Cleo Afton Call Clark - a letter
Many years ago when I was a young teenager I stopped by my Grandma Clark's home to visit her after school. She told me about this letter she had written and then when she talked about losing her daughter Marial she became overcome with emotion. She gave me this letter and the following is what was written.
Dear Dean Cutler:
While sitting with a sick neighbor I heard your very splendid remarks on Public Pulse.
I must say it delighted me. Your plea for older people interested me because I'm fast, whether I like it or not, reaching that stage of life. I first realized that when my son said something about mother getting older. I quickly replied, "I am not old." He said, "well, mother you have six children past forty years so I'm sure you are no spring chicken."
I was born in the Mormon Colonies in dear old Mexico, where my wonderful parents taught each of their large family to take responsibility; to do his work on time and not offer excuses. There was love and so much happiness and fun along with chores and helping each other. I was among the older children. My job was to do the outside chores such as feeding and milking the cows. Feeding water to the chickens and gathering the eggs. Driving the cows to and from the pasture. There were eight sisters before we were blessed with several wonderful brothers.
I attended the Juarez Stake Academy. Our class motto was TRY, TRUST AND TRIUMPH. Those teachers were such noble men and women who taught, "Readin, Writin and Rithemetic," but tonight character building as well as good wholesome living.
In July of 1912 we were driven out of Mexico along with the Mormons and white people. Oh what a catastrophe! But-- my father was asked to stay in El Paso, Texas to help the Saints who had no relatives, nor no place to go. Our family had loved ones who welcomed us. Gave us shelter and food until we were able to help ourselves.
I was the oldest unmarried daughter so it was my duty and responsibility to get work and help my parents and the younger children. I met and married a very handsome splendid fellow. To us in due time were born thirteen lovely sons and daughters. Our second birth was twin sons, one of whom died at birth. Each child was so welcome yet each had his chores to do. Times then were so different than now. There were truck gardens in our neighborhood. Children who knew how or would work were in demand. Our children were always busy during the summer months. Made enough money to buy their own clothes, books and save a little for their spending money for winter.
I'm reminded now of those hungry boys and girls when they sat down to eat those three daily meals. The big loaves of bread I baked every day. The pounds of butter churned. The quarts of fruit and vegetables bottled for the next winter. Meals must be ready so the children could be back to work in one hour. So much had to be done before dark. Up at day break. Yes it was hard many times. There was no staying out nights. Everybody went to bed early for 4 a.m. came too soon.
Work was our salvation. Oh yes we had our fun. Making candy, cookies, pop corn balls and so much root beer to be cooled in the ditch where the children were picking. Sewing was a big project with seven girls to clothe. A few yards of cloth and a pattern, a little lace or braid; a cute school dress could be made. Boys shirts could be made so much cheaper too. Oh those warm coats that were made over. A thoughtful sister-in-law and a dear cousin helped us out so much with "hand me downs" during the depression when there was no work for the fathers of the family.
One of my fondest memories is when my little son came home with a pretty wrapped package he had won at the 4th of July celebration. "See mama, I won this and the lady where I won it said she would give me 15 cents for it. But I told her no, it was for you." Those sparkling eyes and happy face, I shall never forget; as he watched me open the little box for my jewelry. Then when this same son came home with his weekly pay. "Please mama, I want you to go to town with me. I have enough money to buy you a dress and pair of shoes." Even now the tears fall when I think of his sacrifice for me. "But this too shall pass away."
The depression was over. The children grew. One by one they attended college and went to work for themselves. Married to their lovely companions. Then the 2nd World War. Oh how terrible to see our beloved sons and son-in-law leave their wives and small children to help defend our precious country.
Not being able to sleep nights I read, sewed, crochet every piece of string I could find. Perhaps you remember it was almost impossible to buy cloth, crochet cotton etc. Every minute that could be spared we made sweater and clothing for our soldier boys. Those long hours, days, weeks and years of uncertainty.
Soon after the boys left for their assigned camp we discovered our darling fourteen year old daughter had rheumatic fever. She had been poorly but the real cause of her sickness was not learned until the heart had been impaired. Two years of rest in bed with no excitement. She learned to embroidery and crochet. But where to get the material? The older girls who were away with their husbands at army camps found just what was needed. Every stitch must be as near perfect as possible. It kept her busy and happy. She was so content when I sat by her bed and darned socks, mended overalls, made buttonholes and showed her new patterns etc. When I propped her up with pillows under her head and arms she learned to do the most beautiful work.
