Louis T and Marinda Miller Reunion – Great Memories

The Louis T and Marinda Miller family still holds a reunion every 2 years!  It’s mind-boggling to think of how many posterity their 10 sons and 1 daughter have yielded.  No one even hazarded a guess at the May 28th gathering held at the Hyrum Civic Center.

Konnie and I have tried to attend as many of these reunions possible and can honestly say that we’ve enjoyed each one.  It is a bitter sweet experience because, while we do get to visit with many members of our extended family, we are always sad to learn who passed away during the two-year interval since the last reunion.  Notably absent were Ivan Miller and Junior Miller’s wife, Norma.  Both were such gracious people and always treated Mom and Dad so well.

Since Aunt Merlynn and her daughter, Susan, had a schedule conflict, Konnie and I knew we’d be there to represent Marvin and Lucille.  The reunion committee requested that each family bring some “treasures” to display and to be prepared to share a few comments.

Each family was asked to display a few keepsakes. I took Grandpa's fishing creel, hat, egg basket, Draper Poultry thermometer and a picture of the old blue truck.

Each family was asked to display a few keepsakes. I took Grandpa’s fishing creel, hat, egg basket, Draper Poultry thermometer and a picture of the old blue truck.

As I carefully selected the items I’d like to represent Marvin, I found myself thinking about how hard it is to reduce a rich 80+ year lifetime to just 5 artifacts.  Still, they do tell quite a story:

  • The fishing creel represented Grandpa’s fairly well-hidden “fun” side.  He never invited me to go fishing with him but I do remember that he liked to fish small streams with grasshoppers.  Davenport Creek and Left Hand Fork were two of his favorites.  The creel is well-used and held together at the bottom by baling wire – a testament to frequent use and Grandpa’s frugality.
  • The egg basket is just one representation of Grandpa’s hard work and how most dry farmers needed a steady source of income to supplement their risky (yield and price) Bluecreek endeavors.  I did get to help Grandpa gather the eggs, clean the eggs and put them in 12-dozen size cartons to be picked up by Draper Poultry.  I’m sure that Grandma Lucille shouldered a lot of the egg production burden while Grandpa was out at Bluecreek.  On a side note, some of you may remember the “egg room” in the basement at the bottom of the stairs (on the left).  It was cool and ideal for storing the eggs.  I built several decorative shelves out of the egg room shelving after Konnie and I bought and remodeled the old Marvin and Lucille home.
  • The sweat-stained hat is another representation of Grandpa’s hard work.  He always wore a similar-styled hat while he worked…never a baseball cap.  A long-sleeve shirt, a pair of denim coveralls and brown, lace-up boots rounded out his work attire.  Aunt Merlynn told us that Grandpa never allowed his coveralls to be washed!  He just shook out the dust and wore them until they needed replaced.  Having seen how dirty Lyle got while working on farm machinery, it makes me wonder how Marvin ever managed to stay relatively clean.
  • Since I couldn’t drive the blue, 1948 Chevrolet truck all the way to Cache Valley, I had to settle for sharing a picture showing it still looking good and in use.  The truck epitomizes Grandpa’s “fussiness” and well-known trait of taking good care of everything he owned.  I certainly enjoyed washing and waxing his truck once or twice a year when I was in my teens.  He always seemed so pleased when I returned it to him totally detailed and looking near-new.

When it came my turn to share the memorabilia and a story about Marvin, I told about how upset Grandpa was when he got the truck.  Apparently, new vehicles were still hard to get in post-Word War II 1948.  He had to order the truck from Miller Chevrolet (no relation) in Logan, pay a deposit and then wait for the truck to be made and shipped via train.  Well, true to form, he ordered the very most basic, stripped down model with a 4-speed transmission, the only requested option.  When his truck arrived, it was dark blue instead of stock dark green, had a pin stripe around the cab, had a fancy hood ornament and the elaborate front bumper assembly, plus…a radio of all things!  He was furious about the options and additional cost but pretty well had to take the truck or get put at the bottom of the waiting list again.  To say that Grandpa was a penny-pincher is an understatement!

