Chapter OneMy Life Story Mabel Finlayson Allred
My Life Begins in Seattle, Washington
"Run across the street and tell Mrs. Basset to come over right away. And tell her to hurry!" My oldest sister Birdie, eleven and a half years old, ran across the street as the doctor ordered her to do on a cold January 11th morning in 1919 in Seattle, Washington. The midwife, Mrs. Basset, hurried into the kitchen of our home to find me, a black new-born baby, wrapped in a towel, lying on the kitchen table. She snatched me up, opened the oven door of the big, black kitchen stove, pulled up a chair, and held me in the oven's warmth. She also massaged my arms, legs and body as vigorously as she dared. Slowly, I began to change color, until I turned pink and was breathing normally. That dear woman saved my life! Why was I left alone so newly born in the kitchen? It was because, unbeknownst to my parents or the doctor during the pregnancy, another baby girl was making her surprise appearance into the world, and the doctor was needed to deliver her! This was a real shock to everyone—two baby girls, identical twins, born just eight minutes apart! This was the earthly beginning of a very beautiful experience for my very dear twin sister and myself, a sharing that defies description, because it has been so very special. And, it has lasted a lifetime and beyond!
Our parents named me Mabel (spelled el, not le) and my twin sister was named Melba. How unique that our names contain the same letters as if to further strengthen the bond we already shared.
With two new babies to care for, there was so much to do! My oldest sister, Birdie, mothered my sister, Carol, who was three and a half years old when Melba and I were born. We found out many, many years later that our arrival affected Carol profoundly and continued through[out] much of our childhood. The attention that had been hers, the cute little girl with natural curls, was suddenly gone, swallowed up by two new babies in the family, and she was pushed into the background. Everywhere we went, as well as at home, people turned their attention to us. Not only were we identical twins, but mother dressed us just alike, inviting more curiosity, naturally. And, it was hard for Melba and me to understand Carol "taking it out" on us—very often. Still, we have many happy memories of spending our childhood together.
Moving to Pocatello, Idaho
My first memories are of Pocatello, Idaho. We had moved from Seattle to Pocatello in 1920. We attended church in the First Ward building, (which was also the Pocatello Stake House of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Melba and I were a year old when we left Seattle. In 1923, when Melba and I were four years old, we went to a parade in downtown Pocatello. As usual, Mother dressed us alike, in pretty blue silk dresses with many ruffles on the skirts. We were wearing cream-colored straw hats with brims [that had] blue ribbons around the crowns of the hats with a bow and the remaining ribbons hanging down our backs. We were carrying small American flags and waving them, because the President of the United States was in the parade. To the band's rendition of "The Stars and Stripes Forever," President Harding's car approached us. The President saw Melba and me, and waved to us as he called out, "Hello there, you two little girls in blue!" Mother and Daddy were so proud and pleased that we and they could all experience that special moment!
When we twins were about a year old, we suffered about with the flu. It left me with frequent attacks of tonsillitis and chronic sinusitis. My tonsils, in time, became so enlarged that when I would begin to cry (for any reason) the constrictions and enlarged tonsils [would] cut off my air [supply], and I would faint. And, of course, I would fall. Mother would drop whatever she was doing to try to reach me before I fell. I can remember her bringing me to with water or a wet cloth and rubbing the big lump on my head.
I Learn to Be Obedient
When Melba and I were five years old, we finally had our tonsils and adenoids removed—yes, Melba, too! I don't know why she had to, just because I did! About nine months later, I was stricken with a severe case of rheumatic fever. The doctor ordered me to bed for three weeks! I was very ill. Daddy, with other brethren, gave me blessings, and the doctor made frequent visits to our home. Gradually I improved. One day Mother went downtown and came home with two packages for me. One was pretty navy blue material which she made into a robe for me, with a pretty white lace collar at the neck-line. The other package contained bright red house slippers, adorned with red furry balls. The three weeks had passed, and I got to get out of bed, put on the robe and slippers, and sit in the rocking chair for an hour at a time, off and on. A week later, I got to go outside and sit on the steps in the spring sunshine. What a good feeling that was!
Melba and I did almost everything together. We seldom, if ever, quarreled. How very lucky we were to have each other! We made up our own games and often crossed the street to the meadows and hills, where we delighted in picking wild flowers to our hearts content. Carol was crazy about the buttercups, but I thought of the hill where the blue bells grew as my hill.
Moving to Logan, Utah
A couple of times while living in Pocatello, Mother took Melba and me on the train to visit her father, (our grandfather), who lived on a farm outside of Logan. Then when we were six years old, we moved to Logan. My parents traded our home and the duplex my father had built (up and down apartments) and our property [in Pocatello] for a nice home in Logan. We had been in Logan just a short time, when we were informed that the trade of homes and property was a crooked deal and we lost everything!!
