Impact of the Great Depression on Sugar City, Idaho. Tape #30

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1 Voices from the Past Impact of the Great Depression on Sugar City, Idaho Interviewees: Cleo and Norma Browning August 7, 1982 Tape #30 Oral Interview conducted by: Harold Forbush Transcribed by Jamie Wright & Jacob Abbott June 2003/ November 2009 Edited by Jacob Abbott & Hysen Lowry November 2009/ February 2010 Brigham Young University- Idaho 1

2 Harold HF: The impact of the great depression of the 1920 s and during the 1930 s upon a small community of Sugar City in which Cleo Browning and his wife Norma Browning operated a store. It s my opportunity this Saturday, the 7 th of Aug. 1982, to invite the Brownings, Brother and Sister Cleo and Norma Browning, husband and wife, here that we might treat the announced primary subject. First though, Mrs. Browning will you state your full name, where you were born, and, a little about your background, your family background? Norma Browning: Well I was born in Fayette, Sandy County, Utah on June 7 th, My father was Leffel Addison Bean, and my mother was Etta Agnes Palmer- Bean. They had met at Provo where my dad s people resided. They were pioneers in the Provo area and were married the 1 st of April, And my father left in 3 weeks for a mission to England and my mother went back to Fayette to stay with her mother who was a widow. Then dad got home in 1910 and I was born 13 months later in I stayed there, our folks stayed there until August of When dad brought my mother and me to Sugar City where his father and his two uncles had settled in the general area, my Grandfather was George Addison Bean who lived just north of Sugar and I had two uncles who are great uncles, dad s uncles, who settled in Teton, William Bean and Marcellus Bean who lived in Teton. They had come up earlier and my dad brought my mother and me and followed in August of I was blessed in Sugar City. HF: Thank you very much, now Cleo, would you give me your date of birth, where, and a little about your ancestry background? Cleo Browning: I was born February 22, 1911 in a log cabin, back in a field in Thornton, Idaho. My father was Charles Henry and my mother was Viola R. McFate. And I am the second of four of their children. My father, with his father, came to Idaho, I can t remember exactly the time now, from Ogden. My great, great grandfather was Jonathan Browning, the first member of the family to join the church as far as I know. And he came across the plains in 1848, settled in Ogden and started the Browning Arms business in connection with his son, Jon Hammon and they carried it on there for many years and that is still there. But, my father came to and worked in Thornton out of a store that my grandfather owned, he and his, my dad and his brothers used to run a delivery out into the countries, into the country of Lyman, Archer, Sunnydale, Independence, and so on. And that s the way he made his living but I was, as I said, born in Thornton, Idaho. HF: Well now, I know that you opened a store together as husband and wife in Sugar City but as a prelude to that experience, each of you enjoyed some experiences growing up in Sugar City and doing some things before you were married. Norma, just rather briefly, tell me what experiences you had had in growing up and going to school, and what things were like there at Sugar City. Including maybe the time you went on your mission and what things were like before you were married. NB: The first year we were in Sugar City, after we moved from Utah, we lived with my grandfather and grandmother Bean, north of Sugar City. And my dad worked for Fred Slinaman in the hardware business which is, it was located just a block and a half east of 2

3 the depot. And that was a considerable experience in a lot of ways and he worked there and he and Brother Slinaman got along fine. Later on my dad built a house, by the time we had been in Sugar a year, we had a house which dad built before and after work. He was a very energetic man. Then in 1920, dad started a business of his own. Brother Slinaman had sold his business to another firm. I can t exactly remember the name of it, I know the manager who came in but at any rate, dad decided he wanted to get in business for himself and he established his business in exactly the same place where later we had our grocery store. It had been built as a hotel during the time the sugar factory was flourishing. It was on the south side of main street and I don t know what block you call it, I mean label it, it was two blocks west of the chapel and about a half a block south but CB: It s on the corner of Austin Avenue and was it Center Street or Main Street? HF: Main Street. CB: I guess it was Main Street. NB: But it had been a hotel operated by a lady who s name was Mrs. Neff and prospered for many years. And then things slowed down in Sugar and dad was able to get that building and he remodeled it and put his hardware and furniture store in there in about And then we had some personal experiences which were, touched our lives. My mother died in 1922 as did my father s mother, my grandmother Bean, my mother in the spring and his mother in the fall, and we had kind of a bad time there for a while. But dad rallied together with Jim Stone and a Bishop Ricks, Alfred Ricks, and his brother Heath Ricks, and the Hamilton brothers. Several men who owned sheep and had financing were persuaded by my dad, who was always a good salesman, to put together some stock to build the building where the old theater stood and where the school owns that auditorium now. And it s where my brother, my youngest brother, Melvin Bean, now operates the hardware and furniture store. Dad got that building built. It was at that time between the bank and Raul Gaddy s garage and it took him that area there in dad s building. And then dad later bought the garage and incorporated it with his building and made a success of that building. And during the years that I went to high school, between 1924 and 1928, things went really well financially, I guess, for most people in Sugar City and at least for my dad. Now Cleo and I began dating in high school. We d known each other in elementary school and we d been neighbors living only a couple of blocks apart. And my folks bought milk from his folks once when our cow was dry and I used to go get the milk. And on dark nights, this was in the winter, on dark nights Cleo s mother used to insist he walk part way with me down to Bishop Ricks so I wouldn t have to walk alone. And so our friendship started when we were young. During high school, we commenced dating and the year that Cleo was student body president, which was our senior year, we did what was called going steady. I didn t go with any other boys and he didn t go with any other girls during that year. And Sugar City had a good school; it rated very well both elementary and secondary. I had started out at the Park School building which is now 3