Grandpa Marvin's Truck

Two short stories about Grandpa did come out during the reunion.  Gary Miller is Ross Miller’s son.  Ross owned the dry farm just north of Grandpa’s.  Ross often invited Marvin to join them for supper at the end of a long, dusty day.  Ross would send Gary out into the field to hail Grandpa to supper.  Well, Grandpa was so intent on his work that it was hard for Gary to get Grandpa’s attention.  Gary’s solution was to throw dirt clods at the Caterpillar tractor.  That got Grandpa’s attention, of course, but was always accompanied by a scowl that Gary remembers to this day.

Larry Miller (Weldon’s son) told about using his Dad’s bobtail truck to haul Grandpa Marvin’s wheat.  Larry would drive the truck right into the field and Grandpa would pull the John Deere combine up next to the truck and auger the wheat into the truck box.  Well, on one occasion, Larry drove up and Grandpa stopped the combine.  While climbing down from the driver’s seat, somehow Grandpa’s false teeth fell out and landed on the combine’s cutter bar.  The large, rotating reel with tines that pulls the wheat into the cutter bar wasn’t quite stopped yet.  Larry and Grandpa watched anxiously as the reel slowed.  Just before coming to a complete stop, the reel pulled Grandpa’s false teeth into the cutter bar, totally destroying his dentures.  You can imagine how funny that must have been!  The folks attending the reunion sure enjoyed the story.

Louis T Miller's rocking chair. I have no idea who harbors this treasure!

Louis T Miller’s rocking chair. I wonder if he ever had time to use it?

On a closing note, let me share how proud I am to be a “Hyrum Miller.”  Louis T. and Marinda left such a lasting legacy of honest, hard work and noticeable pride in being successful.  As a young boy, I sensed these important family traits.  Looking back, it’s hard not to admit that they’ve become part of who I am as well.

Lyle and Joyce Family Christmas

“I think I saw one of Santa’s elves peaking in the window”, Mom said in hushed tones, putting a stop to my argument with Rinda about who should finish tidying the upstairs playroom. I no longer believed in him but Rinda did so I immediately put on a fake happy face and finished the job, perpetuating the Santa myth. The Santa we knew was not big on unconditional love.

Since those days of my Hyrum boyhood, I’ve learned that all families have their unique, quirky holiday traditions and that memories of Christmases past are among the most vivid and treasured. Here are a few peeks into Christmas in Lyle and Joyce’s home.

Although she loved Christmas, Joyce hated decorating for Christmas. Looking back, I recognize that she was a perfectionist and that our humble, tattered decorations could never transform our home into Bethlehem or the North Pole (depending on the year.) This made decorating for Christmas markedly stressful for Mom as she teetered between wanting us kids to experience helping and methodically measuring how far every delicate, stringy icicle hung down from the tree branch.

The earliest Lyle and Joyce Christmas photos Dana could find. These were taken in the pre-1960 house, probably in 1957. Notice all of the icicles but very few ornaments on the tree?

The earliest Lyle and Joyce Christmas photos Dana could find. These were taken in the pre-1960 house, probably in 1957. Notice all of the icicles but very few ornaments on the tree?

Kids helping must have won out because I distinctly remember those icicles. I don’t know how many Christmas trees they’d adorned before we got to carefully attempt to untangle them, one-at-a-time, then place each one in the perfect spot on the tree. Even though a new box of icicles cost less than 50 cents at Low Cost Drug in Logan, it was tradition that we keep the same icicles from year to year. Readers probably understand that Christmas decorations are not put away with the same eye for perfection with which they’re put on display. When removed from the tree, the icicles were draped over a piece of cardboard, then slid back inside the original cellophane-covered box.