While we were living in Logan, we walked two miles out to Grandpa's farm. He grew a field of pink and white peonies, as well as bushels of yellow roses to accommodate the honeybees that he tended. My mother's sister, Aunt May, lived there with her daughter "Dort" (for Dorothy), who was a little younger than Melba and me. She was a "holy terror," we found out. We couldn't believe the things she did!
Moving to Salt Lake City, Utah
Melba and I started school in the first grade at the Woodruff School in September 1926. In the spring , our family moved to Salt Lake City, and Daddy started working for his brother, a [building] contractor. We moved into one of the brand new houses where my father worked. It had cut glass door-knobs throughout, and a tiled bathroom and tiled kitchen, the very latest in home luxuries. We lived on 16th East, which at that time was the frontier to the east. Our backyard bordered a shallow ravine.
In the summer, a family by the name of Owens moved into one of the new homes, a couple of houses from us. In no time, Melba, Carol and I got aquatinted with two of the girls who were the same age as we were—their names were Barbara and Carol. We had so much fun playing together, as well as going to the movies at the Wasatch Ward on Saturday evenings. We, then, would play out the movies at home. It was while we were living there that Melba and I had to each have eight back teeth removed, because the roots were so long they couldn't loosen and come out naturally. It was such a hot summer!
Grandfather Hanson Passes Away
My mother's father passed away in June at age seventy years. She went back to Logan for the funeral etc. In the meantime, my uncle [Allan], the contractor, was not paying my father, my father's other brother, or any of his other employees their wages, and he never did give my father up to $350.00 he had coming to him! So, we moved down into Sugarhouse into a little brown house back off 11th East just north of 21st South. It was a cozy little house with a big lawn, trees, and lilac bushes in the front and sides of the house. An apple tree and cherry tree graced the back yard, and a swing hung way high on a limb of the apple tree, where we spent many happy hours swinging. The packed dirt yard was perfect to play hop-scotch. We liked school a lot and made friends easily.
Christmas, , in the "brown house" was the happiest Christmas, as a child, I can remember, because Santa Claus brought me the baby doll that I wanted so badly! Six months later, in June, Carol took me aside and let me in on a big secret—that there was no Santa Claus! She knew because she had peeked on Christmas Eve and saw who Santa really was! I did not appreciate her telling me about it, however!
We went out to West Jordan fairly often in our Nash (car) to visit Daddy's parents, two brothers, three sisters and their families. Grandma and Grandpa [Finlayson] lived on a farm as my mother's father had done. When I was two years old, my cousin, Everett, three years old, walked up to me and kissed me on the mouth. We were in the yard at the farm and my mother, the little boy's mother and my grandmother happened to be looking out the kitchen window and saw Everett kiss me. His mother made the most of this, and I received a valentine, a Christmas card, and a letter from Everett telling all about his Christmas toys and other gifts. I liked this attention. Talking in my sleep, I said, "Daddy, did you see Everett's letter?"
Before school started in September, we moved again to a house farther east, just north of 21st So. on View Street just ½ block from the prison. We were lucky to find a ballet dance teacher in our neighborhood, and Melba, Carol and I took dancing lessons from her that Fall. Mother made darling ballet dresses, (tu-tus) for Melba and me. The tops and shoulder straps were medium blue sateen and the skirts were made of layers of blue crinoline. She bought ballet slippers and blue socks, (anklets), for us. We learned different dance positions and the French names for them, and how to choreograph dances, using them. That Fall, Melba and I were asked to perform a dance at the local movie theater between features. Mother curled our hair with the curling iron and tied a string of silver tinsel around our curly hair. A little later on, we were asked to perform again at the same theater. This time Mother made us Chinese pajamas of yellow sateen trimmed with blue sateen and rosettes of those two colors to fit on our ears with a head band connecting them. Our eyes were made slanted with eyebrow pencil, and we each carried a little ivory fan that we used as we danced to the music of a Chinese love song. I'm very grateful that I was given this opportunity to fulfill a yearning I had to have ballet dancing as a part of my experience in life!
Right after we moved to the house on View Street, our older sister, Birdie, who was already an advanced pianist, started giving Melba and me piano lessons. Little did I dream what these lessons would mean to me throughout my entire life!
About two weeks after Melba and I turned nine years old, we were awakened and hurried off to school, with the promise that a brand new baby would be waiting there for us! That afternoon, I ran all the way home from school, so excited! Sure enough, my mother had had a baby boy! I had a baby brother! I didn't realize just how happy my parents were to have a boy at last! He was blessed and named David Reginald Finlayson in Sacrament meeting, and that was the day that I knew that "David" was my favorite boy's name.
