On a recent visit to Pioneer Trails State Park I saw a chimney lamp. My grandparents used such lamps in their home when I was a child. They had to be filled every morning with coal oil, the wicks trimmed and the chimney-shaped glass lampshade polished. Just imagine doing that every day. I loved the soft light, the flickering shadow reflected on the wall and the homey glow cast over the room. I did not like the coal-oil smell.
The Salt Lake area is blessed with museums, parks and other places rich in pioneer history and culture: the Pioneer Trails park near Emigration Canyon, the Lion House, Wheeler Farm in Murray, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum, Pioneer Craft House and more. These are open to us to browse to our heart's content and renew our acquaintance with our pioneer heritage.Star-studded, flag-waving July, when we celebrate both the founding of our nation and the settlement of the Salt Lake Valley by the first company of pioneers under the direction of Brigham Young, offers an excellent occasion to visit these repositories of history - and of memories.
Three flatirons on top of a huge coal range at Pioneer Trails recalled to mind my first experience in learning to iron with them. My mother used flatirons too. I learned to wet my finger with my tongue and quickly touch the iron. If it sizzled, the iron was just right. With three irons you could have a hot iron ready all the time. A huge black stove was a part of every kitchen in those long ago days. Besides heating irons, it could bake mouth-watering bread, cakes and pies and also provide a warm place for the Saturday night bath in the tin bathtub.
I saw a scrubbing board, a washtub and a clothes boiler at Wheeler Farm. My mother used these and so did I when I was first married. It took a long time to do the washing. By the time you had scrubbed, boiled the whites, rinsed and blued them, over half the day was gone. Hanging the clothes outdoors on the clothesline was another hard job, especially in winter or when the wind was blowing, the sheets could freeze before they were on the line. The frozen sheets looked like ghosts hanging out to dry. On wash day mother always had a pot of beans and ham simmering for supper, with a large pan of rice pudding baking in the oven.
Many interesting things are on display at the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum on Capitol Hill. A wooden chopping bowl and chopping knife brought back pleasant memories of chopping meat for the Christmas and Thanksgiving pies. After shelling the nuts for cakes and cookies, I chopped them. I always chopped raisins, nuts, orange and lemon peel for Grandma's puddings and fruitcake. I wish I still had my chopping bowl and knife; at least they always worked.
On a visit to the Lion House, I spotted an old-fashioned hall tree. We had an old hand-carved oak hall tree standing in the entrance hall of my parents' home. It resembled a high-backed chair with a seat, and a mirror above the seat. Hooks for hanging outdoor wear were down the sides of the mirror. At Christmas time and birthdays the hooks couldn't hold all the wraps, and the overflow had to be put in the cold bedrooms. A tall copper-like vase stood at the side of the hall tree to hold umbrellas.
In a children's bedroom in the Lion House an old wooden rocking horse was standing in a corner. It reminded me of one standing outside our apartment door. About 55 years ago a dear friend made it for our son. Ours is very real looking, with red rockers and a white body, black mane, tail and eyes. It is a favorite toy for our 11 great-grandchildren today. It makes me happy when they say, "Great-grandma, I want to ride to Cranberry Cross. Say it," and I repeat "Ride a cock-horse to Cranberry Cross to see an old women get on a white horse. Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes." "Say it again, please."
A pearl-handle buttonhook called to mind my favorite high-buttoned shoes. They had patent-leather bottoms and gray suede tops with shiny black buttons. It was fun to pull the shiny black buttons through the buttonholes. I thought my feet looked so neat and trim in them. There is a lovely pair of ladies' button shoes in a display case at the Pioneer Craft House, as well as a beautiful dress of that period. Also, you can see there some colorful paintings of places and events that occurred in the Salt Lake Valley's early days. Among the group of pictures is one of the old Salt Palace and another of Saltair.
A curling iron that was heated over the hot coals in the stove reminded me of the frizzed bangs so many girls and women wore. I didn't like to have my hair curled with irons heated in the hot coals. I would rather go to bed with mine in rags. Uncomfortable, yes, but burns are worse.
I hope you see the cushion filled with hat pins. I love hat pins. They fascinated me as a child, but seem to be a thing of the past. Eighty-five years ago they were needed to anchor the elegant hats worn at the time. The hats were very large and trimmed with beautiful plumes, velvet roses, ribbon and lace. As a little girl I tried on my mother's, my aunts' and my mother's friends' whenever I could steal a chance, trying to decide the kind of hat I would have when I was a mother.
One Sunday in church the lady in front of us had a beautiful hat pin holding her hat in place. The hat pin had an orange glass ball on the end. It looked like orange juice in the crystal ball until she moved, and then the shadows made it look as if there was castor oil on top of the orange juice (my mother's favorite cure for upset stomach). My brother and I got the giggles until my father separated us. We were in the doghouse the rest of that Sunday.
An old coffee grinder on a kitchen table brought back nauseating memories of the odor of fresh ground coffee. As a child I had trouble riding the streetcar. By the time I was halfway home I usually had my head hanging out the back window of the street car. It seemed to occur most often when another passenger had a sack of fresh ground coffee.
Among some old-time tools I found an old automobile crank. Well do I remember that arm twister. My husband and I spent our honeymoon at Brighton. Our mode of transportation was a 1923 Ford pickup truck (my father-in-law's pride and joy). We had to stop about every 5 miles to let the motor cool off. The crank had to be used to start the car again. I thought my new husband would break an arm or something trying to get it started. You know he didn't even swear once, and it did take the patience of Job.
Each time I make a return visit to these historic places I find something of interest to catch my eye. I love the past. I'm proud of my pioneer heritage. The present has been built upon the past, and I'm grateful for the inventions that make life more comfortable.
* Gertrude R. Lobrot is a Salt Lake freelance writer.