Interviewee: Karma Parkinson
Interviewer: Tillman S. Boxell
Subject: Life in LDS polygamous family
Date: August 9, 1978
Place: Ogden, Utah
B: This is an interview for the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Brigham Young University LDS Polygamy Oral History Project. This is an interview with Karma P. Parkinson at her home at 1340 37th Street in Ogden, Utah, August 9, 1978. We are beginning at 1040 a.m. The interviewer is Tillman Boxell.
Mrs. Parkinson, the first thing I would like to ask you to do is to start at the beginning and tell me the story of your life. Start with your earliest memories and carry on through with as much as you would care to say about your life and everything that you can remember. After you have done that, I will ask you questions about things that we would like to know more about and we can fill in with more details in certain areas.
P: I was born in Logan, Utah. My father was a doctor, William Brigham Parkinson. My mother was Edith Benson Parkinson.
B: What year were you born in?
B: What are your earliest memories?
P: I remember living in Logan across the street from the Woodruff School. That is where I went to school when I was a child.
B: How many children were there in your family?
P: There were eight. I had a brother, Fred; a sister Veda; a brother, John B.; and a brother, E. Benson; and then I came. Then later I had [p.2] two brothers, Wallace B. and Dony B. Edith was my baby sister.
My Grandfather left some property in Logan to my mother. She inherited a building lot. My aunt, Mrs. Lizzie B. Owen owned the lot right next to mother. There were two lots. Mother lived in the little log house that was my grandmotherís until I was about five or six years old. Then my father built a nice new brick house there in Logan on my motherís lot. Then later, after I had grown up, my aunt sold her lot to a company. They built a big dance hall there. Now they have made this dance hall into a Mode OíDay dress shop where they manufacture dresses. I think, now, they are tearing down our old home there. But my grandmother lived part of the time with us and part of the time with my aunt. She was a very lovely, refined lady.
B: So then from the time that you were born you lived in a separate house with your mother and her children?
P: My fatherís families were all separate. My father had four wives and each one had a home.
P: I was one of the younger ones. The last wife had a daughter about one year and one-half or two years older than I was. We were the youngest in the family. The other children were all older. Fatherís second wife died and her children were all married but this one boy who was seventeen. He came to live with my mother. So that made six boys that we had. We always had quite a family of boys. I had these four or five older brothers. I was usually the dishwasher of the family. I didnít like that very well. I had too many dishes to wash.
My father was a doctor and had a big practice and went all over Cache Valley. He had a horse and buggy. He had an old horse we called Jeff that was more of a pet. I liked to get this horse and put a strap around his neck and ride him. (laughter) That was my favorite pastime.
B: What did your father look like?
P: He was a very handsome man. He had beautiful, wavy, dark hair. I canít remember when it was dark. It was always pretty white, grey hair. He wasnít very tall. He always said he was stunted when he was a child because he had to work so hard. His father was a convert from England. His father and mother came to America when he was ten years old. They settled up in Oregon. His mother died on the way across the plains. His father remarried and his stepmother wasnít very good to him. He finally left home and found his way back to Utah. He had an aunt or somebody here. Father was a self-made man. He came to Utah. He worked as a telegraph operator and put himself through medical school.
B: What medical school?
He went back East and graduated from the Chi Medical School in Philadelphia. He was always studying. He went back East many times and studied in New York. He specialized in eye, ear, nose, and throat. In about 1914 he went to Europe. He learned the German language just studying by himself at home. At that time I was in college, and I took a class in German because I was interested. But he learned that himself. He took one of my half sisters who worked and she had earned enough money to pay for her trip. He took this special course in Germany on eye, ears, nose, and throat so he could specialize in this work. That was just before the war broke out. He had quite a scare because he was on the sister ship to the one that was sunk.
B: The Lucitania?
P: Yes, and it was called the Maritania. They had to darken it. And they couldnít land in the United States so they landed up in Canada. Iíll never forget how terribly worried we were until we found out that he was safe. They had expected to be attacked so they had to travel with the lights off. That was quite exciting.
He had a big office in Logan on the corner of Main Street and Center. It had big windows. It was an old building. It is still standing there. When I was a youngster, I used to like to go down and watch the circus parades because I could get such a good view from these big windows that were there.
I learned to drive the car. He had one of the first cars in Logan. I think the first one he had was a Ford. And he had a little Dodge. When I grew up, I learned to drive a car and take him to visit his patients all around the valley. I used to go with him in the buggy when he drove this old horse around the valley.
There were two telephone companies. One was the Bell Company and one was local. So he had two telephones that were plugged in. At night he would unplug these two phones and carry them to his bed and plug them in by his bedside. He would get up at all hours of the night to sick calls and to take care of people. He was really loved by a lot of people that he took care of. His patients were always bringing him fish and things that he liked.
