Library Tutorials
Skip to main content
Font size options
Increase or decrease the font size for this website by clicking on the 'A's.
Contrast options
Choose a color combination to give the most comfortable contrast.
Historic Provo

Oral History of Florence Mildred Sumner Henrichson


KERNER:My name is Chandra Kerner and I am with Florence Mildred Sumner Henrichsen. Today is June 15, 1999. Mildred, can you tell me about that experience when you went sledding down University Hill?

HENRICHSEN:We used to have a lot of fun. After you got down the hill there were two blocks that you would travel before your sled stopped. We used to carry our sleigh clear up to the top of the hill. All the kids wanted a Flexible Flyer. They still have them.

KERNER:Was this when you were a child?


KERNER:What hill did you go sledding down?

HENRICHSEN:University Hill which was Temple Hill at that time. We would sleigh clear down. Sometimes somebody would be double. Others were mostly just single ones going down.

KERNER:Where were you born?


KERNER:What street?

HENRICHSEN:It was in Provo, 612 North 4th East. I'm quite sure my home where I lived with Mother has been pulled down. BYU has really built up in that district and put in homes and apartments.

KERNER:When you were born, what was the university like?

HENRICHSEN:It was the old campus, the one on University Avenue. That's what it was. I only went to kindergarten there. My brother had a year there. Mother was a widow. She just couldn't afford it. I went to the telephone office to work.

KERNER:What year were you born in?


KERNER:How many children were in your family?

HENRICHSEN:Three. Mother had one child born stillborn. Most of the time those children aren't included, but they may say one stillborn.

KERNER:You said you went to kindergarten. How were the elementary schools back then?

HENRICHSEN:I went to the Parker School. I remember it just the same as it was when I went there. It didn't change much.

KERNER:Is the Parker School still around?

HENRICHSEN:It was, but I haven't been up there lately. It was a square white brick building. It was a nice school. We had nice playgrounds with swings. I liked the Parker. At that time there was the Parker, Maeser, Timpanogos, at least four grade schools in Provo.

KERNER:What grades were in elementary?

HENRICHSEN:Up through the sixth grade.

KERNER:Then after elementary school you went where?

HENRICHSEN:Where the Provo High School is now down through town, we went to another school on that ground, an older school. We went down to there.

KERNER:What was that called?

HENRICHSEN:We went there for the seventh grade. It would be called a junior high school.

KERNER:Did you go to high school?

HENRICHSEN:Yes. Mother was a widow and so I went to work at the telephone office.

KERNER:At what age did you start working?


KERNER:And you went to work for the telephone company. What did you do there?

HENRICHSEN:I was an operator. I loved it.

KERNER:How many years did you work there?

HENRICHSEN:Not many, because I got married. I met my husband more or less there. We used to have to go up an alley to get in the door to go up to the switch boards. The Berg Mortuary was right next door. When we were working the night shift, there was a big glass window and we used to stand there and watch them carry people in with a sheet over them. We had a lot of fun.

At first there was only one working nights, because it isn't very busy. It may be a lot more now. I worked alone for a while. Then I lost weight. I should go back there now. I went down so the chief operator, the head of it, her name was Berneice Condon, she could see. My aunt was her good friend. So they put another operator with me at nights so I wouldn't be alone. That way we could have a rest period in between or take a little lunch.

KERNER:What did you used to do for fun at age 19?

HENRICHSEN:Dance. My husband said I was just like pushing a wheelbarrow around. I think that's so funny. I remember him. He was a real good dancer. Him and I used to go down to what was called the Utahna. It was just a block off of Main Street. We danced.

KERNER:What kind of dancing did you do?

HENRICHSEN:Waltzes and fox trots. We had a lot of fun. I did wish I was a better dancer. I didn't like to be told it was like pushing a wheelbarrow.

KERNER:What else did you do for fun?

HENRICHSEN:Sleighride like I said. We used to go flood our lawn. We had a huge yard and we used to put a dam board in up the street a ways, because there was a ditch running by. We'd dam it off and we had more fun swimming out there. All the kids in the neighborhood would come. We had a lot of fun.

