Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Only the Essentials

Only the Essentials

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 12, 2013

From the Relief Society Magazine, 1960 –

Only the Essentials

By Frances C. Yost

Young Mike Palmer had carried his bride over the threshold of the old Miller place. The house was rundown and had been vacant for several months, but the rent was cheap, and that was important, when you were just starting married life.

“Karen, I guess you’re going to find out that you have to do without a lot of things that you’re used to,” Mike Palmer said, as he made a fire for her in the old coal and wood range. “You’re going to miss cooking with electricity and doing dishes with a dishwasher, and having an automatic washer and dryer for your laundry. Honestly, I feel sorry for you. It’s sort of like pioneering in the year 1960.”

“I’ve thought of all those things, Mike, but I still have you, and I feel your love and this old coal stove will keep me warm. I have my two hands for washing dishes, and, well, I won’t have to scrub clothes on a washboard like the pioneers, because there is our own conventional washer you bought at the second-hand store.” Karen laughed softly. “It’s going to be fun.”

“You’re a good sport, I’ll say that for you. But I want you to remember I just don’t have money to burn as your father has.”

“Oh, Mike, daddy doesn’t have money to burn. Why, he’s really very careful with his money.”

“Most people are that have money. That is, if they have gotten ahead in this world. And believe me, Karen, I mean to be successful like your father and some other men I admire. So, I’m going to start out by being careful about little things. I want you to budget all your spending and trim off all the nonessential buying. If it’s something we can’t get along without, why, fine, buy it. But if it’s something we can jolly well manage without, why, pass it up and …”

“Yes, I know, Mike. Only the essentials. I’m going to be very careful. You watch.”

“I’m sure you will be. Bye for now. Your ambitious husband is going out into the world and make a few honest dollars.” Mike laughed, and raised her chin for his kiss.

Alone, Karen surveyed the old house. There were curtains in the living room, but they were faded and full of holes. She would buy some pretty flowered cretonne and make drapes for the windows.

Karen found just what she wanted, flowered cretonne, in the yardage department, which was much more economical than drapery cloth. She sewed every moment while Mike was gone all week. Then Friday morning she hung the new drapes. Why, they made all the difference in the world to the whole house. She could hardly wait for Mike to come home and see them.

When Mike walked in the door he had eyes only for Karen. He gathered her into his arms and kissed her tenderly. Then he raised his head and saw the drapes. At first his face registered surprise, and pleasure. Then, as if he had appraised their value in terms of money, his face hardened.

“Mike, I know what you’re thinking. You like the looks of the drapes, but you don’t think we can afford them.”

“That’s right, Karen. I believe we could have managed with those net curtains which were already here in the house. You remember what I said, only the essentials.”

Karen felt hurt. Sometime she would tell him how economical the cloth had been, and that she had sewed every stitch herself, not hired them made by a professional draper.

It wasn’t just spending the money for the drapes. It was Mike she was worried about. What type of man had she married? She had known him so well, but she hadn’t known this financial side of him. Was Mike really close? Karen somehow abhorred tightness in a person. She surely didn’t want to be married to a man who inspected the potato peelings to see if they were thick or thin.

During the evening Mike commented a time or two that he really liked the drapes, and that they made the whole house more beautiful, and that perhaps her judgment had been right about going ahead and buying them.

Now that the drapes were hung, and the entire house had been polished, Karen had time on her hands. She dropped into the little rocker she and Mike had purchased at the secondhand store, the same time as the stove. She wished she had something interesting to read. She wondered if The Relief Society Magazine for the month was out yet. It would be nice to subscribe for the Magazine, have it delivered to her home each month. But Mike would probably class it among the luxuries, as he had the drapes.

“Maybe our budget doesn’t allow for subscribing for the Magazine,” Karen jumped up excitedly, “but, by golly, I’m not going to miss a single copy. I’m going right this minute over to Mike’s mother and borrow her Magazine.”

What had Shakespeare said: “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.” “Well, in spite of what he said, I’m going borrowing, and I hope Mother Palmer is a cheerful lender. The Relief Society Magazine should be passed around to enjoy it.”

“Of course you can take the Magazine, Karen,” Mrs. Palmer said cheerfully.

“But if you haven’t had time to read it …” Karen hesitated.