4 demolished and continued my elementary education at the Rock School building which was on the west end of town and which was destroyed by fire. I don t know, I guess it was in the early 40 s or sometime along in there. And then we both went to high school in the Sugar Salem High School. And then in 1929, after one year at Ricks College, Cleo was called on a mission. I finished two years at Ricks and then I was called on a mission after he had been out 8 months. We went to different missions. HF: That s super. NB: Then he came home after I had been home 6 weeks, and he had been home several months, and we were married. HF: That s really super. Now in that same way, Cleo, will you share with me and with us the experiences you had had at Sugar City prior to the time you had opened your store? CB: Ok, we moved to Sugar, I think it was The war was over, the First World War, and one of the first things I remember after we moved there [was that] we came over in order for my father to operate the inner ocean elevator. He was manager of that elevator for a few years. And we bought an old home fairly close to the elevator, a block or so away northeast, and my father had it remodeled and made into a nice livable home for the four children of us in the family. But the thing I remember that stands out in my memory, I should say, is the welcome home for Tom Niber who was a World War warhero. And the town band and businesses were closed and everybody came out to welcome him as he got off the train in company with the governor, and I don t know who else of the dignitaries were there. But I remember walking up to the center of town behind this group and everybody celebrated the rest of the day. I don t know what all we did but anyways, that was a big day in my life; I thought that was really outstanding. At Norma s school, I recall in 5 th and 6 th grades knowing her along with others in the class. But I didn t get serious about dating or going with her until like she said when we were in our senior high school year. I didn t think she was interested in me and I just wasn t interested in going steady with anyone; [I] didn t go with anyone in fact, previous to going with her. But anyway, the years around the time we were married were real rough. When I came home from my mission, I tried several things to make a living or to make some spending money and none of them turned out very successful. I tried selling real silk hosiery, and I tried, that was door to door in Salt Lake and various communities on, between there and Sugar City. I tried other occupations and it just didn t work out. [I] worked on various farm jobs and so on and it was really discouraging during the time we got married. But we had been engaged for so long that we decided to talk it over with our bishop and see what he would suggest about our getting married, whether we should get married or I should go away and try to get work or just what. And he said in view of the fact that we have been going together for some time and so on before our missions, and we ve been on missions and so on, that he would recommend that we get married. So we talked to my wife and asked if she thought she could get along on financial conditions if 4

5 they likely would be with us, which would be somewhat different than she was used to in her home. And she didn t debate about that very long and she said she thought she could [do] very nicely on whatever I could provide, and so I worked on various things trying to make a living. I worked on my father s dry farm from board and room when he started operating the dry farm after he quit working at the elevator. He had to quit because the dust situation was so hard on his lungs even with masks that he would wear over his nose he still was bothered with the dust. So he decided to quit and go out on the dry farm or at least a farm on Canyon Creek. And so we d go up there in the summer time and work and then we d come back to Sugar in the winter. And in 1932, before we were married, just before, one thing that might be interesting is that my father told me to load up the wagon load of wheat and bring it down to Newdale to sell to get a little spending money and to make it possible for us to get married, [and] have something, some cash. So I loaded a load of wheat, all that two horses could pull, which amounted to 38 sacks and I took it down to Newdale. [I] sold it for fifty cents a hundred to get enough money to buy a marriage license and little bit of spending money so that we could be married. And that was on the 27 th of June, NB: We were married the 27 th of July. CB: Alright, alright, 27 th of July. NB: (laughs) CB: I was thinking about June (laughs) and so went on with that month. Anyway, it was July alright. We went down with the seventies quorum who made an annual excursion to the Logan Temple and this was the time they were going, and this is what Bishop Hamilton suggested we do. So Norma s father took us down with 2 or 3 other passengers and we were married at that time. HF: And of course you went by car or bus or something? NB: Automobile, it was a caravan. They used to call it a caravan. And the seventies quorum for many years did that. They were very active. That was before the Idaho Falls temple so many years. CB: If you re down and stay overnight in Logan, and then go to two sessions the next day and then come home. NB: Oh they d go to more than two. They d always get in three at least in those days and then they d do two the next day and then they drive home. CB: Go to one after they got down there. 5

