going on. Now he knows what it is.

The third one didn't finish school. When he was eighteen he joined the Army. The number two son died. David died. Wayne is the one in Arizona now. Dick is up here to stay with me. He was clinically dead and they brought him back to life.

WINN: How do you think that Provo has changed?

JEPPSON: I do not like to go to town anymore. When I was walking to pay bills, Provo was nice. It was friendly. You could go in and browse in the stores. You knew the clerks. It was just nice. My mother was living in an apartment. The day that I needed to go pay bills, I'd stop and get her and the two of us would wander all over town to pay bills. We'd go in the stores and browse. Lots of times we'd think about something we liked. We'd go in and browse and wander around. We found it. It was nice. That carried on for quite a while. She was getting old and she moved up to Bountiful where my sister could keep an eye on her. I eventually gave up wandering to town like that.

When my husband got Alzheimer's, I kept him home here for about six years. We had to tell him what to do, how to do and he told me he was going to break my neck. I called the doctor and he told me it was time for him to move. So we took him up to the geriatric ward and then into a rest home where they had to restrain him. He started picking on everybody. That's what it does to some people. I never saw him again after we delivered him up there, until he was in his casket. Why go see somebody who doesn't know who you are? If he can get a hold of you, he's going to choke you. It was rough.

My mother had cerebral palsy and my sister decided that she should go into a rest home where she could be taken care of. A while after Mom had been up there, she mentioned to her granddaughter that there is something the matter with your mother. She used to write me all the time and then all of a sudden she didn't write anymore and she would call me on the phone and ask me some of the most stupid things, if I knew this person or that person and all I could say to her was, "I don't know who you're talking about, because I wasn't there."

She claimed that her daughter had stolen her money and that the daughter had held her down while the grandson beat her up. That's the way they get. The daughters had her examined and sure enough, Alzheimer's. She's up there now in the tenth year with Alzheimer's. Last January a hip broke and they thought the operation might be too much. But it wasn't. Now she's in a wheelchair.

Interviewee: Faye Jeppson
Interviewer: Jennifer Winn
June 19, 1999

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