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 Sharlena Foerester


BLAIR: This is Bridgette Blair. Today is July 15, 1999. I am here with Sharlena Foerester in her home in Provo. Did you move to Provo or were you born here?

FOERESTER: I was born here.

BLAIR: What year was that?


BLAIR: Where did you grow up?

FOERESTER: I grew up in Provo on the east side, about Second South.

BLAIR: Was that your family home or your parents' home?

FOERESTER: It was my parents' home.

BLAIR: Did they build it?

FOERESTER: No, it was an old pioneer home they bought and remodeled.

BLAIR: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

FOERESTER: I have one brother and one sister.

BLAIR: Where were you born? Were you born in your home?

FOERESTER: I was born in a house somewhere on the west side of Provo but I really don't know the address.

BLAIR: Was there a midwife?

FOERESTER: Yes, I am sure it was. Children were born at home at that time. No, Dr. Fred Taylor delivered me. I don't know if they just didn't go to the hospital.

BLAIR: Where did you go to elementary school?

FOERESTER: I went to the Maeser school. That is located between Fourth and Fifth East on Second South.

BLAIR: Were they different classrooms?

FOERESTER: Yes, it had all the different grades. It was a two level school building. If fact it's the oldest school building standing in Provo at this time.

BLAIR: It is still functioning now?

FOERESTER: Yes, it is.

BLAIR: Do you remember any teachers that you had at that school?

FOERESTER: I remember Mima Rasben was my first grade teacher. She was a little tiny lady. She was not much taller than the students. She was a wonderful little teacher. I remember Mrs. Swat. I don't recall which grade she was in. I had Rita Alexander as a teacher. The principal of our school was Oscar Beauregard. I don't remember the other teachers. Those were the ones that impressed me.

BLAIR: Do you have any real memorable experiences from elementary school?

FOERESTER: It was lots of fun I remember. We had our May Day every year which was a big part of our lives. It was just a school program at the end of the year, but it was quite exciting for us.

BLAIR: Did you have a maypole or anything like that?

FOERESTER: We did in sixth grade. We had a school program at one point. I was probably about eight. I have a picture of it somewhere. I was one of the speakers. It was a patriotic program. I had on a white satin gown more or less, just gathered around the neck and slipped over the shoulders. I had a thing on my head. I guess we were supposed to be Miss Liberty. I had a red, white, and blue banner across my shoulder. They had one from each of the grades as a speaker and that was kind of fun. I remember that. We had dances about five in the evening. We would have school dances for the older children.

BLAIR: What grade did your school go to?

FOERESTER: Sixth grade.

BLAIR: So they had dances for that young?

FOERESTER: Oh yes, just an afternoon matinee dance that they would let us have. It was quite fun. I remember at that time the jitter bug was really popular. We thought that we were great.

BLAIR: Did the boys want to dance with the girls?

FOERESTER: Oh yes, they did. We did have those. We danced with the boys. It wasn't a contact type of dancing. It was like what they call swing dancing now. It was real fun. I remember that.

We even had a ball team. There were four major grade schools. There was Timpanogos, Joaquin, Maeser, and Franklin. They used to each have a baseball team and they played in a round robin type competition. We used to go to the ball games and it was so fun. We thought it was so thrilling.

BLAIR: Was your mother pleased with the education you got in elementary school?

FOERESTER: I think pretty much your education was accepted in those days. Whatever they gave you was okay. I don't think they were as in to the schools as the parents are now. It was more or less you just sent your kids to school and they were educated and what the teacher did and said was ok. But we did get a good education I think.

BLAIR: Where did you go to junior high?

FOERESTER: I went to Farrer Junior High School?

BLAIR: Where is that?

FOERESTER: That is between Sixth and Seventh East on Center Street.

BLAIR: Is that still standing?

FOERESTER: Yes, it is still there.

BLAIR: Have they remodeled it?

FOERESTER: They built on to it some but not a lot.

BLAIR: That was from seventh to ninth grade?


BLAIR: Do you remember any school teachers that you had or favorite subjects you took?

FOERESTER: We pretty much took a three R curriculum type thing. We did expand into civics and those types of classes. I remember one teacher that I particularly liked was a history teacher, Harry Blackwell. He was quite a strict teacher and a lot of people didn't like him, but I enjoyed him. I had an art teacher, Floyd Brineholt. I really liked him. He was a good teacher. I enjoyed the art classes.