6 NB: Even when we were married you see, we went through two sessions the day we were married and then we went back and went through two sessions before we came home. CB: Yes. And they said that was most unusual. The people in the temple said they couldn t recall that that had ever been done that way before. There were 30 some couples married, no 18 I guess, 13 couples married on the 27 th of July when we were. But the people there at the temple, the temple workers, that day and the next day said they had no recollection of any other couples ever coming back for another session right after they were married. They usually took right off on their honeymoon or something, and we couldn t do that because we didn t have our car and we didn t have money and so on. So we went to the temple with the Seventies and then we came back and then we went to work on the dry farm and worked there until the next year. NB: Until October of that fall when your mother died. CB: Yeah that s right. HF: Well now as a background to our subject here, I think it would be appropriate Norma, if you would recall and describe the Sugar City community in a way of its population, something about where it was located, the farming area around it, and what seemed to be special the Sugar City community. NB: Well I don t know if I can do exactly what you want to or not. So far as the population was concerned there was only one ward. And in 1935, Cleo got to be ward clerk so, or a little before that even. So he knows the population of the ward better than I do but it runs in my mind, it was around 800. And that included people in the town, the community, plus the larger community of the farming area which extended a part way east to Teton and part way on the north to St. Anthony, and part way on the west to Salem and part way on the south to Rexburg. And there was really not too much of a distinct dividing line in those days about where people went to church. Later on they made them more firm, even though the primary occupation of most people had to do with agriculture and mainly in those days with the sugar factory. There were a lot of family farms and lots of people, most people had their own cows and chickens and pigs and these things to provide for their needs. We could have them even in town and Cleo and I did shortly after we were married (laughs). Now the community itself was not a bedroom community for Rexburg like it is now, in the other town. It was, people lived there and worked there and as I said the Sugar Factory was the biggest employer. And there were a lot of Sugar Company houses that were occupied in those days. The Sugar Company had built them and provided them for their year round employees and they had quite a lot of those and I don t know how many there were. And then during the factory run, when the beets were processed, of course this, the number of employees multiplied considerably. And the town is located just south of the Sugar Factory. The chapel was on the east end of the community and was built of rock, and I have fond recollections of that old church. It was very adequate in those days. People didn t attend 6

7 church as often as they do now; there was not the same enthusiasm and urgency about it. My dad was in the bishopric during the 1920 s and on into the 30 s a bit. He was in the bishopric when we got married in 32 and I can remember when he and Bishop Hamilton, who replaced Alfred Ricks as bishop in the 20 s, set a goal of 25% at sacrament meeting for the ward. They had been getting around 18% or something and they became very bold and set this goal of 25%. Now anybody who has 25% (laughs) is far out because even inactive wards are better than that. And then there was south of the chapel, there was the Park school building which was made of brick and it was 3 stories high and it was an elementary school. It was surrounded by residential buildings and then west of the chapel and the Park school building, between them both so far as north and south is concerned along Main Street, were the local businesses. And one of the most important was the Sugar City Mercantile which was about a block south, or east, west of the chapel and it was operated by the Ricks, and it was a general merchandise store. I can remember when next to it on the east, there was a millinery shop that was operated by- Who was the Dalling lady who married Dale Harrison after his first wife died? -Emma, Emma Dalling, who got training in millinery work and made her own hats and sold them in a shop next to the mercantile and that building stood there for years. And then as you moved west along that side of the street, there was- which was the north side- there was the Gatty Garage. Then in the middle 20 s, there was the building that housed my dad s hardware and furniture store and the theater, and then the bank was on the corner of that block opposite and west from the Mercantile. And across the street, west, was the high school building and various times in my lifetime I can remember businesses being in the lower part of it, under what later became the auditorium and the library. I can remember when there was a drug store on the corner across from the bank and I can remember when there was a carpenter shop just west of that. The drug store was operated by Harry Dean at the time that I recall and the carpenter shop was operated by a man by the name of Phillips. Across the street from the high school there were two or three other business. One, the most important one at that time, was the hotel I mentioned that was operated by Mrs. Neff. And just east of the hotel entrance, another part of the rooms upstairs that were provided for the hotel, there was another merchandise store that was operated when I can remember by a man whose name was Fred J. Heath. It wasn t as large as the mercantile but it served a good purpose. Then west of the hotel there was the post office, there was the blacksmith shop, operated by a man by the name of Neilson. And there was a, there used to be an old theater, which was abandoned when the new building was built, on the north side of the street where I saw my first movie during World War I. Then there was a meat market that was operated by Harrisman and West. Mr. West, his first name I don t recall, was the father-in-law of this Mr. Harrisman and they were in business together there. And that took about half of the block and from there on there were no businesses except a little shoe shop somewhere along the south side of the road until you got down to that midland elevator or the- what do you call it- the inner ocean elevator and the depot. And then there was a mill across the street, east of the depot. And the depot was sort of the west boundary of the town and beyond it, in a field, was the Rock school building, which was an elementary school 7

