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Historic Provo

Oral History of Lola Gibson


LUDLOW: This is Wendy Ludlow interviewing Lola Gibson on September 6, 1999, in Mrs. Gibson's home. When did you first move to Provo?

GIBSON: The reason we moved to Provo from Salt Lake was my father, Reed Workman, and my mom, Cora Workman, got a little farm down here. It was partly inheritance from my grandmother. It was eight or nine acres. Times were hard.

They thought they could make a living on this little farm. And we did. My dad planted. It went clear over to Briar Avenue and up past these two twin houses and way up here to where Finlaysons live and down to 900 East. It was eight or nine acres. He planted a big raspberry patch and then a strawberry patch. Up here in this part where our houses are, he planted carrots, radishes and onions. The kids and my mom pulled those and made nice little bunches and washed them. My dad would take them down to Provo. Where the old library on Center and First West is, there used to be a stationery store. It was right in there. I think the name of that store was O.P. Skaggs. It was the only big store in Provo. There were some little stores even on Center Street way down.

LUDLOW: What year was it that you moved here?

GIBSON: We moved to Provo in 1929. By the time we got up here, by the time my dad got those two houses built it was 1931. I think he was working on the gardens. That was what we did all the time us kids were going to school.

When we first moved here before we moved up to our property, we lived inside 800 East in a rented house. I went to Provo High School. That rented house was up north quite a ways. That's where my memory is failing me. The trail from where Carsons is just angled off down through the parking lot of BYU, down to Seventh East. There wasn't roads. I got to Provo High on this trail. That's where I went.

All of the rest of that where Wasatch and Ninth East is, was pastures. There were cows. People would come and milk them. There is a store right down there. It turned into a place you can wash and dry your clothes. It's a laundromat now on 700 East. A family had a little store there where people could come and buy milk. I had an aunt that lived on 700 East and 300 South. They would come up to this little store.

LUDLOW: Tell me about when you were in school and you couldn't go to the school because you weren't in the Provo city boundaries.

GIBSON: When we first moved here it must have been only part of a year. It was after we moved up on our own property, which started at 1200 North on Briar Avenue. When we moved up there, we were on what we call now approximately 1200 North. There was no way for us to go to Provo schools. We had to walk up 900 East. A car could go on it but it was just dirt and gravel. We went up and over past the Marriott Center down University Parkway and ended on Provo Canyon Road. That's where we met the school bus that would take us to Orem to the Lincoln High School where we could go without tuition because we were in the county. We were on 1200 North, but we had to be below 800 North.

We loved Lincoln High and we enjoyed it and graduated from there. I don't know when Provo annexed more property. That's probably in the Provo City records.

LUDLOW: Where did people go to hang out or to socialize or date?

GIBSON: For me, when we moved here, there was a little group of girls that had a 4-H club. The name of the lady that was our 4-H leader was Bertha Leibhardt. She lived on what we call Briar Avenue now. She lived in the house where the Browns live. It's about 1200 East. That house was there. We still lived here.

We all grew to be about 18 years old and started getting married. We started what you might call a chain letter. Every one of us twelve did it. I had moved to Colorado for a short period. I got my letter over there. When I got my letter, every one of us had a number. I was number five. When it came to me, I took out my old five letter and put in a new letter about my new home. I knew who number six was. It was Lula Belhair in Salt Lake. I sent it to her. That letter started in 1935. And it's still going. This is 1999. I just got it. A while back they were saying it was at least 60 years old.

LUDLOW: How many people started on this chain letter?

GIBSON: There were about twelve. The last letter I got there are four that are unable to keep the letter going. The new list has six people on it. The others put their letter in the drawer and forget about it, because of age. They're almost all 85.

LUDLOW: So you started it when you were about 18.

GIBSON: Something like that. There is a lady that lives down here. She is the instigator of it. She just started it all over again with the ones that were able. Yvonne Geary lives on the little canyon road that is just to the side of Canyon Road. If you get on that road it leads you up to Edgemont. It's called the old Canyon Road. The new Canyon Road is down a block. She lives on the second house on that and she knows all about the years. We could get more details if you wanted to.

