The West is dead, my friend, But writers hold the seed And what they sow Will live and grow Again for those who read.
Charles M. Russell, 1917
Lorna and her cowboy buddies, 1940s
What activities filled your childhood?
Agnes Whittaker, a resourceful mother during the 1930s, sewed all the family's clothing and dressed her daughter, Lorna, in Gene Autry chaps, gauntlets, hats and vests like the old western movies.
"On Saturday afternoons, the neighbor kids went to the matinee movie to see Roy Rogers and Gene Autry at the Strand Theatre," Lorna fondly recalled.
"We'd pay nine cents for the movie and ten cents for popcorn. We'd come home, put on our cowboy hats, pull bandanas over our noses and play all week."
How did this soldier survive a POW camp?
Darrel Comstock shared his harrowing experience as a Prisoner of War during the Korean War:
"... In December 1950, twenty medics went to Pusan Harbor in South Korea. I was 22 years old and assigned to a Marine Corps medical battalion. As a medic, I carried medical supplies but no weapons and I wore a red cross on my helmet.
"On March 20, 1951, I got word of some Marines who were holed up in a bomb crater... I still have nightmares about this," Comstock said, sighing heavily. "There were three wounded Marines. I sent one soldier to get stretchers. He never came back. Another died during the night.
"There was a gray fog in the morning. At first light, we heard some talking and clicking. Undoing the safety of their rifles, a dozen Chinese were peering down the pit at us.
"We were immediately separated, tied up with a stick through our elbows behind our backs. Everything except for our clothing was taken from us, including our dog tags. We were deprived of our identity. We were marched every night for many nights, prodded by bayonets, in absolute silence.
"We were moved to four different camps, always marching toward North Korea. Sometimes we were moved in an ox cart. They pushed us into a ditch and we were there all day, frightened, disoriented and abandoned.
"When we finally got to a permanent camp two weeks after my capture, there were at least 2,000 of us in a metal warehouse. It had a tin roof with holes in the siding and no windows. People slept in dirt, cold and huddled together.
"Sanitation was terrible; food was worse. Rats were a delicacy. It was all part of the demoralizing process," he explained. "They did everything they could to take away our identity, our faith in God, to disorient us and make us feel like the victim.
"The 'box' was worst of all. It was about the size of a coffin with baffles at the end. In the box, we couldn't tell day from night. We were forced to move the box into a field and be there all day, moved upside down and backwards to disorient us.
"Everyone took their turn in the box. All around were barbed wire fences and prison guards dragging soldiers out to the box. The guards enjoyed kicking and sticking. They had to be psychotic to be prisoner of war guards," he grumbled. "I tried to think of anything else and not panic..."
While on his way overseas, Comstock had become friends with a farm boy who got a letter from home with about a teaspoon of wheat seed in it. "We shared our letters and I put a pinch of wheat seed in my pocket. I had read that wheat had been found in Egyptian tombs and it was still viable thousands of years later.
"That wheat went into the seams of my trousers. When I was in the box, there was nothing in my pockets, but I could feel three kernals of wheat. I knew they were alive and viable. They didn't care if they were separated," he recalled with moist eyes. "If those wheat could make it -- if they could survive the quiet and the dark -- so could I!"
Gilda in her prom dress
What stands out about your Junior Prom?
Gilda Sims, a rancher from Almy, Wyoming, smiled at this memory from the depression days of 1934:
"...For the Junior Prom, I didn't have much money, but I bought a pink taffeta dress with ruffles from the knees down to the floor. I was thrilled!
"All the girls came to the Junior Prom dressed beautifully," Gilda recalled with pleasure. "Some had dates, but I was too shy. We called our dresses formals.
"That year for some reason, our dance was held in the new Rich County Fair Building. We cleaned and decorated it, but there was no place to dance -- except in the aisles between the stalls!"
In this 1927 photograph, C.J. Pearce stands at his mother's knees.
What was it like to grow up in the Depression?
Carl Jones Pearce of Syracuse, Utah spoke of his childhood on a farm during the Depression, fighting to stay alive:
"...In those days, the children died from the youngest up from diseases like whooping cough and malaria. Two of my little brothers died before I was six, so as a little boy, I thought I might die next," Carl confided. "I had it in my heart that I was going to make it. I built myself up to survive. Otherwise, I wouldn't have made it.
"Trying to survive those conditions was almost impossible. It was during the Depression. We three boys sort of raised ourselves since Dad was away a lot trying to find work and our mother was gone with a nervous breakdown. I remember being hungry and eating moldy bread. It had penicillin-looking mold on it. Maybe it kept us alive when we got sick with sore throats.
"We were fighting to survive," he emphasized. "It was more than just not having money, no clothes or shoes to keep us warm. Emotionally, we looked ahead and tried to survive all the bad things that happened. My father's brother, Uncle Everett, lived nearby and Aunt Mary took us under her wing.
"When you are raised without a mother, it's tough. People didn't understand. It was something we didn't talk about much. People would sort of ban us. They didn't want to accept us at all.
"I would get into fights like you wouldn't believe. We were different because we had disadvantages and they'd say things I didn't like. I was a little guy in stature, but I'd fight anybody within sight or hearing because they wouldn't accept us. I'd fight for respect. We wanted them to be fair. We just had to do the best we could..."
In loving memory of
Elsa L. Bluhm (1898-2002)
whose 104 years of life brought joy to all who knew her