“I can read it when you are finished. You go right ahead. I have these few peaches to make preserves of today, and oh, Karen, get a sack from the drawer and take some of these peaches home with you. There’s a jar of fresh cream in the fridge you can have. Mike just loves peaches and cream.”

“Oh, thank you, Mother Palmer. This will answer my dessert problem for our supper, and we’ll have peaches on our cereal for breakfast.”

Karen left the house with the sack of peaches in one hand, a jar of cream in the other, and The Relief Society Magazine tucked under her arm.

Karen curled up in the rocker and enjoyed the afternoon with the Magazine. “Why, there are a dozen poems, and each one is a treasure. And three nice stories, besides the serial. There are three worthwhile articles, and in the features for the home are recipes and sewing hints, and bits of wisdom.”

Karen closed the little Magazine and held it almost lovingly to her. Why, this Magazine could not be classed as a luxury. A single issue cost even less than twenty cents, and where could you get so much for your money? But Mike had said nothing but essentials. She guessed she would just have to figure on borrowing Mother Palmer’s Magazine for a while.

“Well, it’s time to start supper.” What would she fix? There were recipes in the Magazine. She opened it again. “How about a fluffy lemon chiffon pie?”

Karen checked the ingredients. “I have everything to make it, luckily, but I have the fresh peaches Mike’s mother gave me. No need for dessert. Oh, here’s a main dish that sounds interesting and nourishing, macaroni loaf. It has cheese and hard-boiled eggs. I’ll make this, and with a green salad, and some raisin cookies and the peaches and cream, such a meal should please any hard-working man.”

Karen was busy for the next two hours, and she was complimenting herself on baking the cookies in the coal stove and not burning a single one, when Mike came through the door.

“How’s my pretty little wife?” he kissed her lovingly.

“Just fine, Mr. Palmer, and your supper is almost ready. Want to sit in the living room while I finish? It’s a little warm in here.” Karen wiped her brow. It was warm cooking on a coal stove, but soon it would be chilly weather and the same warmth would be inviting.

Mike, tired from the day’s work, dropped into the little rocker where Karen had been, and picked up the Magazine on the nearby table. He started reading.

“Dinner, Mike,” Karen called invitingly. “Come and get it.”

“I’ve become interested in a story. Say, where did you get that little magazine?”

“Oh, that’s The Relief Society Magazine. I borrowed it from your mother.”

“You mean that Magazine’s been in my home, and I’ve never noticed it before?”

“Perhaps you didn’t take time to read it, but it was there.” Karen laughed.

“Did you read it before you were married, Karen?”

“Never missed an issue. Fact is, it’s my favorite magazine, Mike.”

“Karen, it’s a magazine we should have in our home. You better make out a check tomorrow and send for a year’s subscription.”

Karen felt something warm inside her. Why, Mike wasn’t tight as she had imagined at all. She guessed about the hardest thing about being a bride was to get used to spending someone else’s money. Especially a new husband’s, when he didn’t have any more than when he was courting and living with his folks, and not maintaining a house. Yes, it was true, she would have to make sacrifices, go without things she was used to as Mike had pointed out that first day, go without things she had taken for granted in her parents’ home. But they would be able to have and enjoy the important things of life, like The Relief Society Magazine. She could hardly wait for the postman to deliver her first copy.



  1. Subtle.

    Comment by E. Wallace — April 12, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

  2. 1960’s version of an Infomercial.

    The tale has the tone of the micro-stories in the family home evening manuals of the 1960s. Wonder if Sister Yost had a hand in writing those?

    Comment by Coffinberry — April 12, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

  3. Your responses make me laugh out loud! Who knew there was Relief Society propaganda?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 12, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

  4. Lol, Ardis.

    But just this morning, I had resolved to reduce the snark in my life. I had noticed yesterday, when I was judging the state science fair, that behind closed doors many judges were just full of snark about the student displays and their weaknesses; though I tried to be positive in my evaluations and comments, the spirit of snark was so seductive. I could feel it just oozing into me and I really didn’t like how a snarky attitude allows me to forget that these are real people we were judging. And here I was doing it again.

    Which made me wonder about Sister Yost. Just the other day, you featured one of her poems (about Samuel answering the call). Her stories have been featured here at Keepa many times, including the one about the ward Relief Society ladies secretly sewing a new wardrobe for an older sister who would be traveling for the first time in her life. I have thought about that story a lot since becoming a Relief Society President myself.