KERNER:That's when they would irrigate and the water would go on the lawn?

HENRICHSEN:That's right.

KERNER:What were some of your favorite classes that you took in school?

HENRICHSEN:I always liked geography. I liked painting. I painted that up there. I have another one I like at home. I've given a lot of them at home.

KERNER:What were the classes like in your schools?

HENRICHSEN:They were average. We had our desks and we sat in rows. Iris Dusenberry was our teacher. All the kids thought she was a crank. She was the teacher of the kindergarten. I had her at the BYU through kindergarten and maybe first grade. After that I went down to the Parker, then on to the one downtown.

KERNER:When you graduated from high school, how many people graduated with you?

HENRICHSEN:I don't know. I can remember where we sat and what we had. We had the graduation in the senior high school now. We had to march in. We had a cap and a gown. I don't think there would be a lot. Maybe one hundred to two hundred.

KERNER:What high school did you go to?

HENRICHSEN:Provo High School.

KERNER:Is it located in the same place?

HENRICHSEN:Same place, but it's older now. I guess they still have high school there. I haven't been down there for a long time.

KERNER:You said a favorite hang out was the Utahna. What were other places that you liked to go and hang out? Were there restaurants?

HENRICHSEN:The Brigham Young University used to have dances in the ladies' gymnasium. My sister could have danced her legs off. She wasn't as awkward as me, being a wheelbarrow. There wasn't a lot you could do. Mostly your entertainment was made right up.

KERNER:What kind of entertainment?

HENRICHSEN:Like going swimming on the lawn or climbing trees. We had a chicken coop and had chickens and got mites all over us. We could raise a garden with vegetables. Mother had quite a large lot. We used to have a real nice garden.

KERNER:So there was a lot to do around the yard. Probably not much television.

HENRICHSEN:Victorola. You remember the old fashioned Victorolas that you used a record on. That was a luxury when you got one of those.

KERNER:Did you have one of those?


KERNER:And what did you play on the Victorola? What did you like to listen to on it?

HENRICHSEN:Caruso was the big singer at that time. He was a stocky little guy, but boy could he sing. The Andrew Sisters.

KERNER:What types of clubs or organizations were you involved in?

HENRICHSEN:Not a lot. I went right to the telephone office to work. I didn't get out to a lot of clubs.

KERNER:That's where you met your husband.

HENRICHSEN:I met him by the telephone office. He was in the building trade. He was a plasterer. Plaster is out of style now. You don't even see it. There was a long alley that went up between the telephone office and Berg Mortuary. He had a job plastering this alley. He saw me there. He must not have had very good eyes. He came up and butted into me one night at the Utahna at the dance. He could sure dance. I was all feet.

KERNER:He was working as a plasterer.

HENRICHSEN:They don't use plaster now. They use wallboard now.

KERNER:How did you finally end up marrying him?

HENRICHSEN:We had a general courtship. We used to go to the shows and we'd go to Salt Lake for the day. Sometimes we'd go to Wallsburg. You go through Provo Canyon and there is a switch that goes up. Wallsburg is in a little valley up there. I had a half-sister living there and we'd go up and spend the day with her and her husband. That was a big deal. We'd go on picnics.

KERNER:Where would you go on picnics?

HENRICHSEN:We went to the park up in the canyon. We would go up the general road to Sundance. There wasn't as much there as there is now. You could see the deer sometimes. It was beautiful up there. There were trees that have the white trunk. I used to wonder why the deer didn't bump their heads. People lived up there, there were homes up there.

KERNER:What types of shows and movies did you go to?

HENRICHSEN:Yes. They've improved a lot. Gloria Swanson ones. I bet they'd sure look funny now. The old fashioned clothes. We used to like them. It didn't cost us like it does now.

KERNER:How much did it cost?

HENRICHSEN:About a dime.

KERNER:Now it's six dollars.

HENRICHSEN:I had an aunt that was a librarian there in Provo. My sister worked in the library for some time in the lower part where they had the children's division. That was interesting to go there.

KERNER:What type of celebrations or fairs or holidays did they have in Provo?