B: They would pay him with things instead of money?
P: I think they paid him with money too, but people who liked him especially and who wanted to do something nice for him to show their appreciation would bring him something they knew he would like.
I had a happy childhood.
B: Tell me about it. What kind of things did you do when you played?
P: We played many fun games like hop scotch, jump the rope, hide and seek, and run sheep run. I liked to roller skate and ice skate. There was a hill near our home were we coasted on our sleigh and also went [p.4] down on our ice skates. I was quite a tomboy. I liked to climb up in the barn. We had a big barn at the back of our house. We would pile hay up and jump down out of the windows on this pile of hay and climb up in the loft where the hay was.
My motherís half brother lived through the lot. They had a big family of youngsters. Some were my age. Every night they would get out and play games. In the evenings they would go down to the pasture where they kept the cows and milked them. They put the milk in a big five gallon milk can. They would have a little ladle. They would take a little bucket and ladle the milk out in a small bucket. They had this little wagon sort of covered and we would sit in the back and let our feet hang out. (laughter) I used to think it was a great privilege if they would let me go with them and ride in his wagon. They delivered milk all the time; they sold the milk. I thought it was a lot of fun.
B: Did you play a lot with the children in the other family?
P: They were all older than I was except this one half sister. She wasnít always there. Her mother lived in Salt Lake and then she moved to Oregon and took her. But we were always good friends. She lived up near Franklin where I did. She married a man from Whitney so I kept in touch with her after I was married, as long as I lived there.
B: What was your mother like?
P: My mother was a wonderful woman. She seemed to draw people to her. We always had people in our home. We would get together in the evenings and talk and she would enjoy the good jokes. The boys would tell her a joke and she would laugh and have a lot of fun about it. After my half brothers were married and left home, they would come to Logan and visit. They would always come and visit us and visit Mother. I have two half brothers that were doctors. They seem to enjoy coming to our home as much as they did their own mothers.
B: Where did your mother come in the four wives?
P: She was the third.
B: What do you remember about the other wives?
P: When my father came to Utah and was trying to get his education, he went down to Morgan. He lived there and there was a man that helped him. I think he was quite well fixed. My father met his daughter and married her. That was his first wife. She had a home down the little hill from our place. Her youngest daughter was five or six years older than I was but I used to like to go down there and visit with her. She would always give me apples. She had apples on her place and I used to like that.
B: Did you and her talk and get to know each other?
P: Yes. Of course, I was a little girl then.
Then his fourth wife just had this one daughter my age and I liked to go to her place.
The fourth wife came from a fine family in Salt Lake and she still had a brother living. Her health wasnít good. I used to like to go to her place because she had the most beautiful flowers. The place was lovely. She had everything growing. She had almost a whole big yard of peonies. She left and went to Oregon. She was sick and they took her up there to take care of her. I went down there in my little wagon and dug up those peony bulbs and brought them home and planted them.
I always loved flowers. When I was just a little girl about six or seven or eight in Logan the Boosters Club had a contest to see which child could raise the best flower garden. I won the prize. I got a ten dollar prize for my flowers. I remember I bought me a new coat and had my picture taken in it. I was so proud of that. My father always helped me. He would take me to the little old lady that lived up by where the university is now. There was a big hot house up there that she had. She sold plants. He would take me up there and buy me young plants. My mother wasnít very well after the younger children were born. She had a bad hip. So she had to give up raising the flowers. She turned that over to me. I took care of her flower garden. When I was married I kept it up and had beautiful flowers all my life until I got too old to take care of them.
B: What about the second wife? Who was she and where did she come from?
P: She came from a fine family in Lewiston, Utah. She had about the same number of children as mother did. They were very good friends. My mother was very fond of her. My mother often told me how they would visit together. When it was time to have dinner, they had so many children when they got them all together that they would cook corn for them. They would cook in a boiler. They used to have boilers that they would boil their clothes in when they laundered them. They would put the corn in those big things and cook it.
Mother really loved her but she died when her youngest boy was seventeen. He came and lived with us. So that made a big family for Mother. We usually had a hired girl in those days. We would have someone work for us. They were glad to be paid and come and help with the housework. Mother usually had someone to do that.
My older sister was the second one in the family. My father did a lot of studying. He studied scientific books and he learned to read horoscopes. He had some specialist that came here that read my sisterís horoscope. He felt that something might happen to her that she needed protection or she might lose her virtue. So my father guarded my sister very carefully. They didnít let her go anyplace much. When she did, she went with her brothers. So she was forty years old before she was married. That was after my father and [p.6] mother had both died. My mother was sick in bed for months and she took care of her. She was real timid, I guess you would call it. So she didnít go to school much after the eighth grade. She had private lessons. She was really artistic and a wonderful girl. I always felt that my parents gave her everything that she wanted. I felt like I was the middle inbetween because she was older and my baby sister was the baby of the family. She was so special to all of us.
