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Historic Provo

Oral History of Pearl Darling


WINN: This is Jennifer Winn and I'm interviewing Pearl Darling. What are your earliest memories of Provo?

DARLING: I lived across the road from an old Provo family. It took most of the block from Sixth West to Fifth West and Center Street and First North. But we didn't own all of it on the north side until sometime after. There were adobe houses on that block. There was a lady that lived there. We used to go over and visit here. I remember that.

I can remember an adobe house on Fifth West between Center and First North that my aunt lived in. I remember when the A&W bought all that and built their root beer place. Some things I don't remember too much. I remember that part of town more than anywhere.

WINN: Can you describe that part of town?

DARLING: The old third ward church was there. It came in 1920. My folks bought this house across. There was a house across the road from us. The night watchman lived there. The person who bought the rest of the property enlarged it and took that house away.

I went to the Timpanogos School. A bunch of us girls on Halloween were so mean. We'd go up to the school and go out on the road on that grass and sit and tell ghost stories. That's how terrible we were.

I can remember the old Strand Theater. I can remember a lot of things on Center Street. I'm not sure of the locations exactly but I can remember a lot of the stores. There were some up on the avenues. There used to be a grocery store on Fifth West right across from the Timpanogos School.

WINN: What were some of the activities that you were involved in?

DARLING: For a lot of years I was the only girl in the neighborhood of sixteen boys. That was fun. We played ball out in the street. We used to follow the leader around. I can remember some of the things. That's when I was young.

We didn't have to have money to spend like kids today. We made our own fun. That's what we'd do. The kids would all get out together and the parents were sitting on the porch. We'd play kick the can and run-sheepy-run and things like that. We didn't have to always be going somewhere. It was a much more leisurely time. It was a fun time.

My father died the year of the crash, when the depression started. In those days there wasn't any work for women. My mother went out with doctors to deliver babies and I had to take care of the boys. We got poor and a lot of other people got poor. But there is two ways to be poor. You can be poor and unhappy or you can be poor and happy. So we chose the second one.

I had one brother that ran away. I always knew where to find him. They were so entranced. The fountain used to be in the middle of University Avenue and Center Street. I always knew where to go find him. I'd find him up there sitting on the wall of that fountain. He was just a little fellow, but he'd get up there. A lot of things around town I can't remember.

WINN: How did the depression affect your family?

DARLING: Terrible. It was a real hard time for my mother. Because my oldest brother was just fifteen and I was twelve years old and there were three other boys. It was a hard time but we came through. Mama used to often talk about it. The same thing happened to us that did to a lot of people. We came out of it with our home paid for. That was the first thing she'd do. We had to have a roof over our head. A lot of people didn't come out of it that well. Some did.

My oldest brother went into the service. I went to work on WPA and my pay all went to my mother. We could raise a garden. We had a big lot and we raised a garden. Mother always had pickles in a barrel down in the cellar.

Before my father died we had pigs. Every year we raised pigs. People raised them in their back yards in those days. In the fall they'd slaughter them and go down in the brine barrel in the cellar. When they cooked it they'd have to par boil it. My mother loved head cheese and I couldn't stand it.

Our last pig we had they wouldn't let you have them in the cellar anymore. You could keep the one you had, but when that was gone you couldn't get another. So that ended. My brother and I every time that pig got out, we chased it all over the neighborhood. We finally caught it.

I used to like to go down and get a big willow limb and stand and scratch people's backs. They acted like they enjoyed it so much they'd go on and on.

WINN: At WPA what were you involved in?

DARLING: Sewing. We sewed. I was with a group that sewed up at the state hospital for quite a while. We made these big denim dresses. Some of those were so big you couldn't carry them. We sewed up there for quite a while. We sewed upstairs in the county building.

There was a place for an art exhibit. We were up there for a little while and in the old woolen mills. It seems like they moved us around a lot. We made clothes, dresses and shirts. That's the kind of work they had for the women.