In March our family drove out to West Jordan to celebrate my Grandparent's Golden wedding anniversary. Most of the family came to it. Pictures were taken after a big dinner, and it was fun playing anti-i-over with our cousins, and eating all the bananas and oranges we wanted to.
We Move Back to Pocatello
That summer of 1928 Daddy had a hard time finding work, and upon hearing that there was work to be had in Pocatello, he went up there, and sent for us to join him. We lived in a house only a block from the elementary school we would attend, and just across the street from our beloved hills!
At Christmas-time, Melba and I sang a duet of a beautiful Christmas song on our school's Christmas program, and again at Daddy's Carpenter's Union Christmas party. Daddy danced a waltz with each of us.
Little did we realize that we would nearly lose our beloved Daddy, when he suffered a near-fatal heart attack at work on a cold January morning [in 1929], right after Melba and I turned ten years old. He was right in bed for a couple of weeks [and was starting to feel some better], when our baby, [David] (a year old) became very sick with a double hernia (attack) collapse! Birdie told us about it the next morning. Mother and Daddy were at the hospital with our baby-they had done surgery immediately that night before. We came so close to losing him, our very precious baby brother! He did heal, and we were so grateful!
We Move to California
However, as time passed, our Daddy did not improve, and his doctor ordered him to move to sea level altitude in April, or he would soon die. Two of Daddy's sisters had moved to La Puente, in Southern California, about twenty miles from Hollywood. Mother put my father on the train to go and stay with his one sister, Aunt Ivy. At the Salt Lake depot there was a stopover for an hour or so. Daddy's family met him there. He looked so poorly that his mother left with him on the train, and she stayed in La Puente to be with him for the next three weeks. At a lower altitude along with lovely California weather, Daddy began to feel better. In August it was decided that we would move to California and be with him [Daddy]. He had rented a little house in Hollywood! We girls were ecstatic at such news! We were fascinated with the movies and movie stars! The vitaphone was invented and first used that year, 1929. It was now possible for people to hear what the actors were saying, and to hear music and singing in the movies! They dubbed the movies "the Talkies."
My mother sold all of our furniture, dishes, etc. in Pocatello. We took with us only a big, new red trunk, two smaller trunks, and a couple of suitcases. They held only our bedding, pillows, pictures, and clothes.
We rode on the train to La Puente. As we passed into San Bernardino at 6:00 that morning, I woke up to a breath-taking view of endless groves of orange trees with their shiny dark green leaves and bright orange, huge oranges! A blue, blue sky and the sun shining just enhanced the scene! Yes! That's when the "magic" of California hit me, and it stayed with me for all of the seven years that California was home to me and my family.
How very happy we were to see our dear Daddy when the train pulled into the La Puente station!! Four days later, Uncle Lee took us and our trunks and suitcases the twenty miles into Hollywood! My sisters and I rode in the back of the truck that evening, and, the sheer "magic" of being in California embraced me again. (We girls were sure that we would see a movie star on every street corner!) Of course, that did not happen!
I loved the little house that Daddy picked out for us to live in! I have dreamed about going back to see it several times. Once I dreamed that Dorothy, (my only girl), was with me. Everything was just the same as it was so many years before!—even the wallpaper!
Our Daddy hoped and planned to do carpentry work, building the movie sets in the movie studios. He tried to do this, but over and over again he was brought home too sick to stand the exertion it demanded of him. He was forced to reconcile himself to being a semi-invalid. He helped Mother some [around the house], read the scriptures, The Works of Josephus, and African Safari, books by a couple, the "Johnsons." He started taking the streetcar downtown to the big Los Angeles library two or three days a week to sit and research the genealogy of his ancestors. He would take a sack-lunch and stay most of the day. Then would send the names to his parents in West Jordan, and they went to the Salt Lake Temple to do the work by proxy for those who had passed on years before, without the knowledge of the Gospel. So, the blessing and promising in my Father's patriarchal blessing was being fulfilled!
We were on welfare for a year or two, and then, suddenly we were denied it! Why? Why, indeed!? I don't know. We needed it desperately! And so, for years my oldest sister Birdie gave half or more of her wages (meager earnings) working at Woolworth's Five and Ten Cent Store, for us to live on. How good and so unselfish of her!
My mother was a good manager and a hard worker, and she and Daddy made our home and our lives so happy in spite of the poverty we coped with. My mother was also an excellent cook and seamstress, and she kept our home very clean and tidy! We had left our washing machine, vacuum, and sewing machine sold to others before leaving Pocatello. So my mother scrubbed clothes for the rest of her life. She hand-sewed our clothes, quilts etc. by hand for five years, before Carol graduated from high school and was of age to work. She bought a second-hand sewing machine and helped earn our living working at Max Factor's Make-up Company. My mother "made do" with what she had.