LUDLOW: Where did your group of friends in 4-H go to socialize at that time in Provo?

GIBSON: Our socialization was weird for today. We would put up canning and take it to the fair. Some of our girls won trips to Washington, D.C. to the 4-H club convention. Some of the girls had boyfriends. That was when we were older. We hadn't even started our letter then. That's when we were growing up.

LUDLOW: You told me about how on 900 East there were only the twin homes that your father had built.

GIBSON: Up a ways there was a little farm that the Eakins had way back. That same road goes right past the Marriott Center.

LUDLOW: That's University Parkway.

GIBSON: It wasn't that then. It was something north. All along that road were houses of people I knew. I remember Joan Phillips. She was one of our 4-H girls. She lived back in there and her grandma. Down the Marriott it went down the hill and followed the road down to State Street.

LUDLOW: Where were the commercial areas?

GIBSON: Nothing except just to go to Provo and go to the store. There were little stores that families had for years. They were named Stuart's Grocery Store. Some of those things other people will be able to remember and tell you about.

LUDLOW: Did you work outside of the home?

GIBSON: When I got out of high school I did. In those days there was the WPA set up by the government to give work to men and boys. Before I got a job there I went to Salt Lake to the business college. Then I worked there.

LUDLOW: Did you live there in Salt Lake?

GIBSON: I stayed with my aunt while I went. It was a six month business course. I worked at that place until I got married.

LUDLOW: What year were you married?

GIBSON: 1935. Then I moved to Colorado.

LUDLOW: What was his occupation?

GIBSON: Farming. When I came back after we'd been there two or three years, we rented the basement of my folks' house.

LUDLOW: Were your folks still in it?


LUDLOW: You came back what year?

GIBSON: I married in 1935, had a son in 1936 in Colorado and came back in 1937.

LUDLOW: Were there many changes from the time you moved until you came back?

GIBSON: I'm sure there was. It's hard to remember.

LUDLOW: Did your husband continue to farm here?

GIBSON: No, he got a job as an attendant at the state hospital and worked there until the war in 1940. He went to the vocational school and learned welding. Then we moved to Portland where they were building Liberty ships.

LUDLOW: Were you in Provo during the War?

GIBSON: We went up to Portland in 1941. We didn't come back until 1944. We were up there most of the war.

LUDLOW: I know that you are not LDS. How was it living at that time in what was such an LDS community? Was it as saturated with LDS people at that time?

GIBSON: It wasn't saturated hardly with any people. I was going down to the little Episcopal Church and teaching Sunday School. My friends all accepted me. One time I gave a little speech about every day religion, just living a good life. My friends who were going to Mutual took me to Mutual with them and had me give it to them. Religion was not anything that barred us. We knew that each one had to choose their own relationship with the Lord and our relationship with each other was just open. They accepted me. I was thankful for them accepting me. I've never had any trouble. The people are so sweet.

LUDLOW: Where were you born?

GIBSON: I was born in Duchesne.

LUDLOW: So you have always been Episcopalian?

GIBSON: I was until 1940. I had an aunt and uncle that lived in Colorado. We went down to visit them. My mom went to visit them. I went to visit them. My aunt went. They lived on a big cattle farm. Down there they had some friends and ministers that were going just like the Bible. We went to meetings with them that they had in the school houses. They didn't take anything but the Bible and just taught exactly the way Jesus left things. We had meetings in the little home and read the scriptures. That's when my mom and I changed. Down there, there weren't Episcopalians. We came back home and these ministers that went two by two came into Utah. When they came into Utah with some friends that believed them, they had an address of my aunt in Salt Lake that had been down to Colorado. I call it the Truth. Oftentimes in the Bible it says the Lord's way is called the Truth.

LUDLOW: You grew up non-LDS in a predominately LDS community, so it wasn't any different for you. It was what you knew. I moved here from California and it was a real culture shock for me, and I am LDS. But it was a real shock for me to get used to this.

GIBSON: I never expected to be in. All I expected was to fit in to what Jesus left and nothing else.

LUDLOW: So you arrived here and you just fit in with everybody.

