Saturday, February 27, 2010

Surprise - you're a principal!

 Louis Butler, Principal

[In January, 1953] I was teaching third grade at Minnequa when one afternoon the Superintendent of School District #60 came to the school. Miss Braun [the principal] came to my classroom about 2 p.m. and said that the superintendent was in her office, and that he wanted to speak to me. She took over my class and I went down to talk to him. He told me that there was a school board meeting that night, and he wanted to present my name as the principal of Bradford School, starting with the second semester, only a few days away.

I needed to give him the answer by 4:00, so he could be ready for the board meeting. I went back up to the room and Miss Braun told me that even though I wanted to finish out the year in my classroom, I should accept the position now, because she knew people who had said they wanted to wait and the offer was never made again. She suggested that I should go home and talk to Leona about it and then return with our decision.

I went home and we talked about it and decided that we could not afford not to accept. So I returned and called Mr. Davis, and he seemed glad that I was going to take it. That night he proposed my name and the board told him that they had previously told Mrs. Lucille James that she would get the next principalship. That was before Mr. Davis was the superintendent. He was furious and said that would never happen to him again! He came out to the school the next day and apologized to me, but assured me that the next principalship would be mine. I was not too disappointed because I wanted to finish out the year with my third grade class.

I heard no more about it, and I never made any kind of a request to be a principal. That spring I was asked to apply for a position in the Education Department at Pueblo Jr. College, but did not do so because I preferred the principalship which I was sure was coming.

During the summer we again moved the trailer to Greeley and went to school for the summer. I still had heard nothing about a principal job, but one day in early August I opened the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper and read that I had been appointed as a principal at the board meeting the night before. I had received Bessemer and Hinsdale schools as my assignment. Later the assignment was changed to Bessemer and Strack schools.

Prior to starting my new assignment in August (1953) John Dunlap, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel called me into his office in the old Administration Building at 102 East Orman and sang the praises of Bessemer Elementary School. He told me about his days as principal of Bessemer and Minnequa. Then he said, “Being an elementary principal is just like being the captain of a ship. You are the boss. You have almost complete control of your school. You are responsible for curriculum, for the care of the building, for your public relations, etc.”

At that time a principal received teachers according to the number of rooms in the building, not the number of students. Each building had one gym teacher, regardless of the number of students, unless it was a very small school. A very small school might have a half-time gym teacher, or none at all. We did not have a media center, music teacher, Title I, bilingual education, EH, or special education.

Mr. Dunlap had great respect for me as the Bishop and let me take care of church business, funerals, etc. without problem. As long as my secretary knew where I was, and as long as I kept care of the school I was free to take care of church responsibilities.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Coyote Hunting

One of the favorite pastimes of the Davis family men was coyote hunting, and this brief account makes it sound like a wild time!  
I wish we had some Davis family pictures of this sport.

Coyote in Colorado
photo from flickr

Early Thanksgiving morning the women would be in Grandma’s huge kitchen getting both breakfast and preparing the dinner. The men and boys would be eating and then going outside where they were getting ready to go coyote hunting.

Uncle Johnny, who lived on the ranch, would be getting the two greyhounds ready and most of the men were getting their guns ready. They would be talking about previous years’ hunting experiences and comparing guns and ammunition.
Some of the men, mostly the ones who lived on or close to the Davis Ranch or those who lived on or near the Harriman Ranch in Fowler, had “coyote cars or pickups.” They took great pride in having these tuned up to get a quick start and to be able to go over rough prairie lands. They preferred vehicles in which they could stand in the back and shoot over the cab while the vehicle was going full speed. The coyote cars also had to be able to turn very sharply and double back whenever the coyote felt they were getting too close to him.

1930 Ford pickup
photo from flickr

Can you imagine what it is like in the back of a pickup (with sideboards) when three or four men are all trying to remain standing, aiming their guns at the coyote when he decides to stop and go the other way? The driver jams on the brakes and cranks the steering wheel around to follow the coyote. Men have been known to be thrown out onto the prairie grass and cactus plants and then roll over and over trying to stop! Clark Harriman [Lou's cousin] rolled out once and they spent hours picking the cactus out of him! For some reason the wives are very much against their husbands taking the family car coyote hunting!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mama's High Heels

Lee lived in a little shack on the alley right next to the schoolyard with his mother and other younger children. He was in the first grade at Bessemer School.

When Lee would see me walking around the playground, he would often come and walk with me. One day as we were walking along, I looked down on his very short, kinky hair and saw a little moon shaped scar on his head. I looked a little closer and could see several other little moon shaped scars.

I tried to think what could have happened to cause him to have so many of these randomly placed little scars on his head. I finally could not stand not knowing, so I asked him. “Lee what are all of those little scars on your head?”