HENRICHSEN:They always had a parade on the Fourth. BYU used to have a parade. The 24th of July is very popular because that's Pioneer Day. I went to Salt Lake to a parade once. Most of them were right in Provo.

KERNER:Did they decorate the city around Christmas or holidays?

HENRICHSEN:Yes, but not as elaborate as they do nowadays. I can't remember off hand. Mostly just a banner in the streets.

KERNER:You said you belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What was the Church like when you were growing up here in Provo? Was it very big? Were there a lot of members?

HENRICHSEN:My dad and mother both were converts from England. Mother and her sisters, that's where she knew my dad, came over on a ship. I think it was called the Dominion. They all had English wool dresses on, hot as Hades, and hats with flowers. They landed in Salt Lake on the Fourth or 24th of July. They darn near died with the heat.

KERNER:Then they settled out here in Provo.

HENRICHSEN:They kind of branched out. Some of them stayed in Salt Lake. Some were down into Provo. One of the sisters was a nurse.

They used to have dances. BYU had what they called a matinee dance for the kids. My sister went all the time. They had quite a bit of entertainment for those days.

KERNER:Tell me a little bit about the ward you attended.

HENRICHSEN:When we first started to go we went to the Fifth Ward. It was still standing there. It was a little white brick building with steps going out the front.

KERNER:Where was that at?

HENRICHSEN:In Provo, about Third North in there someplace. We went there for sometime and then the wards were divided, because the church was growing. They built what they called the Manavu Ward. That's where we were divided into. Manavu Ward was a real nice church. We used to live right across the road.

The only thing is we used to watch them carry the caskets. They used to go up the side and in the door. They had a Relief Society Hall and classrooms. It was a nice church. One day one of the handles came off of a casket. Luckily they caught it before it tipped.

KERNER:Did you have any relationships with non-Mormons? What was the general feeling between them?

HENRICHSEN:The Church was about all we knew. In fact if you spoke to a person that didn't belong, you weren't making fun or anything, but they were almost a stranger to the ward. I didn't know too many non-members.

KERNER:What type of activities would you do? You said there were a lot of dances.

HENRICHSEN:Dancing, played hide-and-seek under the street light. Then we would change it to LGH. Some poor little innocent kid was in there and we'd all go home and leave them out in the street. It was little kids stuff and we had a lot of fun.

KERNER:What changes have you seen in Provo as far as the business districts?

HENRICHSEN:Provo is growing. It's becoming more like University Avenue towards Brigham Young University and up in there. I think there's a mall up in there now. It's spreading out more.

KERNER:What types of stores did they have when you were growing up?

HENRICHSEN:There was a Woolworths which was the dime store. We had Webbs Dry Goods store. It used to be the one downtown. We had a couple of banks and a mortuary. You've got to have a mortuary.

KERNER:Did you work any other places other than the telephone company?

HENRICHSEN:No, I got married. I worked there about a year then I got married.

KERNER:Where did you get married at?

HENRICHSEN: I was married... Oh wait, I forgot to mention that the building trade was slow in Provo so he went to Glendale, California, right off of Hollywood Boulevard.

KERNER:Did you go with him or did you stay here?

HENRICHSEN:I went down a little later. My mother and I went down. We had the wedding at my half-sister's. We went to the temple when we came home about a year later.

KERNER:You were married in the Salt Lake Temple?


KERNER:Did he get another job here in Provo?

HENRICHSEN:Yes. His dad was a contractor in Provo. He was a cute little man. They lived on Fifth West. Do you know where the Third Ward church used to be on the corner? It's got another name now. They've changed it. It's got an iron fence all around it. They lived right next door to there now. It's all changed now.

KERNER:He continued working as a plasterer?

HENRICHSEN:He continued it. Then we went to California later and he went on with it down there as a contractor.

KERNER:How many children did you have?

HENRICHSEN:I have two, but they're both adopted. I never did have any of my own.

KERNER:Did you adopt the children here in Provo?

HENRICHSEN: They were both adopted in California. That has slipped my mind over the years. That's a long time.

KERNER:Did you raise your family here in Provo?