Not all of the icicles found their way onto the tree or, after Christmas, back into their original packaging. Somehow, hiding in the “blue room” upstairs, I discovered that when placed in a metal measuring cup and touched with two wires from my model train transformer, the icicles ignited in a bright flash of fire and acrid smoke. Until just recently, that was my only welding experience. Out of curiosity, I just went Googling for a picture of the old-fashioned icicles. Although now called “tinsel”, they’re still available on-line. Should I be worried that what I thought was aluminum was actually “lead foil”? Oh well, at least I didn’t try to smoke them!

Traditional icicles right out of the package. They were very fragile and tangled easily.

Traditional icicles right out of the package. They were very fragile and tangled easily.

We usually had a real tree although I only vaguely remember going to Logan to buy it. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a nursery on Canyon Road (I think the family name started with a “W”…perhaps “Worthen”?) that stocked Christmas trees. Despite Mom’s secret desire to be the “Martha May Whovier” of Christmas trees, our tree decorations fell short of that lofty standard. A few classic glass ornaments, recycled icicles, and colored lights found their way onto the tree each year. One year we added a popcorn garland and another time a paper chain made from red and green construction paper. I’m sure Mom had a variety of Christmas knick-knacks but I can’t remember any specifically. The nut bowl and nutcracker, stocked with assorted nuts, did make an appearance every year. Brazil nuts, hazel nuts and almonds disappeared in that order. Walnuts and pecans were always the last to go.

Gordon, Rinda and Marianne at Christmas (approximately 1962).

Icicles abound on the Christmas tree.  Gordon, Rinda and Marianne at Christmas (approx 1962).

I’m pretty sure Mom and Dad spent way more than they could afford every year. Often, Christmas is a time when parents are hit smack in the face with their economic realities. As a parent, I’ve experienced that desire to get our kids everything they want even at the cost of blowing the budget and wracking up some credit card bills that’ll take a few months to pay off.

As Christmas approached, the kids looked forward to the arrival of the winter Sears and J.C. Penney catalogs. They were the Amazon.com of our day, featuring at least a hundred pages of toys, neatly separated for boys and girls. We fought constantly over the catalogs and must have spent dozens of hours drooling over the latest toys. I remember having such a hard time deciding what I wanted most, changing my mind almost daily. Should I ask Santa for a new BB gun, a chemistry set or a bow and arrows? So many dangerous choices!

One year, probably about 1963, I remember falling in love with an elaborate Lionel train set at the Firestone store in Logan. Besides tires, the Firestone store carried appliances, lawn mowers, bicycles and a variety of tools now commonly found in hardware stores. Paul Thompson was the manager and had grown to be a close family friend. The train set cost just over $100. That may not sound like much money but, factoring in inflation, it is the equivalent of at least $775 dollars today! I knew it was far more than the family could afford so had little hope of seeing the train set under the tree on Christmas morning. I’m sure Mom did a little price negotiating with Paul Thompson and that it took several months to pay for the train. I still have most of the train set and treasure it to this day. It often finds its way into our homemade Christmas village and will forever remind me of how much Mom and Dad sacrificed to make Christmas magical for us kids.

Dana's Lionel train set was just one example of how hard Lyle and Joyce tried to make Christmas special every year.

Dana’s Lionel train set was just one example of how hard Lyle and Joyce tried to make Christmas special every year.

Mom always got tremendously excited about giving Christmas gifts and had a very difficult time not telling each of us what we were getting. Somehow, I learned that Mom usually hid our gifts in a large box behind a dresser in their bedroom. In the pre-1960 home, their bedroom was at the front of the house on the west side. The dresser was set diagonally in the bedroom’s northwest corner, thus concealing the present box behind it. On more than one occasion, Marianne and I worked in tandem (one of us acting as a look-out) to snoop through the box well in advance of December 25th. I felt guilty about pretending to be surprised on Christmas morning but apparently I shouldn’t have. Many years later, I learned that Mom even helped Marianne carefully unwrap her presents for a sneak peek!