He replied, “That’s where my Mama hits me with her high heels when she is mad at me!”

photo by flickr

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Love of Jess' Retirement

Grandpa Jess Butler was a man of many interests and hobbies. He was a skilled gardener with beautiful flower and vegetable gardens.  He was dedicated to Church work - and bread baking!  But it was no secret that Jess loved to fish.  I think he and Mable spent more than one vacation with a fishing pole in hand.  I don't know if she enjoyed fishing as much as he did, but at least she went along and took some pictures. 

Trip to Idaho - 1957
  Proud to show his catch.
Jess Butler - Birdie and Frank Harriman

That's quite a catch!
Frank Harriman - Norman Davis - Jess Butler

 *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *  

When asked what he was going to do after retiring, Jess said, "I'm going to do lots of fishing."  And he did!

Jess' catch from Turkey Lake in Orlando, Florida
April 1967

Jess with his brother Joe
August 1970

 *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *  
Jess and Mable kept a trailer parked at San Isabel near Rye, Colorado where they enjoyed spending time - fishing!

He is one serious fisherman!

Fishing - the love of his retirement!

Friday, February 12, 2010

We've been had!

I know in this previous post I said I wasn't going to detail individual experiences Lou and Leona had on their day trips around Switzerland, but when I read the following journal entry I couldn't let it go unreported.  I guess every country has its own version of exaggerated marketing!

 photo from flickr

12 February 1990 - [Today] we went on an excursion with about 17 other temple missionaries.  We were supposed to go see a Stainless Steel factory and have a demonstration and a sales pitch in Strasbourg, France.  But - we had our dinner someplace in Switzerland, and they talked to us for a few minutes about the value of stainless steel cookware and then the man in charge started demonstrating and showing some blankets and pillows that looked like some kind of sheepskin, and it went on forever.  Then we had lunch and found out that our "free" dinner which came with our 17.50 franc fare for the trip consisted of some pasta with a few little pieces of pork in it; we had to pay 3.5 francs for our salad and 2.60 francs for a glass of apple juice!  I ordered a dessert, but I was full by the time it came time for dessert and I felt I had been "had" enough so I didn't take a dessert!

photo from flickr

Then he started in on selling some kind of liniment for rheumatism and then some garlic pills and another something for the arteries and called it snake oil, so we were sure we had been to an old fashioned medicine show - without the show!  However, the young salesman did put on quite a show of salesmanship.  I finally got disgusted, so I got up and walked out in the hall and on outside for a breath of fresh air - to top it off we were sitting with some Schweiss couple and the guy was smoking a big black cigar.  I just stayed out in the hall waiting for the "show" to finish!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Raclette - it sure was good!

A Sunday dinner with a Swiss born fellow missionary introduced Lou and Leona to traditional Swiss meal - Raclette.

Raclette table ready for the meal
photo from flickr

Leona described the meal this way: 
22 January 1990 - Yesterday we had “raclette” (however it is spelled). It’s more fun than fondue. There is a “pan” with a handle on it for each person. They fit in an electric appliance that is a little bigger than a waffle iron. The cheese is cut in thick slices that just fit in the “pan.” Then the pan is put in the oven (appliance) to melt the cheese. In the meantime, there is a bowl of small potatoes cooked with the peeling on. You take several potatoes – take the peeling off and pour the hot, melty cheese on them. There’s a little wooden paddle at each plate to push the cheese with. Wow, is it ever tasty! Lou started slicing his potatoes and leaving the peeling on. It was just as good, and a lot less trouble. There were also bacon, eggs and sliced tomatoes on the table. We cooked them right in our little pans, and they were so good. At first I thought the bacon wasn’t done, but it was, and tasted so delicious. We had this at the Cardon’s. She was born in Geneva, Switzerland. The Swiss are really smart to let everyone cook their own dinner on Sunday. I want one of those appliances before I leave
Raclette is the name of the cheese as well as the name of the meal
photo from flickr
According to Wikipedia, raclette is part of Swiss culture.  Traditionally, the Swiss cow herders used to take the cheese with them when they were moving cows to or from pastures up in the mountains. In the evenings around the campfire, they would place the cheese next to the fire and, when it had reached the perfect softness, scrape it on top of some bread.

Raclette grill
photo by flickr

 A modern way of serving raclette involves an electric table-top grill with small pans, known as coupelles, to heat slices of raclette cheese in. Generally the grill is surmounted by a hot plate or griddle. The cheese is brought to the table sliced, accompanied by platters of boiled or steamed potatoes, other vegetables, charcuterie, and perhaps seafood. Diners create their own small packages of food by cooking small amounts of meat, vegetables and seafood on the griddle. These are then mixed with potatoes and topped with cheese in the small, wedge-shaped coupelles that are placed under the grill to melt and brown the cheese.