8 building, built later than the Park building and we both went to school in that building. Now I don t know if that said what you wanted or not but that describes Main Street, there were no other businesses. HF: That s very good. Actually, I intended to have Cleo more or less supplement that. Would you like to supplement any items by way of business houses that come to your mind that Norma didn t describe or mention. CB: No, of course it was a little different when we opened up. There was a drug store next to the building we operated. B.L. Waldrom operated a general merchandise store in the building which was the original hotel. Then there was, at the time we purchased the store from him, there was a drug store on that corner, and then our store, and then there was the post office. Now that s the south side of Main Street and across the street to the north was the new, was the high school building, a two story building. HF: Had it recently been built or was it part of the old.. CB: No, a few years before. HF: And it was part of the old building, I can t remember it, but they had the big dance hall upstairs. NB: Yes. HF: What did they call that building? NB: Well they had, part of it was called the opera house in the first years when it was built and underneath the opera house were these stores that I mentioned. But later on, they kept remodeling that building and the stores were moved out as they needed more room for the high school. HF: At one time in that building, in the downstairs, they had Sugar City Times, the paper. NB: Oh yes, that was before my day. HF: But the time that you were there, there was no paper published in Sugar City. NB: No. HF: Were the streets oiled at that time? CB: No they were not. HF: They were not oiled. 8

9 CB: Not even the Main Street. HF: Main Street was not oiled. CB: It was graveled. HF: Was there a little service station? CB: There were 3 or 4 service stations when we opened our business. One on the east or two on the east, and.. HF: Dalling had one didn t he? CB: Then Ray Dalling had one across the street from the drug store. That one is still there but it s closed now. And then there was another one down west. It was operated by J.C. Stone in connection with a motel, the first motel that I can recall. NB: They were cabins, really. They called it a cabin camp. CB: Yeah, they called it a cabin camp and he had a service station in connection with that. HF: Now down towards, on Main Street on the south side in the west part of town, Charlie England and his wife had a barber shop. CB: Yes, and a beauty parlor. HF: And a beauty parlor, do you remember that Norma? NB: Yes, and I got my first permanent there. But it was not in that location that I got it. When they built this building in which my dad had his hardware store, it was between the bank and the Gatty Garage. They made two little rooms on each side of the entrance to the theater that has different businesses at different times during the 1920 s. I could remember when one of those, on the west side of the theater entrance, had a candy shop in it operated by Georgia Ricks Ostler. She made homemade candy and sold it in there. And then there were other businesses. The one on the east Charlie England used as his barber shop, and Sister England had her beauty shop in there, and that s where I got my first permanent while I was in high school. Now I don t remember them being in the other place she went to. There was one other barber shop across the street from that building which was in the block east of our store that was operated by several people. One was somebody Dine that used to cut your hair. CB: Harry Dine. 9

10 NB: And Weaver, they had a place, their barber shop, and I don t know if that s the place that you were thinking of that England s were in when they first came to town. But I knew them in that little, small room. HF: Now that was the theater, of course showed the silent movies for years, I guess, didn t they at that theater? NB: When we were married they had the sound. CB: Yeah, the original theater with the silent movies. Well, when this new theater was built they had, it was the one with the soundtracks. NB: Yeah that, Weaver and Davis, they had sound there about as soon as they began to operate. HF: Oh, I see. CB: That was called the Weata Theater after Weaver and Davis. HF: Now then subsequently it was at that theater that became the auditorium where the high school would hold its assemblies. NB: Yes. CB: Yes, after we had sold our store. NB: There was a period in there before the school bought that building when the only part they used, the school used, was the upstairs rooms over the bank which used to be called the Chamber of Commerce rooms, or club rooms. And they used it for seminary; that s where we went to seminary. HF: Over the bank. NB: Over the bank. And then after two or three people had operated that theater and couldn t make it go, Weaver and Davis had to quit, the men who had it first. It went through various hands and finally the church operated it for awhile, didn t they? CB: Yes NB: And you and Flos took care of the projectors, Cleo and his sister took care of that as sort of a side job. CB: Well, the two wards took it over and operated it on Friday and Saturday nights as a fundraising project. That was when the Sugar ward was divided and the two bishoprics got together. 10