One long-awaited Hyrum tradition, dating back to when Lyle was a boy, was Santa’s arrival at the old Elite Hall on the corner of Main Street and 100 West. A couple Saturdays before Christmas, most of Hyrum’s young children congregated on the sidewalk in front of the Elite Hall, straining to hear the wail of a siren. Once our ears detected that sound, we knew Santa was approaching, riding in on one the City’s fire trucks. The fire truck pulled up to the curb as the siren wound down and Santa waved to the crowd of kids from his seat on the back of the truck. He’d make his way to a chair inside the Elite Hall where we each got to sit on his knee and tell him what we wanted for Christmas. I don’t remember even thinking about how long it would take to get through the line but do remember being thrilled when Santa handed me a small, brown paper sack of hard tack candy and peanuts after patiently listening to my lengthy Christmas wish list.

We looked forward to Santa's arrival at Hyrum's Elite Hall. Leaving his sled and reindeer at the North Pole, he rode in on a fire truck.

We looked forward to Santa’s arrival at Hyrum’s Elite Hall. Leaving his sled and reindeer at the North Pole, he rode in on a fire truck.

Our Christmas Eves were quite traditional, consisting of a good meal and Dad reading the nativity story from the old family Bible. Although religion didn’t come easily to Dad, I still remember how solemnly and tenderly he read of Christ’s birth.

Dad reads the Christmas story from the family Bible in 1979. Jill McBride is on the left and McKenzie is sitting on Rinda's lap on the right.

Dad reads the Christmas story from the family Bible in 1979. Jill McBride is on the left and McKenzie is sitting on Rinda’s lap on the right.

One big question on Christmas Eve was what time Mom and Dad would let us get up on Christmas morning. They always tried to send us to bed as early as possible, often accompanied by additional threats that Santa’s elves were watching and that Santa wouldn’t come if we were awake. I vividly remember the year Marianne, Rinda and I slept upstairs in the old house on Christmas Eve.   The upstairs room was never an actual bedroom and in the wintertime it was often littered with large, dried sunflower heads from Dad’s garden. For whatever reason, that year we “slept” upstairs.  I was always so excited about Christmas that it’s a miracle I didn’t develop childhood ulcers. We’d lay there in the dark, quietly whispering back and forth about what we wanted for Christmas, wondering what time it was and straining our ears to detect any evidence of Santa’s arrival. Old houses make a lot of creaking noises…noises that sound, for all the world, like reindeer on the roof. Eventually, Rinda and I fell asleep. What seemed like (and was) only minutes later, sometime between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., Marianne shook us awake and told us it was time to sneak down the stairs to see if Santa had come. Little did Rinda and I know that she’d already tip-toed downstairs and seen all our gifts! Mom and Dad emerged bleary-eyed from their bedroom. Dad was decidedly less enthusiastic than Mom about our early start but I don’t remember them ever telling us to go back to bed. In fact, more than one year Mom woke us up when she could no longer tolerate the excitement.

Once the 1960-1962 house rebuild was completed, all of the kids slept upstairs and Mom and Dad’s bedroom was downstairs. The wide staircase opened to the family room downstairs, making it easy to sneak down the stairs and peek at the Christmas tree. Until the formal living room was completed in 1977, the tree was always in the southeast corner of the family room or centered in the family room window.

Gordon playing with his farm set (1962) with Matt in the foreground.

Gordon playing with his farm set (1962) with Matt in the foreground.  Notice the trunk askew in Lyle’s 1940 Ford parked outside.  Presents had been stashed there…probably to keep Marianne from snooping!

 

Grandpa Lyle, sporting a crew cut, opens a gift. That's Uncle Matt in the lower right hand corner. It looks like his favorite stuffed toy monkey, Mr. Bim.

Grandpa Lyle, sporting a crew cut, opens a gift. That’s Uncle Matt in the lower right hand corner. It looks like his favorite stuffed toy monkey, Mr. Bim.