My mother was determined that I would get an education. When I grew up I went up to Utah State. It used to be the AC, Agricultural College. When I graduated from the eighth grade, there was no high school in Logan. There was the Brigham Young College they called it. Some of the people went there to school. Then at the AC they had a three-year preparatory school. You could go for three years and then you would be admitted as a freshman in college. My brother, who is just older than I was, was going to school up there. He thought it was a fine school and convinced my parents to send me up there. So I didnít ever go to the BY where other people went. I have been sorry because I didnít get the church training that they gave there like the study of the Book of Mormon and the New Testament. I went up to the AC and took my three year prep. Then I was a freshman and went to college.
I spent seven years going to school there and climbing that hill. They had a streetcar that ran back and forth I could take it if I needed to. Most of the time I walked to school. I had a lot of fun doing that. I would take my books and meet my girl friend on the corner and we would meet all the boys and everybody on the way up and walk to school and walk home. It was a lot of fun. I was pledged to a sorority before I was a freshman. Then as soon as I was a freshman I became a full fledged member.
I went through school and got my degree. Iíll never forget every fall my father would say I had had enough school and two years of college was enough. My mother would always fight for me to stay in school because she was deprived of an education. Her father died when she was young and she couldnít go to school. She wanted me to go if I wanted to. So we talked him into it every year. He would give me the money to pay my tuition and I would go. It was about twenty-five dollars a year then. I kept telling him I would be prepared to make my living by the time I graduated. When I graduated, I was qualified to teach in the high school. I had taken all the psychology and subjects I needed to get a teacherís certificate. I was so shy and afraid of myself and unsure that I just dreaded the idea of teaching. I just didnít know where to start. Just as I was worrying about it, I met my husband. We had a fast courtship. I was married and was grateful that I didnít have to teach school.
B: Tell me the story of meeting your husband and the courtship.
P: That was exciting. All through school I had a good time and went out a lot. In my senior year I met a man that was very important [p.7] in the Church. He had been a college professor for many years. He had left his wife because she had mental problems. He seemed to take a liking to me. All of a sudden he started to ask me to go places. I enjoyed him very much but he was much older than I was. He was about thirty-five years old. He was young when he had married. He was a professor in school. The kids my age thought it was something different and teased me about it. I got so I enjoyed talking to him and being with him, but didnít want him to get serious. I had a good time and went out.
Of course, like all girls, I was wondering if I would ever find the right one. All of a sudden, a friend that was a sorority sister said, "Iíve got a brother I want you to meet. Iím bringing him to the dance." We were having our special sorority dance that spring. So she introduced me to him. He was just home from the army. He was handsome and still in his uniform. He was an army officer. He asked me for several dances and was very nice to me. I was quite excited. But I was there with this other friend.
A day or two later he called up and wanted a date. I said, "I have a date for this dance that is coming up." He didnít call for a while, but his sister fixed things up and told him that I wanted to go with him. So he finally called again. He lived up in Franklin, Idaho. I had heard about him because I knew his cousin. She was very fond of him and she had told me about him. Also one of my friends had gone to school at the LDS in Salt Lake with him and she knew him real well. She was excited about it. He called me and asked me to go to a dance. Six weeks later I graduated and we had our banquet. When they toasted the seniors, they said they always thought I was slow but I had landed a husband in six weeks. So they thought I had done pretty good. I was really up in the air. I was getting a degree and he gave me a beautiful ring. We liked to go to the dances. I was just walking on air. (laughter) So he took me to Franklin.
B: Where did you get married.
P: We were married in the Logan Temple because both of our parents could be there with us. He wanted to go to Salt Lake because he had gone to school there and lived there part of the time. His father was retiring so he turned his farm and property over to him and his brother. He turned his house for them to take care of. He and his brother rented it. We moved into the old home. A year later he traded homes with his brother so we had a little home of our own. His father died and we didnít get the property we expected. Then the Depression came and we had quite a struggle for a few years while our children were small.
B: What did your husband do for a living?
P: He ran the farm. When his father died and the land was sold, he just gradually acquired land as fast as he could. Several years later he was offered a job in an insurance company. He worked for [p.8] them and finally became vice president of the company.
B: What company was that?
P: It was called the Beneficial Protective Association of Pocatello. It was owned and run mostly by the Satterfield family up there. He sold insurance for quite a few years. Then he had charge of training the agents. Selling worked into a really good business. He retired when he was quite young and we worked in the temple. So we lived on a small farm in Franklin. We had six children.