11 HF: Now, that would have been after the war. CB: Yes. NB: Now, the wards were put back together at They were separated and divided into two in And in 1945 they were combined. So, it was during that period between 1935 and 1945, some part of that period, it wasn t all of it, but it was some part of it, the latter part that the church operated it. Then of course it went to a lot of hands after that. Mr. Knutsen was very successful and Harringfield and Ashton had it, and Cleo operated it for him in the 1940 s. Bill Roberts had it for awhile and then it was after that the school bought it. So, it was in the late 1940 s early 50 s. HF: Were going to be talking and focusing the balance of the tape interview on the impact of the depression, years when you had your store. Now from a historical point of view, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in November and he assumed the office of president in March of And the first 100 days of his administration has been marked by some events of traumatic importance, I suppose, and impact on the people. He closed the banks down. He did a lot of things in those first 100 days that had to be done, I presume, because of the very serious conditions. Unemployment was very high. I don t know what the percentage was, but it was very high and it was a tough time for Americans to survive, make a livelihood and so forth. Now under those trying circumstances, Cleo, you and Norma determined to buy a little store there on the south side of Main Street. CB: Uh-huh. HF: When was that? What were the circumstances under which you decided, what motivated you to get that store? CB: Well, in October of 1932 my mother passed away at the age of 46. And my father, with four children I guess, and Father was left to look after the children. NB: Well there was just Rich and Flos at home. Janine was married. CB: Oh yes, alright. We, arrangements were made for us to live in a home, in my father s home and look after him and the children. It provided us a place to live too until we could get something better. In November of that year I was able to work a few hours a week at the Jacob s and Handrick s potato wire house for 20 cents an hour, and spuds were selling for 25 cents a hundred at that time, loaded on the track. And then I received some work as a substitute seminary teacher. In fact for five days I worked at that after I had been on my mission and returned in that year. But it was in December I worked for five days and received 25 dollars for that. Substituting I suppose for, I don t know if it was Neil M. Strong, I supposed it was, and he was likely ill. And I substituted that time. Later on Norma substituted too, but at that time that was before we took over the store. I was put in as ward clerk a year after I returned from my mission, in the Sugar ward and served for two years. Then the ward was divided and I served for 10 years as a clerk of 11

12 the Sugar 2 nd Ward under John W. Stoker as bishop. And February of 1933 I worked with WPA government relief crew hauling gravel on the Sugar City streets for 25 cents an hour, five days per month. And we received orders for groceries and clothing that we could exchange for groceries and clothing at the local stores. We didn t receive any cash for this. Now that was even before Franklin Roosevelt took over the next month. He took over the next month, March 3 rd, and that s when the nation s banks were closed, at least. Did he go in before that? NB: Well inauguration, I don t understand that March business because at the inauguration was in January. HF: Not then. NB: It wasn t then it was changed, oh HF: Yeah, it s been changed. NB: I didn t know that see, so I m learning. CB: Well it was March 3 rd of 33 that the nation s banks were closed until the new president, Franklin Roosevelt, was to give the orders to lift the holiday ban, they called it. And March 7 th was when I talked to B. L. Waldrom about purchasing his store, the general merchandise store. We decided we had to have work of some kind, and we were desperate. And while B. L. Waldrom had been trying to close out for some time, I don t know how long he had closing out sales for quite a while, and couldn t seem to get it out from under him. And for us to think that without any experience either one of us, either managing our clerking and stores, that we could take over and make it a go of that business was something quite fantastic. Anyway, the next day after I d talked to him a bunch, he and I went down to Pocatello and we talked with his home sellers about the possibility of my taking it over. And I guess they felt they couldn t do any worse than they were doing then and so they would go along with this. So two days after that, my father agreed to sign notes with us for $2,800 to cover the cost of the merchandise and fixtures in the store that were left, and we would be able to rent the building for $20 a month, and so that s what we did. And on April 3 rd of that same year, 1933, we opened Cleo s Cache Store, the name we had decided upon, opened it for business. And the name before very long we changed it to Browning s Cache store, and we had a lot of experiences. I don t know how many we have time for that indicated the conditions in those days of different people HF: What was the size of the store? Do you recall the dimension? CB: Oh, it was pretty good size, deep, wide. Let s see, it would have been 25 by 125 maybe. HF: North, south? 12

13 NB: Yeah. CB: Running South, yeah, north and south. HF: And 25 east, west? CB: About 25 feet I d imagine, wide, 25 or 30. HF: What merchandise did you stock? CB: Well, when we took it over he had some dry goods. He sold shoes and things of that nature in connection with the groceries. But there was so little, such a small stock of dry goods that we decided we couldn t make a go of it. With that, we didn t have money enough to replenish the stock and give us anything to work with. So we just continued the dry goods and went into groceries entirely, and rebuilt the shelves to accommodate the grocery products, cans and so forth, instead of dry goods. HF: Now you had a major contributor, or competitor just NB: Yes. CB: The Sugar City Mercantile. HF: Yeah, and that was in what, just up and around the corner. NB: No, it was just straight east across the road. HF: Straight east. CB: Less than a block, about a block from our business and they ve been there since Sugar City started. So we had a major competitor, as you say there, plus the businesses in Rexburg to compete with. So we had a real struggle with that, during the time that we had the store. HF: What did you do that was special to meet that competition so that you could get a little corner of it? CB: I don t know what accounted for it. We were fortunate to be in a good location as far as the schools were concerned. So as you would know, because you went to high school in those years, we got a lot of cash from children, elementary school children during that noon hour, and the high school between classes and at noon hours. Mostly candy and gum, items like that. HF: School supplies? 13

