My mom recently got back from the Platts Family Reunion in Enterprise, Utah. While she was there, she sat down with one of her favorite Aunt’s and asked her about her childhood. Aunt Lola will turn 90 in December and she is in excellent health. Her memory is sharp and her sense of humor is wonderful. My mom talked with her about a number of things including ways she and her family learned to “Make it Do” during the Depression and War years. They were a tough generation and I want to learn from them.
Here are a few interesting things about Aunt Lola:
She grew up in a family of 17 children on a ranch in Lyman, Wyoming in the Bridger Valley.
Their home burned to the ground twice… the second time was in May 1937. Her beloved 6 year old brother Joey was killed in the fire. A few days later her mother gave birth to her 17th child.
Lola still remembers that exact day she graduated from Lyman High School… May 19, 1939. She was the commencement speaker. There were 19 kids in her graduating class. 10 girls and 9 boys.
Some of the lessons she learned growing up during the 1930′s were:
- Save your money.
- Never waste food.
- Always shop for a bargain.
She said those lessons stuck with her her whole life, no matter how well off she became.
She also learned to be creative and self-sufficient. Growing up, she only had one pair of shoes and one dress a year. The dress was always made by her mother, whom they called Mama. Since Mama was making clothing for such a large family, her leg would get tired pumping the treadle of her sewing machine. So one of the kids would sit on the floor and pump the treadle for her while she sewed. Even though their clothes were homemade they still cared about fashion. The sisters would find a dress they loved in the Sears Roebuck Catalog and Mama would copy the design. Mama also made all of their underwear out of old flour sacks.
Even though they all worked hard on the ranch, they only had one bath a week. Since they didn’t have indoor plumbing, they would fill a large tub with water heated on the stove. Then the whole family would take turns taking a bath… starting from the oldest right down to the youngest. My Great Uncle Hal, the youngest boy in the family, said by the time his bath rolled around the water was cold and filthy! Uhggg! I hope I never have to “Make it Do” that much.
Baths were always on Saturday night. They also cleaned their clothes and polished their shoes every Saturday and laid them out for church on Sunday. Aunt Lola said when you have one dress and one pair of shoes you really learn to take care of what you have.
During WWII she worked in a factory in California making B-24 Liberator Bombers. As my son Ben would say, “She was a real live Rosie the Riveter.” (If I ever got a tattoo, which I won’t, it would be of the Rosie in this poster… I just love it.)
Aunt Lola worked in the cockpit installing levers. She said as she worked, she always thought about the brave men who would soon fly that plane into combat. She always wanted to write a note and attach it to a lever wishing the men luck… but she never did.
I am so glad I have family like Aunt Lola to learn from. Hearing her stories makes me grateful for all that I have and determined to always make the best of what ever life hands me.
And can I just say… I am especially grateful for warm showers every day!