About the time the war was over my oldest son took the old home and farm and in exchange built us a beautiful home down town. Close to church, Post Office, bus line and business. What a blessing our new home was and still is.
Our dear father and my dear husband became very sick and was unable to work. Our daughter was better for awhile and then became much worse. In Nov. 1948 died but just before she died she called me to her bedside. She gasped, "Mama thanks for taking such good care of me six long years." She just had her 20th birthday.
Oh I wondered if I could go on living without her. But I must so on, I knew for the sake of the other children at home. Now I could work and help ourselves. So work I did. Day and night for I could not sleep. Believe me there was plenty to do. Too much hard work and worry. I went down with a heart attack. "To bed," the Dr. said. "I can't I must work." My three oldest sons all had well paying jobs working for themselves.
They came, one day to my bedside, "Mother, we have decided we can and will take care of you." "What about your wives, how will they feel," I asked. Those darling daughters-in-law stood by their husbands and each month their checks came without one delay. They never failed for several years. Even after I was better and told them we could manage now the younger sons and daughters were older. The daughters-in-law and sons still insisted that they help. God bless those wonderful daughters-in-law. They have surely lived up to the commandment, "Honor thy father and mother." Someone said, "your last days will be your best days." So they are.
I'm never bored with life. Relief Society, Daughter of the Utah Pioneers (which by the way has been such a wonderful outlet for me). I keep busy making quilts, rugs, crocheting, cooking and believe it or not I've learned to knit. I've made me a sweater and afghan. My children are scattered in Arizona, California, Montana and Washington so I'm busy letter writing. I have a grandson in West Germany on a L.D.S. mission. One grandson just returned from a splendid successful mission in Scottish Irish mission. I must not forget my many visits to my dear children in their homes in various states.
Mine is a very happy interesting, busy life. I love to cook. Especially do I like to mix bread and rolls. What fun it is when I visit my children and grandchildren (they) see me (and) shout, "good now we'll have homemade bread, cookies, rolls and rice pudding." One son-in-law adds, "beans to go with homemade bread." I have my own home that I enjoy keeping up, changing the color scheme, making new curtains, redecorating, making rugs.
Last Christmas I made 25 beautiful cross stitch aprons for my family and friends. Each daughter-in-law and daughter received hand embroidery pillow cases for their birthdays. Quilts make lovely wedding gifts for the grandchildren and as I have 47 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. I'll not be out of work for awhile.
I visit the sick and other people in our town. Often I'm asked to stay at night with them. It is so nice to be remembered by the young people. Especially the friends of my children who have been in our home making candy, pop corn balls, etc. It's pleasing when they say, "Remember when we did this or that at your home?"
Since my grandchildren were old enough to know what parties are we have had at our home, "Grandma Christmas party." Last year the older grandchildren seemed to be too busy. I had the ten children that live in town between four and ten. How much fun they had. Every time they see me or come they ask when we are having another party at this home. It's good for cousins to see each other. For now there are so many wards and Stakes if we don't make an effort to get together they will be strangers.
I must not forget the summer parties at the different homes for the entire families and what good times we have when a family from out of town comes. It's fun when I walk down town to pass a crowd of school children playing and I hear a grandchild call, "Oh there's my grandma, Hello grandma," they shout. I'm so richly paid by all my noble sons and daughters and their splendid companions and children. I tell them if they live righteous lives and keep God's commandments that's all I ask and I'll be the happiest mother in the whole world. I thank God for my home and large family. Oh yes we have many imperfections and faults, but yet we are trying to overcome. I give thanks to our Father in Heaven.
My husband was terribly ill; had to go to the hospital. Then died. The five sons gave him a lovely burial. His services were so comforting. I again worked. My social security and the property my husband left me made me independent. But, the help my lovely family gave me will never be forgotten. May God bless them all.
Letter was hand written by Cleo Call Clark and at a later date she passed it on to her grand-daughter Cristie Clark Carter who transcribed it in June 2018.