My mother wasn't too well. So I took it. I went up with her once while she was sewing. She wanted to see if she could get some help. She said, "You can't go in." She said, "Why can't I?" I was eighteen by then. She said, "Because there aren't any chairs to sit on." I said, "I can stand up." So I went in with her. I'm not ashamed. She said to my mother, "I don't know what we can do for you, because your health isn't too well to make you work." I said, "Then what's wrong with putting me to work." She said, "Well, would you really want to?" I said, "Yes, I would." I worked there sewing for $44.

Those days sound rough, but you find people that had it rough in those days are people who have done better financially through the years for themselves after the depression. They learned how to save their money and hold it. I learned an awful lot. I look back. I see kids that were so spoiled. There were kids whose folks had jobs and they never even knew we were in a depression. I see them today. In fact all through my school years I'm so glad that I learned better than they did how to live. When the millennium comes and we don't have a lot, I think maybe I can get along better than they can. It won't worry me that much.

We lived on potatoes and gravy and gravy and potatoes and gravy and gravy. Macaroni and cheese and beans. I still like them. I know a lot of people who say they can't eat it because they ate it so much during the depression. Little do they know that beans were a complete protein. Really I believe that we ate better than we do now. I think I ate better than I do know. We bottled fruit. We didn't have all these things with all these additives.

One day you hear on the television that you can't eat this one anymore because it does that to you, and we grew up on it. I won't eat it thus far.

I remember quite a few things around town. My father was a shoe maker. He had a shop on Fourth West. He worked with a Greek man there too. I can remember the only candy store we had was the Garden City Candy Factory. That was where we always went. But if we wanted penny candy we went to the store. There was a furniture store where he was between Fifth and Fourth West. Part of that building was Duckett's Barber Shop. The big one on that corner of Fifth West was the Chevrolet garage. It was a brand new building.

I remember more about Center Street and what was here then. When I got married I moved to Spanish Fork. I would come back. It changed. It's really changed now. They used to call it Garden City. My mother used to talk about how pretty it was. The city proper has changed. It's not near. Everybody is trying to get out now. It was a pretty town.

We spent our vacation times down at the lake. Families would get together and go down there. We'd dress in the bulrushes. We did. We had great times down there. The lake was clean then.

WINN: How were you affected during World War II?

DARLING: I personally wasn't affected too much. I had four brothers go in the service. All four of my brothers were in the service. Two went in the Army and one in the Air Force and one in the Navy. They were there for six years. One went to Okinawa with the 8th Army. Otherwise we got along pretty well.

I got married in 1938. I got along okay. We got to a point where he had a job in a pool hall over in Spanish Fork. We went on vacation one time and came home and he didn't have a job anymore. We spent a little time on welfare too. Then he got a job at the hospital. The hospital was about a year old. He went in as a janitor or housekeeper. It wasn't very big then. It was just that one part. He stayed there for 31 years. Then when they needed a painter, he loved to paint, so he took the job as a painter. He really liked it.

One doctor named him Rembrandt. When they'd see him the hallway they'd say, "Hi, Rembrandt, how are you doing?" When my mother got married she took lots of pictures of the kids. He was the kind of man that didn't think you ought to have kids anymore. But I didn't care.

I went to junior high school and to high school. It was a high school building. On the other side of the block was the junior high school. I went there in the eighth grade. We moved into the big school in the middle of that year. Consequently my generation was the first full year graduation from that school.

I washed dishes in the cafeteria for my activity card. A lot of people think I know a lot of people, I don't.

I can't remember the day that they were so excited at the junior high. Maybe the dances. They did have all the dance courts. They had a nice one.

WINN: Was it a way to get into the games and dances?

DARLING: It was. I never had a class shirt. I never had a yearbook. That's what I meant when I told you I was poor. It was good for us. That's important. Those years were hard. I didn't have a lot of things. The doctor wouldn't let me take gym. I enjoyed most of the others. I lived.

WINN: We all have to make it through.

DARLING: I know that part of town. I know a little about that.

WINN: As an adult did you work in Provo?

DARLING: No, I worked before I was married. That was a big place. I was a cook and peeled potatoes. I helped with dishes. When I got married that's about the time I quit.

