History of Hazel Johnson Christensen


My Childhood

Spinal Meningitis

When I was four I had spinal meningitis and nearly died.  I can only remember one or two things about it.  It must have been the summer before I turned five, so I was about four and a half.  I know my mother was expecting Rene when I had it, and he was born in October before I turned five in November.

Father wasn’t home.  He was gone a lot then because he was head of the ditch company.  There were some irrigated farms, and because of that they had what was called a ditch company.  He had to see that the banks weren’t washed out and the water wasn’t going to waste, so he was gone a lot.  Then when I was so sick, he came home.  Mother met him out at the gate to tell him that I’d been ill.  Before she could tell him, the first thing he said when he got there was, “How is Hazel?”

“She’s still real sick,” she answered, “but how did you know?”

“I was just impressed to come home, that she was sick,” he replied.

Mother told me that she had left just us kids home when she went to stake conference.  When she came home I had been in the water somewhere.  She could see I’d gotten in the ditch or something.  She wondered if that had caused the illness.  It was very serious, but the doctor lived across the street from us, and he used to come over three or four times a day.

Mother and Edna had to take care of me day and night.  I couldn’t walk but had to be carried everywhere.  Mother was down in bed for six weeks afterwards.  The strain of caring for me and expecting Rene was quite a load.

Childhood Memories

When I was a girl we had our winter food put by each year.  Father took enough wheat to the mill and had it ground into flour to last the whole year.  We had a root cellar each summer.  We canned fruit, made jam, and put up pickles.  Each fall Father bought a big box of raisins, dried prunes and coconut, as well as a couple of sacks of sugar.

In the winter we used to go sleigh riding in my Uncle Joe Roper’s sleigh.  His son Sim would load it up, and then we would whirl the sleigh on the street corners.  It scared me but was fun.  We were outdoors a lot.  In the winter we used to play in the snow.  I remember every year when I was going to grade school Mother would knit us long black stockings.  They were the only things to play in the snow because it wouldn’t stick to them. I guess they were black because black was the only thing they had then; I don’t know.  Hattie rebelled finally and said she was not going to wear them anymore.


Mother used to knit my brothers’ socks all the time.  She would knit about three pair for each boy.  That’s when she had three boys left at home.  Then the second year she’d take the feet off and put new feet on them.  The tops would still be good but the feet would be worn on them.  She could ravel the feet off and pick up the stitches and knit.

Mother did a lot of knitting.  I learned handwork from my mother.  She taught me all my handwork except netting.  Aunt Susie taught me to net.  Mother never learned that.  But we did tatting, crocheting and knitting. I used to embroider too.  I don’t remember Mother embroidering, but I did.  I used to scallop pillowcases just to have something to do.

We’d make the scallops ourselves with a little spool. Then I would do underwear that way, scallop around the top of it.  We used to wear shimmies. I guess that was instead of a top of the petticoat because we had the waist petticoats. They were made out of cam­bric, white, and I used to scallop around the top.

I was born in a two story frame house, and I lived all my girlhood in the house I was born in.  I played with my cousins Florence, Ina, and a second cousin Vilate.  My best friend was Nellie Webb and a little later Ruth Carpenter too.  We liked to play paper dolls and roller skate.  In the summer we went swimming in the canal.

I always went to Sunday School, Primary and Sacrament Meeting when I was a child and later to MIA.  I was baptized and confirmed in the Church when I was eight.  Uncle Joe baptized me in a bathtub, because it was winter and there were no fonts in town.  I attended the public schools of Preston and high school at the Church academy, the Oneida Stake Academy.

I started school when I was nearly seven.  I was born in November and we didn’t have any kindergarten.  We started school in the first grade.  Because of my late birthday (after school started), I had to wait until I was almost seven to go.

Once a year in the spring, the schoolkids went down to the river.  That was about two miles.  The teachers would take us and our lunch and go down there and eat. We also used to go buttercup hunting.  I’ve never seen a buttercup since I was a little girl.  They looked like little cups sort of hanging over.  They were out in the fields growing wild.  We would walk about two miles to a big field and come home with a basket of buttercups.  They wouldn’t last but it was a lot of fun going up there and getting them.

I lived one year in Lewiston, Utah when Father was master mechanic at the sugar factory there.  I was in the second grade and had to walk two miles through the ice and snow to school.  When we moved to Lewiston, we rented a house and moved there, but we didn’t move our furniture or sell our home in Preston.

We would go home once or twice a month to see about things, and we would go in a white top buggy.  It was a buggy with two seats and a white canvas top on it.  There was a man in Lewiston that bought an automobile.  It was the first automobile I ever saw, and it was red.  I used to dread to go out because we always met him and the horses would jump and prance and sometimes run.  It would scare me to death, but they always held them in.  I was a little afraid of horses.


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