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Historic Provo

Oral History of Iris Creer


INTERVIEWER: I'm interviewing Iris Creer. Were you born in Provo?

CREER: I was born in Springville, but I was raised in Provo. I moved here when I was very young.

INTERVIEWER: What were some of your earliest memories of Provo?

CREER: When you say earliest memories, I moved into a home. The neighbors were all out watching us move in. I was not yet in school. I didn't start until the fall of the year. I went to the Maeser School. As far as earliest memories, I can remember when we saw new cars come in. We didn't have many cars. We would run out in the street to smell the gas. That was a new thing. There were not many cars on the road.

INTERVIEWER: What elementary school did you go to?

CREER: I went to the Maeser School. I attended the old Central School and then Provo High School and then BYU.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember any certain teachers that you liked or classes that you liked?

CREER: I can't name the teachers now because it's been such a long time. I haven't written that down. I remember some teachers and how much I enjoyed it. I liked school. I was not a top student, but I liked school. We always dressed up for school. There was no such thing as wearing pants to school. The boys wore suits that came to their knees. We always wore a dress. Sometimes we wore an apron to keep our dresses clean.

INTERVIEWER: Were there any certain activities you remember associated with school?

CREER: The school had no lawn or plants around the school. It was just plain dirt. We had no equipment. When we had recess we devised our own fun and what we did. There was no equipment whatsoever nor no supervision for outdoor play. We just had recess in order to relax before we had a rest time.

When we had something special to do, we danced the maypole. When we had a festive occasion we had a queen and we danced the pole. That was a great thing in those days.

When we were older we danced. We even danced in elementary school. When I say dance, we really danced. We didn't just face each other like they do now. Everyone knew how to dance well. The city's all had dance halls. Every town had a public dance hall. We would go in groups to dance. We thought that was great fun. This is how we got the name of Geneva Steel. Geneva was the dance hall on the edge of the lake. You could go out there just like any of the other dance halls for public dancing. That was called Geneva. When they built the plant here they had to have a place near the water, so they bought that land. That's where the name came from.

INTERVIEWER: Would you go to the dance hall for Friday nights, or would you go on school nights or weekends?

CREER: Mostly the weekends.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember any social activities in town, like certain favorite hangouts and dating?

CREER: We had dates to go to the dances. Usually the dates went in groups rather than singly. When you say hangout, we weren't much to hangout. We usually went dancing. We didn't do a hangout. We came home after a dance to someone's house and we made candy or we had something to eat. That was our fun, to go to each other's homes after a ball game. In high school we went to someone's house and had cookies and punch.

INTERVIEWER: Have you been LDS your whole life?


INTERVIEWER: When you moved here, how was the ward that you attended different? What was your relationships with non-Mormons in the town?

CREER: Of course when I grew up there were not many non-Mormons around us. I went to Provo First ward. I haven't had a great deal of experience with non-members, because most of my neighbors were very close. We were in and out of each other's homes and playing together. We played run-sheep-run, give me away, and kick the can. Those were all games that we played. My experience with non-members was not very great.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think that the division of the wards affected the community?


CREER: I don't know how that would be affected. Naturally when you're young your world is in your own neighborhood. You don't travel very far. People in the second ward were in another world for us. We didn't have contact with them until you got to high school. Then you didn't run into children much.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember if you belonged to any clubs or organizations?

CREER: I was always active in politics. I worked in the precinct. I was with the Republican party. My grandmother lived in Payson, but she was an avid Republican. I was chairman of the heart fund one year in Provo. This is after I was grown. I lived in Provo always until I was married. Then I moved to other places. I was in Arizona and Idaho and spent many years in California. I raised my children in California.

INTERVIEWER: How was the sense of neighborhood different?

CREER: I think we were very fortunate in the neighborhood I grew up in because we were so friendly one to another. Even the neighbors got together and played games like Flinch and Pit. The adults as well as the children were all together. I don't find that as much now. However, we built a house up on the hill. I was very friendly with the neighbors there. And there I had a neighbor who was not a member of the Church. We brought them to many of the church functions and they got along fine with us.

INTERVIEWER: Was there a lot of construction of new homes that you remember?

CREER: Not like it is now. They constructed homes where we built a house up on 1450. We built that house. It seems that the houses now are much larger. They have to have more family rooms and bathrooms and things like this. We didn't think it was that necessary when we built a house. We built a nice house. It's still a nice house, but I see what the young people are building now and they're much larger. Then they're not paid for either.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember any certain celebrations in Provo like fairs and holiday events in the community?

CREER: They always had a state fair. That was always fun. That was in Salt Lake. But the country fairs are still held now. You bring produce and display that and the handwork and quilts and even bottled fruit. This is still being done, but it was done in those days also.

INTERVIEWER: What about holidays?

CREER: To us Christmas was a big deal. In the neighborhood we were all LDS. Christmas morning was the important time. Usually we got the Christmas tree up on Christmas Eve. Here they get it way in advance. Then we would run with our robe and slippers to the neighbors to see what they received on Christmas. We'd go back and forth. We didn't even bother to get dressed. It was an exciting time for us.