B: Tell me about your children.
P: We have three boys and three girls. Our oldest boy went to Tulane University. He is a M.D. He wanted to be a doctor because his grandfather was. It was in the family and seemed to be in his blood. He had been a successful doctor. We had a daughter, Polly. Our son, Blaine, is a doctor of philosophy. He is dean of the School of Education at Weber College in Ogden. Our baby was a boy and he has been with the Church seminary for at least ten years. Then we have three daughters.
B: Did your children get to meet your father and mother?
P: No, my children didnít know their grandparents.
B: When did your father die?
P: My father died right after I was married before we had any children.
B: And your mother?
P: I had my third child just before Mother died. I had three children but they were real small so they wonít remember. And I didnít know any of my grandparents. My grandfather died when he was in his fifties. I can just remember my grandmother. I think she was seventy-five when she died and I was about seven years old. I could just barely remember her. Iíll always miss my grandparents and I know my children did.
B: Letís go back in time again to when you were a little girl. Try to tell me if you can what happened to each of the four wives. There was of the wives that died while you were young.
P: She had already had her family. I think they had eight children. She lost some children. She had two sons and three daughters.
B: What were the names of the four wives?
P: The first wifeís name was Elizabeth.
B: (looks at family history) So his first wife was Elizabeth Bull. He met her when he came down to Morgan, Utah. He was studying to be a [p.9] telegrapher and he worked for the Union Pacific or was associated with the Union Pacific. That would have been around 1869? The only reason I say that is because it says in your family history that you have in front of you that he worked for the Union Pacific right when it was being finished.
P: Yes, their first daughter was born in 1874. When she was six weeks old, they moved to Granger, Wyoming, where he worked as a telegraph operator. Then they moved back to Morgan and he worked there. Another daughter was born there. That is where he met and married his second wife in 1875.
B: What was her name?
P: Her name was Clarissa.
B: Then he met your mother, the third wife?
P: Yes. He married his fourth wife in 1890. He married my mother in 1886.
B: What was your motherís name?
P: Edith Benson. She was the daughter of Ezra Taft Benson, the early apostle. (reads from family history) The history says, "Because of the trouble about polygamy, he, having married them before the issuance of the Manifesto, took his wife. . ." Then he took Mother and moved to Pilot Rock, Oregon, and practiced medicine up there. Mother had three children while they were there. Later she moved to Franklin, Idaho. They were on the underground. The government was after them so he moved Mother and his second wife and their families up to Franklin, Idaho. Father opened the drug store there. That was the first drug store in Idaho. He ran that for a while until after the Manifesto. Then he came back to Logan in 1895. He was a partner to Dr. Ormsby for a few months and then had his own office.
B: So when he came back to Logan, that is when you were born?
P: Yes. (reads from family history) "To William and Edith were born six children in Logan, John Benson, in 1890, Ezra Benson, Wallace, Karma and Don. He maintained four homes in Logan and provided well for all of them. He contributed liberally to the Church and sent all his boys who desired on missions. And he educated all who wanted an education. John Benson studied to become a pharmacist, Fred, a specialist and an eye doctor, and Wallace a physician. Ezra Benson was studying medicine at the University of Utah at the time of his death in 1919."
B: When did he marry the fourth wife and what was her name?
P: (reads from the family history) "September 1890 he married Margaret Wallace Sloan." They had three children. Two children died in infancy. So there was one left.
My father went on two missions for the LDS Church. There are a lot of interesting things here. Maybe you ought to read his history. It doesnít say what year he married the first wife, Elizabeth, but I have it in my history It tells when her first daughter was born.
B: I think you said before that he spent a week with each wife.
P: Before the manifesto.
B: What happened after the Manifesto of 1890?
P: After the Manifesto he lived with us. His second wife, Clarissa, was dead and Margaret, the fourth wife, was up in Oregon ill. He was in a hospital. That is what I can remember when I was a little girl. I can never remember his going anyplace else to live. He lived at our home. But he provided for his other families. The children of the second wife that were living were married and on their own except for the one boy that lived with us. The first wife had some daughters. One daughter had lost her husband and lived with her. The youngest daughter was four and five years older than I. She lived there until she was married. There was one that never married. She lived there and she worked and they maintained this home. These two daughters kept it until her death.
B: So Elizabeth was the one that you used to visit?
P: Yes. The fourth wife had a daughter my age. She is the one that had the flowers. She lived there until she went to Oregon. She was too ill. She died up there.
I remember well that Father would have a pork slaughtered and have a butcher come into our house and cut it up. He would spend half of it to Aunt Lizzie. We called them aunts.