BLAIR: Are you an artist?

FOERESTER: Not really. I dabble here and there. I did enjoy them. And the music classes I loved. I can't remember the name of my music teacher.

BLAIR: Did you participate in choir?


BLAIR: Did you play any instruments?

FOERESTER: I played the piano a little bit but not enough to accompany a class or anything. I did take lessons. I loved to sing. I was on most of the choral groups and things that were available.

BLAIR: What high school did you go to?

FOERESTER: The old Provo High that was down where the city center is.

BLAIR: Did that high school combine multiple junior highs?

FOERESTER: It did all the city. There were only two, Dixon and Farrer and they combined at Provo High.

BLAIR: How big was your graduating class?

FOERESTER: I think there were two hundred and eighty something. It was one of the larger classes.

BLAIR: Can you think of any notable personalities, notable things about your high school, favorite hang-outs, dating activities?

FOERESTER: Our activities were our ball games. Most of them were played at BYU, like the football.

BLAIR: Was football big?

FOERESTER: I really think basketball was more important to me. I don't know about the others. We enjoyed basketball more and I think that is because girls didn't know how to play football and we didn't understand it. But we did play basketball.

For our gym class we used to have to go to Pioneer Park which was just a block up the street. We didn't have a field to play on.

BLAIR: Did you have cheerleaders?

FOERESTER: Yes, we did.

BLAIR: And a cheer, pep club?

FOERESTER: Yes, we did have pep club. I was not in it. I was in the acapella choir and the madrigal singers.

We had our seminary classes. Seminary was just across the street from the high school. We did hold some of our seminary, the church history class, at the old bishop's warehouse, which was down where Central Bank has their parking lot now. That was where all the baptisms were held and that's where I was baptized in the LDS Church. It was like a big swimming pool. They had several children at the same time. It was kind of interesting.

We just did the usual high school things. I was in the office practice classes in high school. I wanted to be a secretary, I thought. I wanted to do office work and I did get to in my senior year. Then I worked half the day at the treasurer's office at BYU and that's where I worked after I got out of high school.

BLAIR: Did you continue on in college?

FOERESTER: No, I didn't go to college. I got married. My husband had a two-year-old. We took her in and I took care of her. We met at our church house. He was living in the ward and going to school part time and working part time.

BLAIR: I want to know a little bit about your religious experiences. You are LDS. Were you baptized at eight?


BLAIR: Were you baptized in the Bishop's Storehouse?

FOERESTER: It was the Church Administration Building. It was a big swimming pool like thing. All the stakes would go and each stake would have a different section. Then there were several children baptized at the time. They didn't have the individual ones in the ward at that time.

BLAIR: What ward did you attend?

FOERESTER: Provo First Ward.

BLAIR: How many wards were there in Provo?

FOERESTER: I really don't know how many. I wasn't aware of anything that was on the west side of town. You tend to stay in your own ward.

BLAIR: Did you think that the splitting of the communities changed the sense of community in Provo? You say that you tend to stay on your side of town. Did you tend to stay within your ward too?

FOERESTER: Yes, I think people do today even. Your friends and neighbors are the ones you go to church with. We were dominantly LDS and it wasn't often that we got to see the other people or do activities with them. We didn't go to camp and do those kind of things that the girls do now.

BLAIR: Seems like there are a lot of non-Mormons now here in Provo. Were there quite a few?

FOERESTER: Not too many that I was acquainted with. When I was growing up almost everybody was LDS. We did have a few. I remember there was a store downtown that a Jewish man owned. It wasn't real popular with the townspeople, although he carried a very nice array. He smoked a cigar and he smoked in the store. People didn't like their clothes smelling like cigar smoke. I think that is one reason they didn't go there. However I did buy my wedding gown there. But by the time I bought it he wasn't there.

BLAIR: You mentioned May Day in elementary school. What were some other big annual celebrations in Provo?

FOERESTER: Pretty much what we have now. There was the Fourth of July and we celebrated the Twenty-Fourth a little bit. We always had activities in the park for the children. Our big parade of the year was the Christmas parade when I was small. All the wards and all the schools participated. They had beautiful floats. It was a really big parade. The Fourth of July we had a parade but it wasn't a real big one.