Christmas was always about the kids and I don’t remember Mom and Dad getting any large gifts at Christmas. It’s entirely possible that they did but, like all children, I was mostly concerned with what I got.  I left home in the spring of 1970 so memories of Christmases thereafter present a different picture. I’m sure Rinda and Matt could add many recollections of life in the Miller home during the holidays with Mom and Dad.

Rinda and Gordon at Christmas - probably 1963 or later.

Rinda and Gordon at Christmas (1963 or later) share a hug on Christmas morning.

After Mom and Dad became “empty nesters”, Konnie and I often visited them on Christmas or during the holidays. Mom never did develop a love for Christmas decorating. In fact, if anything, she liked it less and less. While we lived in Rexburg, we frequently made the trip to Cache Valley to be with Mom and Dad for Christmas. More often than not, we’d walk into the house only to find all of the Christmas decoration boxes waiting for us. Typically, Mom hoped to “get around” to decorating for Christmas before we arrived but just couldn’t face tackling the chore herself. Like the earlier years, she was never satisfied with her decorating. Although Konnie and I couldn’t spend much time putting up the tree and finding homes for her knick- knacks, Mom always seemed to appreciate and admire our handiwork.

We did notice that her dislike of decorating did not prevent her from buying new Christmas decorations! Many were rescued from certain anonymity at Logan’s Deseret Industries and some had been bought on the clearance shelves after the previous Christmas.

After an always hectic Christmas meal (complete with Christmas plates, bowls, cups and saucers), festivities moved into the formal living room.

Granny Joyce's Christmas dishes. They are beautiful but we don't remember her ever using them!

Granny Joyce’s Christmas dishes. They are beautiful but we don’t remember her using them very often!

Mom and Dad loved to have Santa (often played by Michael Bartschi) drop by. Santa arrived with a sack of presents, one for each family member. Often Mom had spent weeks finding the perfect small gift for each person. Santa perched on a chair, then pulled a gift out of his sack, calling the recipient’s name. When my name was called, I’d go sit on Santa’s knee and reluctantly answer the inevitable “Have you been good this year?” question, then share what I hoped to receive for Christmas. Even Dad’s German Shepherd Sackett got a present! The most memorable years were when Dad played Santa. He didn’t fill a Santa suit but wore the hat proudly and was so sweet with each of us when we sat on his knee. I’ll never forget his laugh!

Lyle plays Santa's helper at Dana and Konnie's place in 1989. That's Eli (Matt's son) in the background and the famous Leering Sheep in the lower left hand corner. Dad is using his Merchant Marine duffle bag as a sack for the presents!

Lyle plays Santa’s helper at Dana and Konnie’s place in 1989. That’s Eli (Matt’s son) in the background and the famous Leering Sheep in the lower left hand corner. Dad is using his Merchant Marine duffle bag as a sack for the presents!

Grandchildren took the lead roles in the annual nativity re-enactment although Baby Jesus was sometimes a doll. One year, Matt’s family made a cardboard sheep (with a “sheepish grin” that looks more like a leer) to round out the manger scene and Dad dangled an aluminum foil-covered star from a fishing pole directly over “where the sweet baby lay.” The sheep was later determined to be a bit sacrilegious, losing it’s place in the nativity. I’m proud to confess that I still have the leering sheep, foil-covered star and fishing pole stored safely in top of my garage.

A few of the later years, we held the annual Christmas bash at the Hyrum City facility in Blacksmith Fork Canyon. I remember those celebrations as terribly chaotic but somehow Santa still found us.

Grandpa Lyle tries to answer Santa's questions at Hyrum's Blacksmith Fork facility. Who is that picking her nose in the foreground? Any confessions?

Grandpa Lyle tries to answer Santa’s questions at Hyrum’s Blacksmith Fork facility. Who is that picking her nose in the foreground? Any confessions?