B: What did you call Margaret?
P: Aunt Margaret.
B: They called your mother Aunt Edith?
P: Yes, my half brothers and sisters.
B: But you donít remember the time when he went from wife to wife. In your lifetime he stayed with your mother exclusively.
P: Yes, he had to, of course.
B: Did he stay with your mother exclusively because the Church asked him to or was it just because it was the law of the land?
P: Probably would be both. The first wife was the only other one left. The other two had died. But the first wife lived longer than he did. I always called her aunt and liked to go visit her. We were always friendly with our half brothers and sisters. We were united. When [p.11] father died, there were about eighteen still living.
B: You had a united feeling?
P: Yes. He left a will and everyone lived up to the requirement.
B: How old were you when father died?
P: I was married. I was about twenty-two.
B: This is something that is very interesting to me and that is how the children settled the estate when the father died. Your father left a written will.
P: Yes. He left a will and there were administrators appointed. One was the husband of my oldest half sister. One was my oldest full brother. He dropped out and it was turned over to my husband. So my husband and my oldest half sisterís husband sold the property and settled it. My youngest sister, Edith, was but eighteen when he died. So I think it was settled after she was eighteen.
B: And there was a good feeling about the settlement? Did anyone feel bitter or like they had been cheated?
P: No. My father had everything written. He took out the money he had spent on the boysí educations and subtracted that. Then the property was sold and the money was divided equally. There was no trouble. There was always a good feeling. Everybody was united in the family.
B: Tell me more about school when you were a little girl. Did you have a one room schoolhouse or did you have a building with some classrooms in it?
P: We had a building that was just across the street from our home. Each grade had a classroom of its own. They had another building where I went for one year of the elementary schools.
B: What do you remember about your teachers?
P: There is only one that I can remember very much about. I liked her very much. Her name was Edith Bowen. Finally they built a school up at the university and named it after her. She was always a good friend of mine. I remember painting a piece of china when I was a little girl and giving it to her because I thought so much of her. She was always a good friend of mine until her death.
B: What was the Church like when you were a little girl?
P: About the same.
B: Did they have Sunday School like they do now?
B: Can you remember any difference at all? Iíve heard it said that they didnít pass around little cups for the sacrament. They had one big mug and everybody took a drink out of it.
P: Yes, I remember that.
B: Who gave the talks in the Church?
P: They had different people. I remember working in the Primary when I was about fifteen before I went to college. I was a secretary in Primary. I didnít take it too seriously because I lost the minute books and never did find them. (laughter) I got some good experience.
B: Did they have Mutual for kids to go to?
P: Yes. When I was a girl I didnít go to Mutual. I donít know why.
B: Are there any church buildings still around from then? Of course, we are not in Logan now; weíre in Ogden.
P: When I was a little girl, we went to church in the basement of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is still there. We didnít have a church house until just before I was married. Then they built the First Ward church house. We met in that old basement. It was kind of dark and damp. But that building is just the same as it is now.
B: You mentioned to me before that you did have a little bit of talk with your mother about polygamy. Could you tell me about some of the things you and she talked about?
P: My mother was very staunch about polygamy. She believed in it and she felt that it was a true principle. I remember her telling me that she had a dream one time that she went to a meeting and her father was sitting up on the stand. There was a vacant seat right next to him. He motioned to her to come up and sit in that seat. She always felt that maybe that was because she was the only one of Apostle Bensonís children that ever lived the principle of polygamy. She believed in it implicitly. I know that it was hard for her. There were a lot of problems. She always impressed upon my mind that it was a wonderful principle. She was glad that she lived it. I always tell my husband that if it came back and the Lord wanted us to live it that I thought I could.
B: That is different from what a lot of modern women say.
P: Yes, I know it is.
B: Good for you. Did she ever say that she had troubles? Did she ever have any fights or clashes with the other wives?
P: No, I donít remember her ever telling me that. I knew that she was very fond of fatherís second wife. They were dear friends and very close.
B: Elizabeth lived in Logan. Did she and your mother talk to each other?
P: I think so. There was never any conflict that I knew of.
B: Did they get together once in a while and meet?
P: I donít remember. I remember going and visiting with her myself.
B: But Elizabeth never came to your motherís house?
P: No, she was ill quite a bit of the time.
B: When you were a little girl living in Logan, what did the other children think about the fact that you were a child of a polygamous family. Did they tease you about it? Did they like you for it? Did they not mention it?
P: It didnít seem to make any difference. I donít remember anything.
B: Kids didnít bring it up and talk about it with you?
P: No, not then. It was a way of life.
B: They all knew that this was part of their life and their culture. They were never mean to you or extra nice to you because of it?
