Part I of II
Yvonne Jean Grant Krebs, retired school teacher and long time Alamo resident, was born in 1931 at Payette, Idaho. She is the oldest of five daughters of Melvin and Erma Grant. Her earliest years were spent in nearby Dietrich on property owned by her uncle Gene (Eugene Nelson). She remembers summers living in a tent, and winters living in a house that had cracks in the walls one could see daylight through.
She said one of her earliest memories (probably age three) was a traumatic encounter at her uncle Gene’s: “He was taking little puppies, laying them on his chopping block, and cutting off their tails! That picture has stayed with me.”
At the time, Dietrich had only a one-room schoolhouse, and Yvonne’s mother insisted her kids would attend a “real school.” Consequently, when Yvonne was about four years old, they moved back to Payette, where her dad had bought his father-in-law’s 62 acres. “It was some five miles from town, and mostly orchards, all gone now of course,” she said, adding, “my dad was a born farmer with a knack for raising crops and caring for livestock.”
“We always had dogs and cats around the house,” Yvonne continued. “I guess my favorite pet was a little dog named ‘Buster’–just a mongrel, but a pretty good friend. Many of our cows and horses were almost pets, as well. I especially remember our two beautiful reddish-brown work horses, ‘Cap’ and ‘Dick,’” she said. “Then there was a white work horse we named ‘Bill’ that we could let loose and he would go to the edge of our property and no further.”
Yvonne said she and her sisters helped with everything around the farm. She milked cows morning and night, and her dad paid her and her sisters a penny for each row of corn they hoed. “We even thinned beets, which was exhausting,” she added. She said her mom helped with everything too; drove truck, kept a garden and the house as well, did extensive bottling in the fall, and filled their dirt cellar with fruits and vegetables.
Yvonne grew up in a religious home. “We always attended church” she said, “and the members expected us every Sunday–to be late! I remember one Sunday during World War II, I brought a “V-letter” from my uncle with me, and shared it with girlfriends in Sunday School. The teacher made me stand and read it to the whole class.” She said she well remembers decorating and participating in many church dances, also kneeling for family prayer around their breakfast and dinner tables.
She also remembers the war rationing of gas, sugar, shoes, tires, and participating in salvage drives for iron and other materials. “I wasn’t able to attend church Primary classes during the week,” she added, “because my father said we couldn’t afford the gas. “Money was tight. I remember, the times we did get to town, begging my dad for a penny to buy a piece of candy.” She said her dad was one who believed a person shouldn’t have anything they hadn’t earned themselves; “A good rule,” she said, “but looking back, I think he may have been a little extreme in this.” She said she rode her bike to town on several occasions.
Yvonne remembers having many friends growing up, all welcomed by her parents. “Living in farm country,” she said,” meant our homes were a good distance apart, but we kids managed to get together quite often.
Yvonne remembered one neighbor that built a dance floor and had fairly large numbers of patrons come for dances; but they were charged admittance. “We thought that was kind-of unfair, so one Halloween we went over and soaped their windows. That’s probably the most mischief I’ve ever gotten into.”
“For fun we always had a horse to ride,” she said, “and we used to climb up ‘beacon hill,’ which was a hill that, for as long as we could remember, had a working beacon on the summit. There was a sandy slope we would slide down on big pieces of cardboard.” She also remembers swimming in a nearby canal, “though,” she added,” we had to watch for the occasional dead chicken or such floating by. Some neighbors had made a sort of oasis out of this spot with places to change, to sit and eat, etc.”
“One year,” she said, “we were Christmas caroling all around, and stopped to sing at a Japanese lady’s home. Suddenly she came out crying big tears and gave us a basket filled with oranges and bananas (rare and expensive in those days). This was during World War II, and apparently some of the adult neighbors had given her and her household a hard time. As it turned out, it was the kids of the neighborhood that had unwittingly extended a hand of friendship that meant so much!”
Yvonne said she was about age 16 when she went on her first date with a young man about two years older. “I don’t really remember what the occasion was, but I’m sure it wasn’t a school dance. I was too backward to be popular in school; besides, my dad couldn’t afford the gas driving us to town for such things. I was a junior before I saw my first ballgame!”
But she didn’t live in total isolation. Yvonne remembers being a “bobbysoxer,” wearing the extremely full skirts with the “poodle-and-chain” sew-ons, complete with black-and-white “saddle shoes.” “I enjoyed reading ‘The Bobbsey Twins,’ and ‘The Hardy Boys,’ and we did get to a movie once in awhile. “I remember being embarrassed once watching ‘The Oxbow Incident’ because I was sitting by a boy I kind-of liked, and was crying way too much.”
As far as jobs go, Yvonne remembers one of her first was at JC Penney’s, but can’t remember the wage. “It wasn’t much by today’s standards, for sure, probably fifty cents an hour, or something like that.” She remembers being the first “car-hop” in Payette. “It was at the “Snack Shack,” she recalled. “One night I astounded my boss when I told him I had earned five dollars in tips! Then there was the night I was carrying a tray loaded with milk shakes to a car full of boys from Onterio, a nearby town. I tripped and spilt the whole thing into their car! I was mortified, and the boys, feeling sorry for me, gave me a five dollar tip to compensate.”
Yvonne graduated from high school in 1949, then worked for a while before joining the Navy. “I was in my twenties,” she said, “and one day out of the blue, my mother said, ‘If I were young and single like you, I’d sure join the service.’ I told her ‘no way’ because I was rather quiet and bashful; but then I heard of a couple of LDS girls who were joining the Navy. So I thought I could join and be with some people I know; but one of the girls backed out, and the other went a week before me, so I ended up going alone anyway.” When it came down to it, her mother “had a holy fit” and was all kinds of anxious, asking questions and making sure she was alright (Korean War period). “But it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done,” said Yvonne. “I went on my first train trip, first plane trip, made new friends, saw new places and generally had a great time.” She served four years, the first in training, the second and third in Hawaii, and the fourth in Washington DC, all as a Communications Technician.
“The toughest part of active duty,” she said, “was probably basic training; but without realizing it, I suppose I made life tougher for my fellow trainees. I was a little older and ended up being put in charge of the other girls, and I wanted to do it right and by the book. It was only later in our tech school in San Diego, that I realized how tough I must have been, because one of the girls I had been in charge of commented on how amazing it was to see that I was a normal likeable person!”
“My fondest memories of the Navy have to do with the camaraderie we had,” Yvonne said. “We were young men and women with a common interest in serving our country; and we worked and played together. Hawaii was the choicest of experiences. I loved the people, the climate, the scenery, the culture. It literally made me ill to realize it was time to leave!”
“In Washington DC,” she continued, “we lived on a hill just above the Pentagon. There was stifling heat and humidity, and no air conditioning. We followed the lead of the locals and went down to the park in the evening to cool off as best we could. We even slept there on the grass some nights.”
•• Part II of this story will be in next week’s issue. Read about Yvonne adopting her daughter, how they ended up in Lincoln County and the many events that followed.
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