BLAIR: The Twenty-Fourth was probably a lot bigger.

FOERESTER: The Twenty-Fourth we didn't have a parade. We just had a celebration in the park for the kids. Some of the wards would get together and have some activities, but it was not a city organized thing.

BLAIR: What year were you born?


BLAIR: So you didn't really go through the depression, but maybe you suffered the effects of that in your early years.

FOERESTER: My father worked with the WPA. It was instigated because so many men were out of work. It was a government sponsored program where they did work on public things. For instance, my father worked shingling at the Maeser Schoolhouse. That was one thing he got on. They fixed roads and they did things that were needed in the communities. The government financed this to help people who were out of work.

BLAIR: So Provo really did help out?

FOERESTER: They did, yes. I remember standing in the food lines with my mother to get commodities at the old county courthouse. Of course my father always wanted to be a farmer and he had a big garden all the time. We were able to raise a lot of our food. My grandfather had a farm and gave us meat and so we got by probably better than some people did. But I know we did get some commodities from a government distribution at the county courthouse.

BLAIR: Franklin Roosevelt was president when you were really young. What president do you remember mostly in your younger childhood?

FOERESTER: Kids don't pay too much attention to that. I do remember FDR and I remember when he died how everyone was so upset. I was quite young so that was about all I remember about it. I don't think I really paid a lot of attention to politics until I got older.

BLAIR: How old were you when World War II broke out?

FOERESTER: That was in the Forties, so I was just ten or eleven.

BLAIR: Do you remember anything like what your parents thought about all that?

FOERESTER: I do remember because my brother tried to get into the service. All his friends were going. But he was born kind of crippled and so they wouldn't take him. I remember how upset he was. I was only about six at the time but I do remember that he was very upset because he couldn't go. I had some uncles and cousins that went into the service. They would send us letters and souvenirs and things in the mail and the family was talking about them. I had a cousin that was killed in Corrigidon. Those are just some of the things that I remember.

BLAIR: Do you remember the end, D-Day?

FOERESTER: I do remember VE day. Everybody was very excited. VJ day was the one that they were really excited for.

BLAIR: Which one was that?

FOERESTER: That was Victory with Japan. VE was Victory with Europe. I remember the whole town went crazy. I was older at that time. We went downtown and they had snake dances where everybody joined hands and went serpentine all over town, in and out of the stores. Everybody was so happy and guns were going off and bells were ringing because they had finally ended the war and they were very, very excited. A lot of people had family that had fought and they were happy that they were going to come home. So they really had a good time, a big celebration that day.

BLAIR: There have been a lot of wars that you went through. World War II was probably the biggest. Was Vietnam pretty impactful here? It seems like we are kind of far out in the west, far from Washington. Did people just go on with their daily lives?

FOERESTER: I really didn't pay too much attention to the Vietnam War either until years later when they came home. Then the soldiers started making all the protests, and all these things that were going on. My husband served in the Korean War. I was not married to him at the time. I fit in between all these wars. I didn't really have the impact of them.

BLAIR: That's good.

FOERESTER: I'm not complaining.

BLAIR: In closing can you talk about the development of Provo and what is different about Provo in general than it was when you were younger that you can remember, and what you like or dislike about it.

FOERESTER: It's grown so big and spread out so much. Everything used to be concentrated like all the businesses. When I grew up we never had a car and so we walked everywhere that we went. We were able to walk to town and we were able to walk to church, and walk to school. Everywhere we went we could walk because everything was centralized in one area. Now everything is so spread out you almost have to have a car in order to get where you want to go.

I think people were closer in those days. It was a smaller community and people would let you run through the yards. As children we played at night. We played games like Kick the Can and Call the Judge to Court. The neighbors didn't care if we hid in their garage or ran through their back lot. Now they just won't stand for it. We didn't have to be afraid or lock our doors.

I think just the growth probably is the biggest change in town. I think the people are really basically the same except maybe their values have changed a little.

BLAIR: I can't think of anything else to ask you. Do you have anything else that you want to add?

FOERESTER: Not really.

BLAIR: Thank you very much.

Interviewee: Sharlena Foerester
Interviewer: Bridgette Blair
July 15, 1999

Return to Oral Histories List