P: No. My half brothers and sisters, especially my half brothers, would come to your house and visit us and visit with mother. It was just like she was their own mother when they would come over after they would marry. The would bring their families.
B: So among the half brothers and sisters there has been a good feeling?
P: One of the things that I do remember is that my father had a big family to support. I remember how the children felt sometimes about one child getting more than the other.
B: What did your father do to divide things up fairly? You mentioned that when you butchered a hog he would make sure that each family got the same amount of the hog. Were there other things like that when he bought something or got a hold of something and divided it up equally?
P: I think he bought most of our clothes. I remember going to him when we needed clothes. He would give us the money. We would buy shoes.
B: Did either your mother or Aunt Elizabeth work outside the home ever?
B: Did they do any work for other people inside the home like laundry or sewing?
P: No, my mother had all the work she could do just for her family. She always worked hard.
B: Did they both have vegetable gardens?
P: Yes, they did. They had cows.
B: Did you have chickens?
P: We did.
B: So there was milk, eggs, vegetables and fruit.
Did the kids go out and work to bring in money?
P: Father had quite a problem with all his boys. I was telling my son the other day. He decided to buy a farm and let them run this farm to give them something to do and to give them work. My oldest brother was married and he took his wife, my half brother that lived with us and my other brother went with him. They all went up to Cornish and bought some wonderful land. It wasnít really successful because they boys didnít know anything about how to run a farm. So it didnít work out too well. Mother encouraged them to keep this land and it was some land we had after his death.
It was some kind of problem to take care of with a family that big. He sent them all to school. Two of my half brothers were doctors. One of my brothers was a pharmacist and the other one was an eye doctor. The one that died while he was young was studying to be a doctor. Father wanted to educate his children. But they had some free time that got them into trouble like young boys do.
B: Where is the farm?
P: It was near Cornish. They sold it after fatherís death and they built a sugar factory there. It is really choice land. Then he had some other places.
B: Did you ever sit down with your father and talk about polygamy?
P: No. I have been very sorry that I did not sit down and question him about a lot of things about his early life. As near as I can remember as soon as he was home, Father either had a newspaper or a book. He was studying all the time. He learned this German language well enough all by himself after he was fifty years old that he could go back and study at the university. He got into a lot of scientific subjects and studied those. He just never did sit down and talk to us. Mother [p.15] talked more and visited with us more. The feeling I got from talking with her was that she believed all of the principles of the gospel sincerely.
B: Weíre talking about your husband. Tell me about your husband and your children.
P: My husband had just come back from the army when I married him. He had been on a mission in New York and he was very staunch in the gospel. He was very active and wrote a lot of articles about the Church. He always worked in the Church. He was really a fine man. I think he did a lot for me to help me and our children. We had a wonderful family.
He was really strong in his beliefs and he would fight for a principle. He was proud of his heritage and his family. His parents didnít live polygamy because his mother was opposed to it. But he believed in it as did his grandfather. His grandfather even went to jail and served a term in jail because he wouldnít abandon his wives as they wanted him to.
B: Who was his grandfather again?
P: His grandfather was Samuel Rose Parkinson. There has been a book published about him and his life that is very interesting.
We had a very happy home and a very happy life on the farm.
B: You showed me a photograph of your husband as a young man going on his mission. I see that he is a very handsome man. He has dark hair and appears to have kind of a dark complexion with brown eyes.
P: Sort of gray eyes.
B: He is a very well built, lean man. I think you said that picture was taken in 1914.
P: I think so. We were married in 1919.
B: You had six children?
P: Yes, I had three boys and three girls.
B: Tell me more about the children that you had.
P: The oldest son, Richard, got a commission in the army. When he returned he went to medical school. He has been a successful doctor down in California. Our first daughter is an interior decorator. She is doing well. She has married and lives in Texas. Our second son is the Dean of Education at Weber College in Ogden. Then we have another daughter in Texas. Her husband is in business there. We have a daughter in [p.16] Logan who married a convert. Two of the daughters married converts married converts to the Church. Our youngest son has been in the seminary work. They were all married in the temple. They have nice families. I have thirty grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.
B: Which son do you live with now?
P: I donít live with him. I have a special apartment here. But they can take care of me if I need it. We had a nice home in Logan. We retired and moved to Logan and worked in the temple. We both officiated there. Then my husband was ill and I wasnít able to take care of him so my son had me bring him down here so they could help. He passed away a couple of years ago.
B: It is marvelous to me to find out what happened to the children of polygamous families and their children and their children. It has often been said that they were some of the finest people that the Church has produced. There is something about the spirit of not being selfish, being patient and being helpful in a polygamous family where everyone has got to get along that carries over. It produces really fine children and grandchildren. Your family seems to have followed that pattern.