Some of our most cherished videos of Mom and Dad were taken on Christmas Eve in Rexburg in the mid-1990’s. The video includes both Mom and Dad talking about the Christmases of their childhoods and are priceless. If you haven’t watched the videos recently, check them out under the “Video” tab.

I trust that you also remember Lyle and Joyce’s Christmases fondly.  It’s hard to realize that our own children and grandchildren will someday look back on the Christmases they spend with us in Cedar City much the same way!

Dana Miller, Dec. 23, 2015

Farewell Aunt Edna

Aunt Edna passed away on September 29, 2015, at age 93.

Aunt Edna passed away on September 29, 2015, at age 93.

Just over a month ago, Edna, Joyce’s only surviving sister, passed away at age 93. Konnie and I were so thankful that we were able to attend the service. It brought back so many pleasant memories and helped me reconnect with my Reynolds roots. We were also grateful to have visited Aunt Edna in August to share some of Grandma Theresa Reynolds’ keepsakes. We found Edna in excellent health, “sharp as a tack” mentally and energetically looking forward to stacking two cords of firewood in her garage.

Edna’s daughter Trisa made it a habit to call Edna every day. When she did not answer the telephone, Trisa contacted Edna’s attentive neighbor.  That neighbor discovered that Edna had died in her kitchen earlier in the day while to preparing to bottle apples.

We had the pleasure of visiting with her children before and after the service. A handful of Reynolds family members were also there: Uncle Joe and Aunt LaRae; Uncle Carl; Aunt Emma’s children Al and Gayle Harris, Lynn Harris and spouse, and Carol and spouse; and one of Aunt Helen’s children, Carl Allen. Excluding Edna’s twin brother Ed, who died in a B-17 crash during World War II, there were 10 children in the Bill and Theresa Reynolds family. Six of those ten Reynolds children were represented at Edna’s funeral.

I hadn’t seen most of these cousins since Joyce’s funeral, over eight years ago. How sobering to realize that at this point in my life, only funerals bring us together! It doesn’t seem that long ago since we gathered at Logan’s Willow Park for a Reynolds family reunion. These gatherings included Grandma Theresa Reynolds, Aunt Winn (Grandpa Reynolds sister), the majority of Mom’s siblings and dozens and dozens of cousins. The meals, although potluck, were a smorgasbord of favorite Reynolds family recipes. While the grown-ups visited, we children played in the park’s stream and on the playground equipment. It’s been decades since the last Reynolds reunion. If one was held today, I’d now be one of those grown-ups, huddled near the food table but mostly relishing the chance to visit with Joe and Carl and cousins I don’t see nearly often enough.

Aunt Edna’s funeral included a delightful life sketch delivered by daughter, Linda, and son, Jerry. Among the stories of Edna’s childhood was the recollection of Edna helping with the family’s newspaper route. Linda and Jerry related that the money earned from delivering papers was used to buy shoes for the nearly dozen Reynolds children. They stated that the children took turns getting new shoes so, if you did get a new pair, the shoes had to last until it was your turn again. Apparently, the paper route was handed down from child to child. Many of you will remember Joyce laughing about proudly walking the route in the new ice skates she’d received for Christmas and the resulting badly blistered feet.

I have many fond memories of Aunt Edna, her husband Heber Jensen (who died of cancer in 1973), great times spent with Linda and Jerry, and even a few extended stays at their Burton home west of Rexburg (ID). I remember helping Jerry check the irrigation dams and stabbing huge carp washed down the ditches with a pitchfork. Heber was a school teacher by trade, supplementing his income with farming, plus maintained the Burton cemetery grounds. While staying with the family, Jerry and I went to the cemetery with Uncle Heber to “help.” While he mowed the grass, we hand-clipped the grass around the headstones plus pelted the unwanted ground dogs with rocks.

How strangely familiar to return to that same cemetery in 1973 for Heber’s burial, then again 42 years later to see Edna laid to rest next to Heber.