Lou summed up their inaugural raclette experience like this:
I ate too much and I am sure that I shouldn't eat that kind of a meal very often . . . but is sure was good!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Missionary Friends

During the time Lou and Leona were in Switzerland, they did a lot of fun things with fellow missionaries.  They took some short trips, ate a lot of meals together, cut hair, and enjoyed the pleasant company of good people.  Because this blog is not a travel log, I won't detail the individual experiences, but will share this overview from Dad's journal.

Missionary Christmas Dinner
Leona & Lou on left at the end of the table
December - 1989

As we became acquainted with the other missionaries in the apartment house, we were again impressed with the effect of obedience to the two great commandments. There was such a spirit of kindness, love, and brotherhood among the missionaries that it was a joy to be with them. We ate with other missionaries or they ate with us in our apartment. We got to know each other pretty well this way. Because the Bottas only spoke Italian, and the Mettlers only spoke German, those who could speak English and German and Italian were often invited to be interpreters; so it paid to be able to speak other languages!

Whenever anyone was ill, there was always food, medicine and plenty of advice brought in. It is amazing how many people our age have ways to cure anything! In this climate, everyone was willing and anxious to help, no matter what the need. There were always offers to pick up something at the store and to help with chores around the apartment building.
 Flier announcing an outing

A couple of the missionaries were always planning things we could do on our preparation days if the weather was suitable, and then helping us with directions, money, tickets, interpretation, etc. Several couples would walk two blocks to the train station and go see many beautiful parts of Switzerland. $18 American money would buy a day pass, and we could get on and off at different villages or cities to see the sights, and then get back on the train and go on.

Sunday afternoon walk - March 1990
Leona - Jan and Max Berryessa - Garnet and George Standage

Some of the missionary couples had served several missions already. Several were in their late 70’s and a couple of the men were in the early 80’s. The Standages who finished their mission at the Swiss Temple in March 1990, are now serving in the Washington, DC Temple. Several of the couples we worked with had lost their companions and remarried. They were some of the neatest couples. They were so appreciative of each other, and so caring and courteous, that they made some of us take another look at our roles as husbands.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Round Robin

Family letters
written in the 1940's and 1950's

For many years the Davis family has enjoyed a tradition of a "Round Robin Letter."  It was started several generations ago - I'm still trying to find out exactly when - and allowed family members who had moved to a variety of places to stay in touch with each other. 

This is how it works:  The first person writes a letter and mails it to the next person on the list -the mailing list is included in the envelope.  That person reads the letter in the envelope, adds his/her own and sends both on to the third person on the list. That process continues with each person reading the letters, adding her own letter, and then mailing the whole packet on.  When the letter goes full circle and returns to the first person on the list, he/she will read all the other letters, pull out her old one, write a new one, and send it on.

In the last round of letters, Nyda Dell Marx - daughter of Florence Davis Calloway wrote: "Our family is still growing, and I think I can understand how Grandma Davis felt with all of her family and why she wanted to try to see them. It was much harder to get information [then], so how important the round robin was in her life. I am grateful for the teaching she gave us and the love she shared with each of us. How blessed we were to have such a great lady for a grandmother.  A great example to follow."

The Davis Round Robin contributors are all children or grandchildren of the original letter writers, and they often include memories of Grandpa and Grandma Davis.  This one came from Alice Bell Higgs, youngest daughter of Birdie Davis Harriman:  "After Grandpa passed away and Grandma moved to the house on Main Street & we lived in town too, Virgil was driving a truck so I’d put Virginia in an old wicker buggy (we never heard of strollers) & we’d go downtown & take Grandma to the picture show. (Show was $.50 and popcorn was $.10) One big problem [was that] she wanted to talk about the picture. It’s a wonder we didn’t get kicked out, but we didn’t. We went to a show every week-end. She really enjoyed it. She didn’t go very much in Haswell. She was too busy with her big family – Sure did miss her. She was a very special lady." 

In our era of email, cell phones with unlimited minutes, blogs, and inexpensive long distance this method of communication is definitely a tool of generations gone by.  However, after all these years, the Davis Round Robin is still flying today, covering a route from Washington to Florida and stopping along the way in Oregon, Missouri, Colorado and Nevada.

Grandpa and Grandma Davis had a life that was different in so many ways from what we experience currently, and I find it interesting to read about the events of their time and place.  However, it seems that the family values they embraced and taught their children and grandchildren are those that we still hope for and work toward - great love and appreciation for each other.  As I read some of the letters in December, I was impressed with the family love and concern for each other that has continued through the generations.

In March 1998 Lou wrote in the Round Robin:  "The longer I receive and write in the Round Robin, the closer I feel to you all.  It is good to be able to think about the family with all of its tradition and good times each time the Robin flies in.  Without it I would probably grow farther from the family and my roots."

Let's keep in touch