P: I hope so. (laughter)
B: Sister Parkinson, after we stopped there for a minute, you mentioned to me that you have been around long enough to see the first of a lot of things come to town.
P: Yes, Iíve seen a lot of things happen in my lifetime. I can remember the first car that anyone ever had in Logan. I remember the man that had it. My father had one of the first because he was a doctor. He had to crank it with a hand crank. He would take the tire off. I can remember going places. I remember when I was a little girl going to my uncleís farm in Trenton, Utah with my cousin in a wagon and riding all day long on a load of poles or something. What a long day it was!
Even after I was first married we had sleighs. We had a little cutter. It was a little sleigh with a little horse. I went from Franklin to Whitney to go visit my half sister who lived up there. I drove this horse. I got so cold. It took so long to get home that I just about froze my hands trying to drive the horse. When I was first married, we didnít keep a car in the winter. We just put the cars away. We didnít even try to drive them. We got these bobsleighs and this little cutter and drove around in those.
I can remember the first radio we got. We couldnít afford one. It was during the Depression. My brother was working in California or Texas or someplace. He sent us one for Christmas. It was just a little one. We sat around that and listened to the program, Murt and [p.17] Marge, Amos and Andy and those programs that the children loved.
I remember the first television and the electric lights. I remember when we didnít have electric lights.
B: When did electric lights come to Cache Valley?
P: I donít remember the year, but I was a little girl. I still remember having a coal oil lamp hanging on a bracket on the wall. I remember burning coal and wood in our stoves to heat our houses. My father built a nice new house, but it didnít have heat. Of course, we heated it with stoves. We all gathered around this big stove in the living room to keep warm in the wintertime.
When I was first married, I had an attack of appendicitis. I was on my way to Ogden to the wedding of my brother-in-law when I had this attack. They finally got me home. My father was alive then but he wasnít too well. I had this terrible pain. They put me to bed with ice packs all night to see what it was. The next morning they decided it was appendicitis. So they brought a table to our home and put it in the big room upstairs. They operated on me. They took my appendix out on this table.
B: Your father did?
P: No, my father wasnít able to. He had another doctor, Dr. Oldem from Logan did it. I was pregnant. I was several months pregnant and they took the appendix out.
B: But the baby was born okay.
P: I was all right after and I had a baby later.
B: Did they put you out?
P: Yes, they put me to sleep. I was in the first stage of pregnancy and I was very sick to my stomach. After the incision had healed I vomited every morning. It was so hard that it split the incision right open again. The doctor had to come and stitch that one up without any anesthetic.
When I was a little girl I had very bad tonsils and adenoids. I went to my fatherís office and sat in his chair. He didnít give me any anesthetic at all. I just clinched the chair with my hands. He cut those tonsils out without anything.
B: Iíll bet that hurt.
P: It really hurt. My teeth were very bad. There was a dentist in the same building with my father where I went and had my teeth taken care of. He ground and ground and ground. They never used to deaden the pain then. They would put all those rubber things in your mouth. It was so much different than it is now. Now when I go to a dentist it [p.18] seems ridiculous almost when he injects me with something for some little grinding. I went through so much of that as a child without taking anything.
B: I donít know if I could stand that.
Tell me about the first airplane. You said that you saw the first airplane come into Cache Valley.
P: I remember the time Lindbergh made his flight across the continent. He came to Salt Lake. We brought all the children down and drove down to see him.
B: Did you see Charles Lindbergh? Did you talk to him and shake his hand?
P: No, I just saw him.
B: Did you see him come in and land and take off again?
P: I donít think he landed there. It was right after that flight.
B: He was touring the country after his flight across the country?
P: I remember that first flight.
B: Did they have a parade in Salt Lake for him?
P: They must have done.
There is something else that we had when I was little that we donít have anymore. The big circuses used to come to town. They would come to Logan. There were these huge circuses, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey. They would have a big parade. When the circus would come in and unload, my brothers would all go down and watch that. That was a a big event. My uncle would bring his family from Trenton in this buggy they had with this white top on it. They would all come to go to the circus. It would take them almost all day to get there. Then they would go home with balloons. But the circuses were the big events. We always went to the circus. We would go up in fatherís office and watch the parades because they would come along Main Street with these big parades. I remember the animals, pretty horses, the calliope, and the bands. It was a really exciting time. It was always a time to look forward to for the children.
B: Did they manage to have one every year?
P: Just about every summer they had one.
B: What did you do for the Twenty-fourth of July back in those days?
P: They usually had a big celebration on the Fourth of July and the Twenty-fourth. They had lots of the firecrackers then. The children would have something like a cannon. They would bump it on the ground and it would go off and make an awful sound. They would have firecrackers [p.19] they would shoot off. They were big times.