    So I went hunting to find out more about her. (Yeah, should’a been working, but what can I say?)

    I found that she had a historical bent, like you, Ardis: at least one genealogist willing to cite sources referenced Sister Yost’s transcription of a family journal.

    I found that she had published a few small books:
    “That They Might Know Thee”, 1960. Published by Deseret Book, this is a a compilation of the stories of Jesus for quiet reflection.
    “While Orchids Bloom” 1954.
    “Brim with Joy,” 1950. A book of Poetry.
    “The Answer Comes.” 1950.

    I learned that she was published in the Improvement Era, with a poem “Life Goes to Press but Once” in July 1953, “A Century Lilac Bush” in June 1960, and a story, “Food for Thought,” in November 1966. It was in the February 1940 Improvement Era that I found confirmation of her love for Genealogy, with her non-fiction article “Party Lines,” where she analogizes family genealogy research to keeping a telephone line up and running.

    She won multiple prizes in the Relief Society story and poetry contests; not to mention the many stories featured now at Keepa (and many more are surely in the future queue). After one such short story, which won 3rd prize in 1951, a mini-bio told a bit more about her:

    “Frances Carter Yost, Bancroft Idaho, daughter of Leo T. and Caroline Webb Carter, is the wife of a rancher, Glenn F. Yost, and the mother of four children. Ms. Yost collaborated in writing and compiling Bancroft’s Book of Remembrance, published in January 1949. Proceeds from the sale of this book are being used for Bancroft’s new Latter-day Saint chapel. Her book of poetry, Brim with Joy, was published in 1950, and is receiving praiseworthy recognition. At present, Mrs. Yost writes a column for two weekly papers, The Soda Springs Sun, and the Grace Herald, and she is correspondent for The Deseret News (Salt Lake City), and the Idaho State Journal. Three of Mrs. Yost’s stories have been published in The Relief Society Magazine: “Filleth the Hungry Soul” (May 1946); “There is Still Life” (September 1946); and “Prelude to Christmas”December 9146). This is her first appearance as a winner in the Relief Society Short Story Contest.

    “Active in Church work, Mrs. Yost is now the president of the Bancroft Consolidated Primary, which includes five wards.”

    Oh. my. goodness. A 5-ward Primary to preside over. Wow.

    I also found that one of her sons, G. Fred Yost, Jr., headed the Czech-Slovak mission from 2004-2007. Obituaries for her sons-in-law indicate that she had at least two daughters: Rosalie and Caroline.

    According to New.Familysearch, Sister Yost was born in 1914, and died in March 1978 in Italy. She died on the same day and in the same place as her husband. They were buried in Idaho.

    Try as I might, I cannot find anything about the tragedy of her passing at such a young age (I think of 64 as young now, though I thought my own grandfather old when he died that same year at age 65). Were she and Glenn missionaries? Had they finally gotten to take the trip of a lifetime, but something went terribly wrong?

    In any case, Sister Yost left a remarkable legacy both of pen and people. Thank you, Ardis, for making sure her stories, and her contribution to LDS life, are not forgotten.

    Comment by Coffinberry — April 12, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

  5. Despite her prolific portfolio of published works, she is absent from the Mormon Literature Database. Maybe that needs fixing?

    Comment by Coffinberry — April 12, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

  6. Oh, Coffinberry! This is wonderful! I’ll contact you off log (probably tomorrow) with an idea to expand your research into a real memorial. Thank you for caring.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 12, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

  7. Wonderful, Coffinberry! That’s great! I just found her obituary on Ancestry, and I’ll send that to Ardis to forward to you.

    Comment by Amy T — April 12, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  8. Thanks to Coffinberry for digging up such a lot of great information on Sister Yost.

    Comment by Maurine — April 12, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

  9. Never forgotten! Nothing like Keepa to distract from a pain filled night! Thanks for the extra info Coffinberry!

    Comment by Juliathepoet — April 13, 2013 @ 2:27 am

  10. Well, the only thing I have to add is that Yost family she married into seems unconnected to the family of Admiral Paul A. Yost, Jr., who was the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard in the late 1980s (and a member of our stake when he commanded the New York District just before that appointment).

    And, what a nice infomercial!

    Comment by Mark B. — April 13, 2013 @ 11:45 am

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