INTERVIEWER: How have occupations changed in the community?

CREER: I didn't particularly have an extra job, but other people did. My father owned a music store, so on Saturdays when I was older I would sell phonograph records and player rolls. He sold pianos. By that time we had radios. The pianos had a roll that played. The keys of the piano go up and down as the music goes. I used to do that on Saturdays selling records.

INTERVIEWER: How did national events affect the community? How did the Depression affect the community?

CREER: It made a big difference. I was growing up during the Depression. Many people were out of work. Many people had a hard time. My father would help pay some people's utility bill so they would have lights or water. All of those things were important. My marriage came during the Depression time. We didn't have big weddings and fancy things at all, because no one did. You didn't have the money to spend on that.

INTERVIEWER: What about the federal programs under Franklin D. Roosevelt?

CREER: I remember he was president a long time when I was young. I remember presidents earlier than that also. I remember going to Salt Lake to see Harding. They had him riding down the street. We thought that was wonderful to see a president. Roosevelt was there a long time. He was our president for that many years. That was my growing up time.

My husband went to Stanford University after we graduated from the Y. When we were busy like that we were not too involved in the political scene, although we were interested and we did our voting. It was not until later that I became interested in civic promotions.

INTERVIEWER: What are certain things you remember about how World War II affected the community?

CREER: Everyone was excited about going and helping out. We had many young people going to the war. That was a difficult time to have their education interrupted. Also it made a big difference on a mission. You couldn't do that. It had a big impact and impression upon us. When the war was over the city had a big celebration and parade. That was World War I. I remember World War I the way I'm telling you now. It was not quite so festive during the second war. It was much more serious.

INTERVIEWER: What about the Korean War? Do you remember any stories or certain affects of any of these wars?

CREER: I only had one brother. By this time he was too old to be bothered by the draft. I didn't have an immediate experience with that, except knowing that a friend went or people that we knew. I didn't have any relatives that were immediately affected. There were no boys in that war. Later on I had some affect with my son-in-law that was in the Army at that time. However, he was not in Korea. He was in Turkey. He was in the Army. It was during that time. On the news we had a lot of people resenting Korea and getting into civic demonstrations against it.

INTERVIEWER: What about the Cold War and Vietnam War? Was it pretty much the same?

CREER: I wasn't affected because my husband wasn't in that category. We did have some experiences with some of that. My husband at that time was bishop of a ward for many boys who wanted to go on missions. The draft would not allow them. Each ward was only allowed one or two missionaries depending upon the population. Many young men were not able to serve because there were too many of age to go. That is still sad that they couldn't do what they wanted to do. It was the draft that kept them from going. Then they took them in the Army when they came home from a mission. They had their names and they put them into the reserves.

INTERVIEWER: What about Watergate? Do you remember what affect it had on your or the community?

CREER: I felt sad. I was a staunch republican. Naturally I wasn't thinking that the President was a mean man. I felt that other people had done the same thing and gotten away with it. But this time he got caught. It wasn't right that he didn't tell the truth. There were many things that were not right. I feel like in our administration now they're trying to make that such a terrible thing, and yet what they have done now to me is worse. Because we've lost our morality and our good sense of honesty. Although this other was a dishonest thing, it wasn't of the same affect. It didn't affect other people as much. People thought we had a better sense of values.

INTERVIEWER: How have businesses in Provo changed?

CREER: Business was downtown Provo in those days. Now it seems to move out to malls and other places. We've scattered that out more and it makes a car much more needed. Because things are scattered about. We used to go out walking. You don't see people out walking anymore. They have to be driving. In town they would walk along and window shop. They were just walking for something to do. Sometimes we kids would drive over in the car and sit it on the street and eat candy and watch the people walk by. We thought that was fun.

INTERVIEWER: Are some of the places that you used to shop when you were younger still around? Have you changed stores where you shopped at?

CREER: There is hardly any stores in Provo that are there now. They're gone. After all, I'm nearly 91. That was a long time ago. We used to go to Salt Lake to do most of our shopping. That's where usually you could get things. You could buy shoes here, only you couldn't always get the size you wanted. In Salt Lake it was easier. We used to go there all the time to do our shopping. The stores that were there are not there now.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think the development of malls and big shopping centers have affected the community?

CREER: It's made an entire difference. It costs you more money because you have to travel. There's not a mall close by, unless you happen to be living right where they build one. I think it has affected them. I think that we did more things by hand. We made do and we made over. We sewed. I noticed that they're cutting sewing out of education. We were much more schooled to save money. Now everybody buys instead of makes.

The same with young people and toys. We used to make our own fun. But now we buy it. We have to buy everything. Like a game called battleship. It takes only a pencil and paper. And now they have the battleships and all this stuff. You put all this stuff out here. It doesn't change the game, except you buy all of it. They know how to make money on people nowadays. The poor kids have to buy it all. They can't do what we did with the same type of games. Yahtzee is another one. It's more stuff you buy that you don't need. You just need dice.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think free time has changed? How do people spend their free time?