GIBSON: Everybody was so sweet. Like you, they come and do things for me. They didn't say, "You don't believe like we do." They just accepted me. It was easy for me to accept the love and care that everybody gave. I just love everybody. But I know we each have to have our relationship with God that makes us feel safe. The reason this makes me feel safe is it's what Jesus left. I can find everything in there. I know everybody has to have their own. That doesn't need to close our love.

LUDLOW: In fact it should just open it more. Did your son go to Wasatch?


LUDLOW: When did he go to Wasatch? They're having their fiftieth birthday next week.

GIBSON: Maybe he'll get an invitation.

LUDLOW: The people that are attending Wasatch Elementary now are just supposed to let alumni know that the fiftieth birthday celebration is coming up.

GIBSON: I have a little brochure that has a picture of the school and the teachers and the kids. It's a little folder. I want your husband to see that. It shows the Wasatch School before any additions were put on.

LUDLOW: What was the school like when your son went there?

GIBSON: It was nice. I've got some little notes from his teachers that say, "He seems to enjoy hiding the talents that he's got." They're cute little things.

LUDLOW: How many students were there? Did they have separate classrooms?

GIBSON: Yes. Two of his classmates were Mrs. Bentley's girls. One of the girls' twin sisters was killed in France on a mission years ago. Mrs. Bentley has a daughter that lived here on Cedar. She was one of those students. She lives in the white house on the other side of Blairs.

LUDLOW: Elaine Angelo.

GIBSON: She was a Bentley girl and she was in the same class as my son about 1953. I knew her mom. Her mom has moved to a rest home.

LUDLOW: Her mom's name is Ella Bentley.

GIBSON: I met a girl that was staying with her a few years ago.

LUDLOW: What did people do at holiday times?

GIBSON: Just the same thing only less. Probably all they could afford. We lived out here but we were connected.

In 1935 or 1939 my dad decided to have the ground cut up into lots. Earl Finlayson was one of the first ones to buy one of the lots from my father on this street. He was the fire chief. He wanted it. He got the city commissioners to come up. This street, Cedar, had been made. Briar had been made too. They called the city commissioners.

My dad's name was Reed Workman. He said, "I can see right down 900 East a road here in my mind's eye that goes clear down and comes out at the cemetery and opens up all this around here and down past Center Street." Earl told the city that that would be good. They said, "We can't see it." It was too expensive. All those lots had not been sold and it was just pasture. Way back there in 1939 there was an inkling of wanting to make 900 East a big road. It took a long time before they did it.

LUDLOW: And before that it was just a gravel road?

GIBSON: I don't know how it was. I'm sure they improved it and made it double because BYU was growing.

LUDLOW: I had somebody tell me that they remembered playing baseball and kickball on 900 East before it was a street. They used to play down there.

GIBSON: When we first moved here over where the administration building is, all of BYU was there, except the library. There was a little white building they called the administration building that is still there. That's all that was there. This was a grove of mostly pine trees. We'd go over there and have weenie roasts under the trees where the campus is now.

LUDLOW: Was it sad to see the change and have those pulled out?

GIBSON: No, progress was coming and moving. That's been 60 years. It's come gradually. They didn't all go at once. You know as much about the last years as I do, or even more. Because the young take it in.

LUDLOW: Did you just have one son?

GIBSON: No. I had three sons. I've lost two sons.

LUDLOW: Did they all attend Wasatch?


LUDLOW: What middle school did they go to?

GIBSON: Farrer. My oldest son was just starting high school at Provo High when he got cancer of the lung. My next boy, Lee, graduated from Provo High. His graduation was down at the tabernacle. The classes were getting so big that Provo High couldn't handle them. Dick didn't graduate.

LUDLOW: Back then, what did they use the tabernacle for?

GIBSON: The same things as you do now, various events like musicals and meetings. I wish I could remember the governor of Utah that spoke at that graduation. It was low key. It wasn't so big. He would have graduated in about 1955.

LUDLOW: Where would your son that had cancer go for treatment and doctors?