WINN: What are the ways that Provo has changed?

DARLING: I don't think people are as close as they used to be in those days. Neighbors don't even know each other sometimes. We used to know almost everybody in town in those days. You don't even see a face you recognize. I see changes. It's grown so. It was only about 2,000. It's always been a good town to live in, a good place to raise kids. There's a lot of Mexicans.

My mother was born and raised in Mexico. That wouldn't bother her.

WINN: Tell me about your mother.

DARLING: She died a few years ago at 92. She wrote her history. I've been trying to transcribe them. She didn't get much schooling but she spelled words the way they sound. I've got some help to write a history about my father. I can never remember them talking about their lives. We don't really know much about his life. One guy did a book about where they came from. I can't remember my father ever talking much.

I remember a lot of places in town. Once in a while I remember things in a different place. That's what happens. There was an old store. I don't know what they call them now. We had to go through there to go to the store.

WINN: What did you do for recreational activities?

DARLING: I can remember some. They always had a band and we watched the parade.

WINN: What were the parades like?

DARLING: They were nice. I can remember one girl, especially. They always had the statue of liberty on the parades. They had a thing for their arms to rest on. They sure came around. They came right down Center Street. They'd start up there somewhere and come down Center Street. That's where the path for the parade was.

Provo City had a band. On Memorial Day they'd march out to the cemetery. People used to follow them. They used to walk out there to the cemetery. I had a cousin that was in the band.

Now that sounds like an awful long way. It does to me. We have cars. All these places we used to walk. They seem a lot further away than they did then.

Things changed a little at a time. It really isn't the town it was when we were young. We knew everyone. Our joy was playing games together. We'd go up to the Strang Theater. We always got a dime to go to the Strang Theater.

It's all in the past and it's hard to remember. I remember when they built the hospital. We spent fifty years here.

There used to be a picture of train tracks there. We had one that traveled from Payson to Salt Lake you could ride. It crashed there. I used to go out and stand and watch it over the bridge. They were always afraid the kids were going to fall. They covered it all up. Now it's all covered. That's where the picture was. We shopped along all those stores. All of that's changed. The building is still there. I can't remember when they covered it. We walked down there all the time.

I can remember walking out to my aunt's. That really struck me when I saw that up there the first time. She lived right on the corner of Bulldog Boulevard and Second West. I used to walk out there in the snow. The snow would be way high on us. I don't know if it was as deep as I remember it. But being little you remember if it hit your knees.

That really caught me. I was going somewhere one day and stopped on Fifth West and I looked up at the light and saw this sign up there with a bulldog on it. When did they put that in? I knew that as Columbia Lane. Bulldog Boulevard was a really pretty street. It's fun to remember. I'm sure there's a lot we don't.

I didn't ever go to dances too much. I didn't go to one dance. After I couldn't play it anymore I didn't want to. I just remember little things. That's progress. I can remember the swimming lessons. They quit teaching, so they made that the girl's gym. We played there at the old swimming pool. They have girls play basketball today. We played. We were assigned to a court. We used to play at the men's courts. If you bounce it on to someone in your team that was in another court, you got a basket. I bet that's long gone. We used to play all the time. For a lot of people their happiest days were then.

WINN: Were you very active in the church?

DARLING: Not when I was married. I was married twelve years. The man at the temple said to us, "It's just about time you completed this thing." I got those two and I've got Provo's centennial. I bought Christmas presents and sent them to them. They're keepsakes. All that stuff is.

WINN: Even the little house?

DARLING: A couple of years ago my grandniece made this house for me. I didn't dare tell her she made the chimney over the porch. I thought that was real cute. Those dishes right there have the year 1914 written. That's when my oldest brother was born. There was five of those. Two of the boys Mama let take what they wanted to out of it. I saved two for me. There was just enough for one for each of us. I think that was my mother-in-laws dish that I got.

WINN: Thank you very much for sharing your experiences.

DARLING: I wish I could remember more.

WINN: Thank you so much.

Interviewee: Pearl Darling
Interviewer: Jennifer Winn
May 21, 1999

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