CREER: I think we get too filled with recreation. We are too concerned with recreation that many times we leave out the important things in life. We get too involved. I have always liked to go to the football and basketball games, but I think we get carried away with it. One illustration is you turn on the radio in the early morning and all you get is talk about sports. You don't get any news. It's sports. I think we're getting carried away with this.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think the growth has changed Center Street?

CREER: It's just changed entirely. We didn't have as many streets as finished. The roads were not finished, they were just dirt roads. We had ditches carrying water down most of the streets. That is gone. Not that that was wonderful. We used to play in the ditch in front of our house. Downtown they had a fountain in the center of the street on the corner of University Avenue and Center Street. There was a fountain there and you drove around it. That was there for many many years until someone put ropes around it and pulled it away. That was the center.

However, earlier, the center of Provo was supposed to be in the Fifth West area. The people who came here earlier built homes in that area. There was always a little conflict between the east and the west. There still is a little. Provo has always had that problem. The Dixon's and the Taylor's who built Dixon, Taylor, Russell Furniture store and then the Taylor Brothers Company. The craft store was in the DTR building. The building is still there. The Taylor Department Store building is still there. But they've put a lot of little malls inside of that.

When Reed Smoot came in, he built a bank on the corner of University, Academy Avenue, and Center Street, until they changed it to University. That was many years ago. He built his bank up there and there was a little conflict that they were moving people away from what they thought was the center of Provo. There has always been a little conflict.

INTERVIEWER: Are there any other changes that you've noticed in Provo?

CREER: In the last few years the traffic is a real change. I find that all of the landmarks are vanishing. I drive down the street and I'm amazed that an old house is sold, torn down and an apartment is built there. They've changed the face of the city from what I'm used to seeing. I noticed the difference when I came back after being 17 years in California how different the place looked even then.

In the last three or four years it's made a dramatic change. Even you have noticed that. You can't help but notice the difference in the amount of traffic. You drive up to a stop sign and there may be ten cars there. Just a few years back there was only two. There is just so many more people on the road. It makes a difference. People travel more. I think they go more places. Today they plan on having extra travel because it's a holiday.

INTERVIEWER: Looking back on all your years that you've spent in Provo, what are some of your best memories?

CREER: To begin with, just living in my old neighborhood. I loved that. We had a wonderful neighborhood. The adults as well as the children got along well together. We played together. We did things together. Even in the evening, on special occasions we'd play games in our homes and set up card tables and play, adults as well as the children. That is fun.

I always remember the Fourth of July. We always had a new dress for the Fourth of July. We had a parade and we dressed up to go to the parade. We didn't sit on the ground. We used to have ice cream stores. We'd get ice creams at a little ice cream stand on the corner where a restaurant is now on the corner of University and Center Street. We bought ice cream cones. We'd buy sparklers. We were always dressed up. We didn't have casual clothes like that.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have any last stories that you want to talk about?

CREER: Edgar M. Jensen has written a history of Provo that takes in a lot of the early early times. That book is still available. Not too many years ago, Kenneth Cannon II wrote "A very Eligible Place, Provo and Orem." He has pictures of the maypole dance at Maeser School or whatever school it was. He has pictures of students and pictures of the people who first started city management. Those are exciting books. I think you should be aware of those. Especially if you're looking up history. I think they'll give you a great deal of information.


CREER: It's changed, but every city has changed. We would get out on our sleds in the winter and my father would give us a rope and we'd tie it to our sled and put it over the back bumper of the car and drive down the street. We were perfectly safe. There were no other cars coming or going. We had a great time. You can't do any of that now. Now we're having trouble with roller blades and skate boards, because they're unsafe also. We enjoyed life here.

What we had for fun was different than what you do for fun now. But it didn't cost us much. I hope I've helped you a little bit because I've lived here a long time. When my husband was transferred here from California it was coming home, because we were both raised here.

You delivered ice. You didn't have such a thing as a refrigerator. They'd bring these big blocks of ice in their truck and then they'd chip you off a block that would fit into your refrigerator. Ours was out on the back porch, so it was easy for him to bring ice in. We'd run out and get the chips of ice. That was exciting. Little things like that.

As far as the history of Provo there are bigger changes in the last ten years than it made before that.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think BYU Campus has affected Provo?

CREER: I think it's made a big difference. I raised my children in California, but I sent them all back to BYU. I think that it has helped the community a great deal. I graduated in 1931 from BYU, and my granddaughter said, "I guess my grandmother was one of the first to graduate from BYU." She doesn't know they were going there in the 1890s. It seems like it's been forever. When I said I'd graduated in 1931 someone asked, "Was it called the Academy then?" It seems like it was 100 years ago. It's just different. It has helped the community a great deal. They have done a great job. They're still doing it. I think they're still helping.

Interviewee: Iris Creer
Interviewer: Jennifer Winn

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