Christmas has changed a lot over the past 105 years. Just ask Lettie Critchlow Bickmore, who celebrated her 105th birthday Friday in Ogden.
One Christmas she received a penknife. On another Christmas she received a piggy bank - not very useful for a little girl with no money. "So I traded it for a rag doll," she said.A retired teacher and one of Utah's oldest residents, Bickmore was born Dec. 21, 1885, in Hyrum, Cache County, while her mother was on the Mormon "underground." As a young child, she moved with her mother to Star Valley, Wyo. In the early 1890s, her father, Benjamin C. Critchlow, moved the family to Hyrum. She was a church organist at the age of 8 and a popular pianist in the community. To save money for her education, she took a job as one of the early-night telephone operators in Hyrum.
After graduating from Brigham Young College in Logan, she taught in one-room schools in Mount Sterling and Cornish, teaching six grades in one room that was heated by a wood-burning stove that required frequent attention during the severe winters. She later taught in elementary schools in Hyrum and Paradise and in the Brigham Young College Training School.
In October 1907, she and her fiance, Alf Emil Sorensen, drove in a horse-drawn buggy to Salt Lake City to be married in the LDS Temple. The following week he left on a mission to his native land, Norway. She continued to teach to support him. On his return he found work in Idaho. There he contracted typhoid fever and died in 1911, leaving her with an infant daughter.
She went back to teaching and began to further her education by summer studies at the University of Utah, the University of California at Berkeley and Utah State University, then known as the Agricultural College. "Old Main was the only thing there except for a barn," Bickmore said. Tuition in 1908 was $5.
In 1922 she married Danford M. Bickmore, a widower with eight children, and moved to a farm in Paradise. There she reared those children and three children born to her on the farm while taking an active role in community affairs and in the LDS Church.
Her husband, who was president of the Hyrum LDS Stake for many years, died in 1962 in Logan. She remained in Logan until 1985, when she moved to Ogden.
Still alert and interested in world affairs, Bickmore has lived through five wars - the first being the Spanish American War - and the assassination of two presidents, McKinley and Kennedy.
Bickmore celebrated her birthday in an Ogden retirement home with friends and family. She has seven living children.