After the burial service, we returned to the Burton LDS East Chapel for a luncheon prepared by the ward’s Relief Society. The meal featured the usual Mormon funeral fare of ham, “funeral potatoes” (each of the four glass baking pans featuring its own version), Jello and hard rolls.

As the meal and visiting wound down, I noticed dozens of grandchildren gathering in front of the recreation hall’s stage. Curious about what had captured their attention, Konnie and I moved closer. How delightful to discover that Edna’s children had arranged over 50 troll dolls along the stage’s front edge. Each grandchild, beginning with the youngest, got to pick his or her favorite troll doll for a special “Grandma Jensen” keepsake. Apparently, much like Granny Joyce’s infamous chickens, Edna collected those crazy-looking troll dolls. Although my personal favorite was the Santa Troll, none of the kids picked it.

Just a few of trolls from Aunt Edna's massive collection. Her collection reminded me of Granny Joyce's hundreds of chickens!

Just a few of trolls from Aunt Edna’s massive collection. Her collection reminded me of Granny Joyce’s hundreds of chickens!

I’ll miss Aunt Edna and vow to make an effort to visit with Uncle Joe and Uncle Carl again in the near future. Sitting here at my desk, I just have to glance up at the wall in front of me to see the entire Reynolds family in the photograph taken at Uncle Ed’s funeral. What an incredible heritage!

The Bill and Theresa Reynolds family in 1943. Front row (L to R): Carl, Grandma Reynolds, Grandpa Reynolds, Joe. Second row (L to R): Joyce, Emma, Helen, Lois, Rea, Rae. Back row (L to R): Edna, Ed (cousin John Carling stood in for Ed and the photographer cropped in Ed's head from a military photo), Tom.

The Bill and Theresa Reynolds family in 1943. Front row (L to R): Carl, Grandma Reynolds, Grandpa Reynolds, Joe. Second row (L to R): Joyce, Emma, Helen, Lois, Rea, Rae. Back row (L to R): Edna, Ed (cousin John Carling stood in for Ed and the photographer cropped in Ed’s head from a military photo), Tom.

What’s in a Picture?

Joyce left behind more pictures than I can possibly categorize.  Among her stash was an envelope marked “Relatives” that included photos of many people that, sadly, I absolutely don’t recognize.  Recently, when Konnie and I spent several hours with Carl Reynolds, Mom’s 80-year old brother who lives in Las Vegas, he was able to put names and dates to several of the photographs.  Similarly, last year we shared an old photo album from Marvin and Lucille Miller with Dad’s sister Merlyn and her daughter, Susan.  The photo album was returned with dozens of sticky notes, providing identities many people Lucille wanted to remember.  With Carl and Merlyn’s help, the photos came alive for me as I now know who the people are, when they lived and why they are significant in our family history.

I’d like to share a few examples of some seemingly simple photos picturing Lyle and Joyce’s kids.  Bear with me as I dig into the details of the photos based on my personal knowledge of the setting.

Marianne and Dana - 1st Day of School (1961)

Marianne and Dana – 1st Day of School (1961)

Okay, so here Marianne and I pose in our new clothes for the first day of school in 1961.  What else can my firsthand knowledge add?  Quite a lot!

  • On the left side of the picture is an old bird bath overgrown with one of Joyce’s favorite flowers, large blue morning glories
  • At the bottom right side of the picture you’ll see a patch of light-colored grass and a wooden staircase on its side.  The staircase used to lead to the upstairs of the pre-1960 home.  It was removed and saved for use in the remodel.  The light-colored grass was caused by the staircase being laid flat on the grass.
  • In the background is the small, 8-foot wide trailer the family used while the house was being rebuilt.  Marianne, Dana and Rinda slept in the old, canvas deer hunting tent (not shown) in the backyard.
  • Does anyone remember the large apricot tree immediately behind Marianne and Rinda?  It was a great climbing tree that occasionally produced a lot of fruit (when there wasn’t a late spring frost).