14 CB: Yes, school supplies. We put in a good stock of tablets and pencils and things of that nature for the elementary and high school students. So all together that helped to make our business go. NB: We had some very loyal friends too. We were really good friends with our competitor, who happened to be in the bishopric and Cleo was the ward clerk. CB: Yes, Emerick Thomas was the first counselor and I was the clerk for many years together. NB: But the bishop, Bishop Stoker was very good to divide his business. And there were people in Sugar, although they had cars and although there was an OP Stags store in Rexburg and this kind of thing, they were loyal to Sugar and they believed in doing their business there. HF: The interview will be continued on track two of the tape. Please turn over. END OF TAPE 1 TRACK 1 START OF TAPE 1 TRACK 2 HF: Continuing the interview with Cleo and Norma Browning on the subject Impact of the Great Depression years, and the late 20 s and 30 s when they had a store at Sugar City, Idaho. NB: As I was saying, there were people in Sugar who were very loyal to the town. And although there were temptations to come to Rexburg to shop, they didn t. And one of those was our bishop who was very conscientious about dividing his business between his first counselor and his ward clerk who were both involved in business. And then there was my dad, and my dad was very loyal in supporting us and in buying the things they needed for their household from us. And there were others who, because of their loyalty, helped us to stay in business this way. HF: Sugar City had a lot of pride, didn t it, as a town and a school? Boy, talk about loyalty. The blue and the white, a lot of loyalty there. Well now, how did you stock your building, your stock, your wholesalers, and would people bring things in from your community to help stock? Talk a little about that. CB: We bought a good share of our grocery merchandise from the Idaho Wholesale Company in Pocatello, but Pacific Fruit and Produce Company and Farr Candy Company, various firms like that sent their own trucks once or twice a week through Sugar City. HF: Any from Scowcroft, or is that a new one? 14

15 CB: Scowcroft was more dry goods and we didn t buy much from them. But these companies came through often enough that we could buy in small enough quantities. And then some ways that was a mass set and some ways it wasn t. You couldn t buy in large enough quantities to get a good enough price to compete with these other stores in Rexburg. At least we were able to get fresh produce on a small scale, just buy quantities whatever we could afford. We paid in cash for it. Bread was delivered every day, Wonder Bread, mostly. They had other competition later, but we paid with cash for everything. If we didn t have the money, we didn t buy anything. For a few days that was the case, but it didn t last long until we couldn t pay once a week or once a month, however we wanted to. We got a local carpenter to build, do some remodeling at the back of the store for us. And in August of 33 we moved in to an apartment in the back of the store and the rent was raised from $20 to $ That made the store rent and our rent combined $57 and 20. And the labor for doing the remodeling and fixing so we could live there in a two room apartment at first, just a kitchen and a bedroom/living room combined was what it was. But we were happy, and we could accommodate people who couldn t get to the store during regular hours which we did quite often. That helped our business some. They d come to the back door and we d go out and wait on them there. HF: You divided the store attendants, keeping it, maintaining it between yourselves, or did you have maybe an employee or two? CB: We had an employee or two although my wife was the main help when she could. NB: Tell them about the little bell you rigged up CB: I asked one of the boys in town who was handy with electricity so I got him to fix up a bell on the front door, it was actually on the screen door, so that when anybody opened the screen door, it would make contact and ring a bell back in our apartment and we knew someone was there that wanted to come in, so we d go out and unlock the door for them. NB: That was after hours, or before. CB: After hours. And then during hours if we happened, if I were eating lunch in the back, why, as soon as anybody opened the screen door we knew someone was there, and we could dash out and wait on them. Or while I was busy with someone else, or if it sounded as if there were a lot, quite a few customers why, my wife could run out and help. NB: Well, he had a bell also by the cash register. A button. CB: And we had a button so I could ring for help if I needed additional help from her. NB: So I did that in connection with keeping that little house. HF: And family I suppose. 15

16 CB: In connection with the family, that was a problem sometimes. NB: Well, we lost our first baby, and so it was 34, in December of 34 when our oldest surviving son was born and we had been in the store then, let s see, more than a year. HF: What utilities, you mentioned electricity, so you did have electricity. CB: Yes, we had electricity then. HF: How about a telephone? NB: Yes. CB: And we had a telephone. Handy to my desk and to the back part of the store so we could run from the candy counter back to the phone to answer if we needed to, or while working at the desk I could answer the phone there handy. And from our apartment we could go out and answer to it, too. It was in a good location. NB: We had a refrigerator to keep the butter and the cheese and the different things like this in, a big refrigerator. CB: We bought a seven cubic foot refrigerator in May of 33 for $175 and we used it for usekicks and butter and so on for the store and we could use it for ourselves for minor items. NB: My milk and things like this. CB: It may be interesting to know that a refrigerator of double the capacity now, a little more than double, costs $775, just $600 more than that one in 1933 cost. We just ordered one to be shipped down to our home in St. George next month. NB: Let s see, we heated with coal, I mentioned utilities, and we had a great big stove in the store. It was one of those big round belly things, big black stoves, and Cleo used to have to keep that fire going in the winter time. And in our apartment we had a coal range which heated our water for the apartment, and also he did the two room apartment. That was the only heat we had there. And we used quite a lot of coal every winter, but I don t know how much it costs. HF: Now did you, were there quite a few of your stock, your groceries sold by barter, eggs, and so on? CB: Yes, we sold groceries by, we took eggs and butter and paid for them, and exchanged for the groceries that they needed. Those are about the only two items. A little later, my father opened a meat counter in there and he d take meat, he d take livestock and sell it and trade that out. The customers would be able to trade what they had coming for the meat out in groceries, at least part of it. But at first, for the first while, 16