B: What did you do for Christmas? Did you have a big Christmas dinner?
P: Yes, we always had a good dinner. Mother was a real good cook.
I was going to tell you about the house. My father built this house and it had four big bedrooms upstairs. That is where we all slept. It had three little dining rooms and two big living rooms and a bathroom. It had a pantry. The pantries were certainly built differently than these days. It was so hard to get into the cupboards and keep them clean because they were built back in. We had bins that we kept our flour in. They had a hard time when the mice would finally burrow through. But we didnít have a basement. So my mother would keep her jam and put it in a big jar. She would make a crock jar of jam and put a big piece of paper over the top of it and tie it with string. She would have to keep it upstairs in her clothes closet. She had her big clothes closet up there. So we had to take up a dish and dish out some jam.
My husband always laughed. She kept her vegetables in a little dark hallway that went from the kitchen into the bathroom. There was a place in the floor where you could lift the board out. We would lie down and get a big fork and spear the potatoes. They put the sacks of potatoes down there to keep during the winter. So when we wanted potatoes or vegetables we had to reach down and spear them out of this place. (laughter)
I I always wondered why he didnít build a basement. Instead of building a basement he built on a big sleeping porch onto the back of the place. So things were quite different then than they are now.
B: Was your father able to build or did he just hire people to build?
P: He didnít do any work. He was a professional man. He was busy with his profession. Father had a big office. He had almost a hospital in his office. He had a room there where he could have a bed for his patients. He had one of the first X-ray machines. He had a huge X-ray machine where he could take X-ray pictures and give treatments. There was another group of doctors in Logan that werenít too friendly with him. He didnít like the way they practiced so he had his own hospital. He maintained that for years. He had an old home that he made into a hospital. He maintained that for years. He had an old home that he made into a hospital. Then after he came back from New York, he specialized in eye, ear, nose, and throat. He did a lot of work.
He was quite a man. I can remember the talks he used to give in church. He hated alcohol and he would give talks about the Word of Wisdom.
B: He did it as a doctor explaining to the people why it was bad?
B: What positions did your father hold?
P: He was a bishop at one time, but I canít remember what positions he held during my life. He was always busy with his work.
Mother wasnít a public woman at all. She was very shy and backward. She was just a home person. But she did a lot of good. She had a wonderful philosophy of life. She really knew a lot about psychology and how to get along with people. She had a strong testimony of the gospel.
B: Your father was the son of a convert. What about your mother?
P: My motherís father was an apostle. He had six wives and about thirty-six children. So he had a huge family. He sent him up to Cache Valley to settle Cache Valley. That is where he died. He died when he was really young. My grandmother was left a widow with a big family to take care of and to provide for. The boys went up into the mountains to cut wood. Mother had to work hard from the time she was a little girl, so she wasnít able to go to school.
B: She must have known what she was getting into then because she came from a polygamous family herself. There were two generations of polygamy there. It is not very common and a little rare.
P: She know all about it.
B: Thank you.
Table of Contents
Early Memories in Logan, Utah Page 1
Memories of Father, William Brigham Parkinson Page 2
Fatherís early life and training as a doctor
Fatherís trip to Germany to study medicine
Fatherís practice in Logan, Utah
Early Memories in Logan, Utah, continued Page 3
Experience riding on the milk wagon
Life in a Polygamous Family Page 4
Experiences with members of the other families
Motherís, Edith Benson Parkinson, relationship to Fatherís other families
Memories of Fatherís other wives
Comments about older sister
Education at Utah State Agricultural College, Logan, Utah Page 6
Married Life Page 6
Courtship and marriage
Life in a Polygamous Family, continued Page 8
Comments about Fatherís marriages to his four wives
Fatherís living arrangements before and after the Manifesto, 1890
Settlement of Fatherís estate
School Experiences and Church Experiences in Logan, Utah Page 11
Comments about the schoolhouse
Memories of teachers
Memories of Church activities
Comments about church houses
Life in a Polygamous Family, continued Page 12
Motherís feelings about polygamy
Motherís relationship to Fatherís other wives
Feelings in the community about polygamy
Relationship between Fatherís children
Fatherís division of supplies to the families
Comments about Mother and Fatherís other wivesí efforts to help the family
Comments about Fatherís purchase of a farm
Fatherís feelings about polygamy
Married Life, continued Page 15
Husbandís commitment to the Church
Description of husband
Early Memories in Logan, Utah, continued Page 16
Description of home
Memories of Father, continued Page 19
Fatherís medical practice in Logan, Utah
Memories of Mother Page 20
Comments about Motherís personality
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