Grant Vaughn is a fairly new Keepa’ninny. He blogs at Passionate Moderate Mormon.
Whenever I walk down South Temple past Temple Square, which is fairly often as I work in downtown Salt Lake City these days, I think about my Great-Grandmother, Addie May Wood (1880-1909), who walked down that street bawling her head off one day in May, more than a century ago.
In the school year of 1900-1901, Salt Lake Academy, the precursor of LDS Business College, held its classes in temporary facilities in the Lion House, also on South Temple, and Social Hall, to the south half a block down State Street. Addie May was so fortunate to be a student for much of that year. She had a basic education that had been provided by her mother, not as home school, but because her mother, Adelaide Ridges Wood, was the first public school teacher in South Davis County. And going to school in the City, even for only one year, was a great thrill for Addie May.
Addie May had the misfortune of being the oldest child with no brothers until she was thirteen years old. As her family farmed in South Bountiful, now North Salt Lake, up on the hill as the last farm east, she had to do a lot of “boy” chores to help her father: plowing, harvesting, and slaughtering pigs and calves (she said she couldn’t eat that day because all she could smell was calf). She prided herself in her misery that she was a real “cracker-jack” on the farm and referred to herself as “Addie Boy” doing her masculine tasks.
She wanted so much to go to college in the City, and begged her father the summer of 1900 to let her go. But he needed her on the farm. One day late in September, she made one more try, confident because she had prayed hard that morning. Her father was eating breakfast and finally he said “yes” to her pleas.
Her schedule was to get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning, do her homework, and then at seven she would head down to catch the Dummy – that’s what they called the Bamberger train into the city. She started the year late and worked with President Joshua Hughes Paul to find the right level of lower classes that she could take. She loved school and the Dummy only left her twice all that winter. She hated to miss a week just before the holidays when the college was closed because of smallpox. School started up again, but smallpox still raged. The students and faculty conducted a fast and there were no more closures that year.
Then spring came. Addie May once again tried as hard as she could to stay in school, but her father needed her on the farm. Finally, she had to respect his firm decision and withdrew from her classes. In her words:
So [Monday] May 6th 1901 I went to school to say good by to my dear teachers and school mates especially Grace and Ada and the rest. Well it was a very sad parting. And I shall never forget it for the tears would come in my eyes when I would tell the teachers good by, but the worst of all was parting with dear Grace Stringham. How she did hate to leave me! She followed me down the street for a short distance and we were both of us crying and then try to laugh, for the people were staring at us so. Well I could not stand it any longer so I threw my arms around her neck and gave her a good hard kiss and went as fast as I could tears streaming down both cheeks. She said, “Good by you old sweet heart!” and went back to school crying.
The Social Hall frame stands just across from my bus stop. I’ve been to a few receptions and luncheons in the Lion House. And whenever I walk down South Temple towards where the Bamberger station was on Third West, I can’t help but think of those tears.
[photo: Addie May Wood Peterson in her 1903 wedding photograph]