17 a lot of the bartering was in eggs and butter. Now occasionally the kids would raid their chicken house, I suppose, and bring in two or three eggs and trade it for a candy. On the side, I think in many cases, the parents might not have known about it. But anyway, they traded for candy, but most of it was brought in a dozen or two eggs at a time and they took groceries. HF: What were eggs a dozen at that time, do you recall? CB: Well, let s see, the time I have here in 1936 recorded in my journal, we were paying 16 a dozen for eggs. And in May of that same year, sugar was selling for ten pounds for 63, eggs for two dozen for 35, so you see, we didn t make very much on the eggs, for being paid sixteen cents a dozen. We sold them two dozen for 35, we weren t making very big profit. Fresh challenge butter was 34 a pound. Fresh tomatoes were 3 pounds for a quarter. Fresh strawberries two cups for a quarter. Mild cheese was 21 a pound. And at the same day a year later, the prices were up about five cents. Oranges were up to 29, and bananas three pounds for a quarter. That s indicative of the way that prices were in those days which is something different than HF: Now, I imagine that the sale of flour was quite plump because people in those days made their own bread very much didn t they? Did you sell quite a lot of flour? CB: I think I have flour some place in here, the price of flour, but I can t see it. Let s see, grapefruit was two dollars and a quarter for a case of 120 s they called them. Oranges were two dollars for a case of 200 s. Potatoes were retailed at, were selling at 15 to 20 cents a bushel compared to a dollar and a quarter the year before. This is Wheat was 70 compared to $1.02 in 37. Hay was $8and 30V a ton compared to $7 in Butter 35, eggs 16, milk cows $60 a head. But I don t see right here the price of flour. NB: Well we sold flour and we sold, I guess you know, in comparison of the other groceries, a fair share of it. But in those days, people who raised their own wheat, used to take their wheat to the mill and have their flour ground. See, there was still the mill there for years and years after we were married, and you could take in your wheat and they would grind your flour. HF: So they had the, I see NB: So they didn t have to buy flour at the store that much. The Old Yellowstone brand flour we sold for years, and we d sell it in 50 pound bags. It was unknown to sell any, a lesser quantity than that. Like, you can even buy it now in five pound bags. HF: Cook s cereal was important. Do you sell oatmeal and what other, oatmeal and germade? NB: Yes, but you could also get that in, not oatmeal, but germade my dad used to get wheat from my Grandfather Bean, and he would have germade made at the mill too. They did that up in the mill in Teton until very recent times. 17

18 CB: That s why we didn t sell a lot of flour and germade and things of that nature there because we had two sources when we could go and get it at wholesale or trade wheat for it, and have it ground. NB: And that s what they did. CB: And that s what they did, so we sold very little flour. We did sell sugar. NB: We ate very little oatmeal too, when you mentioned oatmeal, because you see, people raised the wheat and you could get it made into the germade. Germade was our cereal. CB: Corn Flakes was about the only ready-made cereal. NB: Yes, Corn Flakes and Shredded Wheat we sold in the store. But in our home, we had, it was germade, everybody had germade that they could get made from their wheat at the grist mills. HF: Now, you mentioned that you had not the much of dry goods CB: Yeah, we discontinued that. HF: Shoes and overalls, and things of this nature. CB: We left that for the Sugar Merc. to sell. They had a bigger stock of dry goods and competition with them and with the other stores in Rexburg was too keen. The grocer, business was bad enough to compete with them. HF: Did you hear much in the way of people complaining of hard times as they came to the store and visited? As you transacted your work there at the church as a clerk was there much comment about tough times? CB: Oh yes, there was a lot of it. Every bit as much as there is now. Labor that cost, the amount they could get for work was so low but we made perhaps not any lower in proportion to the goods that money would buy. I don t know, gasoline was oh, I remember it 29 a gallon and I can t remember the price of shoes and clothing and items like that. But people did complain. Yeah, they used to wonder how they were going to make it from one day to the next. Young people especially, they had a hard time getting started, finding work that they could do. Most of it was farm work, was about all that a man could find. Women didn t work too much after they got married in those days, they stayed very close to home and took care of the children, and the men made the living. NB: Some of them taught schools, some of the women taught school. We had school teachers 18