Let’s try another photo – this one probably taken at Christmas in 1962.

Gordon, Rinda and Marianne at Christmas (approximately 1962).

Gordon, Rinda and Marianne at Christmas (approximately 1962).

Here we see Gordon (at the photo’s left) kneeling by his farm set while Rinda and Marianne play on the right side of the photo.  Can any of the kids remember that old linoleum floor?  What about the foil icicles on the tree?  I remember helping decorate the tree, carefully taking the icicles off of a piece of cardboard, one at a time, and placing them on the tree.  Yes, we saved the icicles each year!  What color were those drapes?  Didn’t they have some turquoise in the pattern?

Here’s a photo, probably taken a few days later, of Gordon playing with his farm set.  He’s seated at that old table with the chrome legs Joyce made us scrub with a toothbrush.  There’s Dad’s 1940 Ford outside the window with the trunk ajar.  I wonder if it was strategically parked there to hide the gifts Santa would bring?

Gordon playing with his farm set (1962) with Matt in the foreground.

Gordon playing with his farm set (1962) with Matt in the foreground.

Let’s look at one more priceless photo.  Here are Rinda and Gordon opening presents on Christmas morning (probably 1963-1965).  Aren’t they cute together?

Rinda and Gordon at Christmas - probably 1963 or later.

Rinda and Gordon at Christmas – probably 1963 or later.

How about a few fun details from the picture that add texture to what life was like for a child in Lyle and Joyce’s home?

  • How about that unreliable, large black and white TV in the background?
  • Dana made that wooden lamp on the TV in his 8th grade shop class
  • Aqua Net hairspray…remember that?
  • How about the traditional “book” of Lifesavers on the floor by Gordon’s right knee?
  • Who got a red scooter complete with a windshield for Christmas that year?

So, what is the point of my rambling walk down memory lane?  Just that so much of a family’s history can only be captured and recorded for posterity by those who lived it.  If photos like these are left in an envelope until all the Miller children pass away or lose their senses, so much will be lost.  Yes, I’m awfully sentimental but I believe that my children and grandchildren will enjoy getting to know Lyle and Joyce and the life events that, looking back, have helped shape me.  Perhaps it will help them treasure the time they have with their own families.

A Family Website?

Some may wonder if we need a Lyle and Joyce Miller website and if anyone will look at it.  Lyle passed away in 1998, sixteen years ago.  Joyce left us in 2007, seven years ago.  With each passing year, our memories of Mom and Dad fade, omitting important and endearing details of their remarkable lives.  It’s kind of like a masterpiece painting that, over time, is stripped of its vivid colors, subtle shading, bold brush strokes and fine detail.  To the eye of the beholder, the painting’s subject is still discernible but its beauty and potential for emotional connection is gone.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if our memories of Lyle and Joyce were allowed to dim, leaving them mere sketchy, generic outlines instead of the very colorful individuals we knew them to be?

Lyle and Joyce wedding 6-22-1944

Lyle and Joyce’s Wedding June 22, 1944

I’m also sure that we can learn a lot about living from how Lyle and Joyce met life’s challenges.  Most people would agree that they certainly had more than their share of trials and tragedies.  Did they handle all that life threw at them perfectly?  No, of course not.  They did, however, survive these tribulations, found some enjoyment along the way and lived long enough to find themselves in calmer waters.  We, their posterity, are now “the adults” and encountering our own set of life’s challenges..  Remembering what and how Lyle and Joyce endured with such style gives us the courage and confidence to face all that life might confront us with.

Finally, Lyle and Joyce, although dramatically different people, were each delightful in their own ways.  Who can forget Lyle, tipping and shaking his head at Joyce’s antics?  Preserving their individual identities and life together through stories and photos will help us keep them vibrant and alive.  To remember them is one of the biggest tributes we can pay them.  They are our heritage.

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