GIBSON: First we went to Dr. Wade, our family doctor down on Center Street in Provo. Then he gave us a referral to the LDS Hospital to Dr. Cutler. He sent back the letter to Dr. Wade and he let me read it. He said we can't overlook the fact that it could be cancer. He was in this hospital quite a bit at Utah Valley.

LUDLOW: That was there at that time?

GIBSON: It wasn't big like it is now. I started working there as an LPN in about 1955. Even since then it's grown so much. I graduated in 1932. In 1952 I went to the vocational school. It wasn't out here. It was down over the viaduct. They had moved a lot of these black buildings that had been used by the government for soldiers. The vocational school took those. They taught welding. That's where my son learned welding. There were some of the buildings for nursing. Our class was only about the second class. Just as we were graduating, they built the one up there on University Avenue. We didn't get to go there.

LUDLOW: I went there.

GIBSON: What did you take?

LUDLOW: I took pre-nursing classes.

GIBSON: Did you go on?

LUDLOW: I did and then started my family and then went back and then had another child. How many years did you work at Utah Valley?

GIBSON: I worked there until my son and his family had a plane accident. They all died except one. My first son died with cancer. This is my little granddaughter. They all died except little Gina. She got out of the plane.

LUDLOW: What year was this?

GIBSON: 1973. The Lord helped us. There is no way without the Lord.

LUDLOW: Does she live in Provo?

GIBSON: She lived with me. She was just twelve.

LUDLOW: Did you raise her?

GIBSON: Yes, she graduated from Provo High and from the vocational school. It was in some kind of communications. By that time she was seventeen or eighteen and she went to Salt Lake and went to the University of Utah and graduated from there.

In those days a lot of young people from back east came over here to ski. She met John Walker through one of her friends. That's where they met. He had come out here to ski. They started writing to each other. In 1986 they got married.

LUDLOW: She is probably about my age.

GIBSON: She was born in 1960. John Walker and his folks had a big cattle ranch in Iowa. That's where she went and that's where she stayed and that's where she is. It's a wonderful family. This last January they did sell most of their cattle. They had to start milking at 4:00 in the afternoon and 4:00 the next morning. John's mom and dad were tied and John and Gina were tied all the time for years. They were married in 1986 and they didn't sell until 1998. That was 12 years. They sold and John's dad got a job. They live out in the country. They still farm. There is lots of farming. They can sell the feed. They all manage. They're making a good living.

LUDLOW: Are there any national events that were real memories?

GIBSON: About the time that President Roosevelt died we were moving from Portland where we spent all the war years. That was a traumatic thing no matter where we went. That would have been about 1945. The war wasn't quite ended yet. You probably weren't even born yet. I thought that now the enemy could do something to us.

LUDLOW: There was a fear.

GIBSON: There wasn't any traumatic fear when President Kennedy was assassinated. I just feel so blessed. I think we all should be so thankful for what our country does for us. Now that I'm a senior citizen I value it even more. I have no complaints. No matter how many little things go wrong that isn't exactly right, it's still the best in the world. I value it.

LUDLOW: Because of people like you. You contribute so much. I see you over at Oakridge. Are you still volunteering over at Oakridge?

GIBSON: No. Not the last couple of years. I got a hip replacement and I couldn't lift the kids. I got a couple of volunteer jobs that aren't very important, except they help me. One of them is down at the Utah County Business Office in the information area. They come to find out where to pay their taxes. That's on Tuesday. On Thursday I go to the senior citizens health clinic, just to take blood pressures. It's surprising how many senior citizens come in to get their blood pressure taken. On the first Wednesday of every month, the Utah County Health Department sends an RN or an LPN with a lot of experience. The senior citizens can get blood work done, like glucose tolerance for only one dollar. It's a lot cheaper than going to a doctor. Some of them have their own little machine to see if their blood sugar is all right. This nurse does another good thing I like which is called a cardiac risk. It's a blood test. You pay $15 for it. You get cholesterol, heart and a list. It's complete blood work and it's well worth $15. Every three months or so I get that just to check up on my cholesterol.

LUDLOW: I sure appreciate this.


Interviewee: Lola Gibson
Interviewer: Wendy Ludlow
September 6, 1999

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