19 CB: Not too many of them after they were married though. NB: No, unless they were widowed. HF: Now did you commence teaching school Norma? NB: Oh no, no, we had four children, five children. We lost our first one as I said, and then we had a child in December of 1934 and that s while we were still at the store. HF: So you didn t teach until later? NB: No, our next baby was born in 1938, then Rex in 43, and our last in 1948 and I started back to school at Ricks the year it became a four year college. I d had two years, and then in 1952, when our youngest daughter was four years old, I began taking a class or two. And Marge Rummel in Sugar City looked after my little girl with her little boy Rex for a couple of hours each day while I took class. It took me four years to finish my last two years of college, and that was including summer school. And of course that was the length of time at Ricks was a four year school. And our oldest son was also going to Ricks then. He started the same year as I, and graduated. And then I didn t start teaching until 1958, our youngest daughter was in the fifth grade when I started teaching. HF: And was that at Sugar? NB: No, I started in Rigby. Yeah, I didn t want to, we had moved to Rexburg. We moved to Rexburg in 65. I started teaching before we moved to Rexburg, but I didn t want to teach in the same district where I had a child going to school. I had two there, Rex was still there. And I think that hampers the parent, and I think it s not good for the children. And so, I did my practice teaching here in Rexburg, and I did it in St. Anthony. HF: Well now going back to the store, how long did you have the store then, Cleo? CB: Well, about ten years. We kept on with it about ten years, but during quite a bit of that time, I found it necessary to get part time work to keep it going. And so, when Norma was so that she could look after it, why, my sister came in and even my younger brother were sometimes there, and then we hired other people off and on to help out in the store when I was taking these other part time jobs to keep things going. I worked, when I could I worked at nights to get a supplementary income, but it got to a point where that was a little difficult to find work that it would work out at night, so I worked in the daytime during the sugar factory run to make ends meet and provide a living for us. So times were rough during that time we were at that store. And then the Second World War started in 1940 NB: CB: It was 1940 according in my journal in September that we were getting news about the aerial bombardments between England and Germany. And Hitler was boasting that 19

20 he d be on English soil by September 15 th. But September 16 th we were getting news that he wasn t on English soil yet. NB: But it was December 7, 1941 when we were bombed by HF: At Pearl Harbor. NB: the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, and that s when we got into the war. CB: Yes. NB: But we had the store and at that time we had three children and one of them was a little baby, and Cleo was put in a 1-A classification because he was not an essential industry. And we had nightmares about his being drafted and my being left with that store and three little children. And we had moved out of the apartment, we d out grown it, and had lived, bought a little house in Sugar and we were living away from the store. And so we just decided that in order that I not be trapped that way, if he should be called into the service, that we better sell it. And so it was in, he can tell you when. CB: It was in 1943 but I m not sure if it was 42 or 3. I quit keeping a daily journal for several years along in that time. And we had closing out sale, so the last of the merchandise and the fixtures to Brother Thomas in the mercantile. HF: So no one took over the store then? NB: No one took over the store. CB: Emer Harris took it over as a plumbing, put his plumbing business in there. Moved out, we moved all of the groceries and dry goods and fixtures out. Then was when I worked for Allison Ricks Creamery in Rexburg during the rest of the war years and drove back and forth to work. HF: You had a car by then? CB: Yes. NB: Oh yes, we had a car. CB: Let s see, we bought our first car while I was going to NB: We had it before Larry was born. CB: I think in 33 or 34. It was a little one seated chevy. We bought it $375 from my uncle of working with Browning, our company in Idaho Falls, and his name was Browning and that was our first automobile. I think it was a used one, it had gone 22,000 20

21 miles, but we got it for $375, $25 down. The rest of them after that we didn t buy over time, we paid cash. HF: So essentially then, you relied on the income from the store for your livelihood? CB: Yes. HF: And you would supplement that some with which you d get in the sugar drives. CB: I worked, I mentioned I believe, I worked on the WPA just before we started our store. We were talking the other day and you wondering about the school lunch program. That we started while we were in the store, while I was president of the PTA for a year. I believe we were able to get that school lunch program going, let me talk just a minute about that. HF: Why don t you just comment about that? CB: They started out with three men that the government paid on the WPA project, and then they had two or three women. And the first meals were cooked in the back of what later turned out to be the school lunch kitchen where they served lunch, but at that time we took the, these man cooked the food in the back of our store. That was before we moved in there, and had put our apartment in there. They put this big Sugar Company cook stove, it was out of the, what do they call those buildings they? NB: The kitchen where they served and the dining room where they served the workers. CB: Served the workers up by the sugar factory. HF: I see. CB: And we were able to get that stove, or they donated it I guess, or maybe the PTA paid them something, or rented it, I don t know. But anyways, they moved it into the back of our store and these men cooked the supplies. And most of the food was furnished by the government and it was supplemented with whatever we could sell lunches for. It started out, I think it was 3 a piece and these men would take this hot soup mostly, soup and crackers and they d take that on the hand sleigh and a couple of five gallon cans down to the elementary building and they d serve lunch down there around 11:30 and they d sent it up to the other one a little later and the high school, sent some over to the high school. And that s the way we served the lunches and I think it was 3 a piece to start with. And that was enough to buy the crackers that the government couldn t furnish and whatever other small items there were, but the labor was paid for through WPA work. And that s the way the project got started there in Sugar City, I don t know whether it was going in other communities, schools around that time or not. But anyway, I know from there that it grew from that beginning in Sugar City. 21

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