KERNER:Did you see any differences in the way you were raised to the way you raised your children? Any differences in the city or the schools?

HENRICHSEN:I don't think so. I think we raised them the way we had been taught by our parents.

KERNER:Were you affected by the Depression?


KERNER:What was that like living here in Provo?

HENRICHSEN:Terrible. Things were available. We didn't have the money to buy things with. They called it the Great Depression. It was not an easy thing. I know the work, like my husband and his dad were plastering in Provo and their work dropped off nearly to nothing. It was a terrible experience. But in a way it done you good, because you had to learn to be more frugal and careful. As long as you didn't get too careful.

KERNER:What about different wars? How were you affected by the wars?

HENRICHSEN:Everything tightened up. The soldiers marched off. We never used to leave the flag out overnight. But now you see it out any old time. They did not. I always thought that was nice. At the schools we had flag ceremonies and once in a while we'd have a military band come and give us a talk. The food variety was hard to get. You could get it if you had the money. It was just scarce. They had to send food overseas.

KERNER: Can you think of anything else?

HENRICHSEN:Not right now. I'll take a minute. I don't know of anything. We've covered it pretty well. There weren't as many magazines on the market. Ladies Home Journal was one. The other was Woman's Companion.

KERNER:What newspapers were around?

HENRICHSEN:The Deseret News. My brother worked for the Provo Herald. I don't know how many years ago that was. I guess it was in those hard times. I know we were so glad when he got the job. He used to ride to work. In the cold morning they'd have to be down there early. He did some janitor work on the side. You could hear him whistle as he came home.

They used to paint the Y on the mountain. They painted that. The men used to go past our place. They all had a bucket. It was always the freshmen. They had a bucket and a brush to paint and some white wash to put in the bucket. There was a trail. That was once a year the freshmen had to take care of the Y.

KERNER:What were some things that made you happy when you were growing up?

HENRICHSEN:For one thing we liked Easter. We used to go up on the foothills in the mountains. We also went on University. We went in our coal shed once because it was storming. Us kids had to have a lunch and got in the coal shed.

KERNER:You would do a picnic for Easter?

HENRICHSEN:Yes. Our mother would put a lunch up for us.

KERNER:What were some things that were hard when you were growing up? You mentioned the Depression.

HENRICHSEN:I was awfully timid. I used to go to the dances and get clear to the back of the crowd, scared. I think I was built like a wheelbarrow.

KERNER:I think we've covered everything on the list and even more. I like to hear about your dancing experiences. It sounds like a lot of fun.

HENRICHSEN:It was funny because there would always be more girls than fellows. You'd all stand down in one corner waiting to be asked to dance.

KERNER:What did Center Street look like and how has it changed since then?

HENRICHSEN:Not a lot I don't think. There's a few more buildings. That old tabernacle is still there. It's going to be replaced. I don't think a lot, only there might have been a meat market and a general yardage store. There was a big building on the corner with a large porch that went out over the side walk. That was a pool hall. JC Pennys was there. Dixon Taylor and Russell went in new. I think that was about all. I don't remember it all.

We used to go to the shows. We'd go to the matinee and get in very cheap compared to what it is now. I used to like that. My husband and I used to go to quite a few shows. I guess that's it.

KERNER:Thank you, Mildred.

HENRICHSEN: They had this common old cement pool. I thought I was so big because I could jump off the diving board.

KERNER:This is at a park on Fifth West?

HENRICHSEN:It was Fifth West on one side. The Park was off to the east a little bit. There used to be a lot of kids go swimming there. There were dressing rooms. I never did have an old fashioned swimming suit. They were around then, because I have a couple of aunts that I have a picture of. My one aunt was a nurse. They wore little hats on top of their hats. They looked real cute.

KERNER:You went swimming in Utah Lake sometimes?

HENRICHSEN:Maybe wading. We went in boat rides. My brother-in-law had a house boat. In fact we slept on that one night. When you get out on the lake there is a lot of little canyons. There was one place where there had been an Indian village out there.

Interviewee: Florence Mildred Sumner Henrichsen
Interviewer: Chandra Kerner
June 15, 1999

Return to Oral Histories List