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Morgan County native recalls a century of history

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Most of us have read or heard stories of all sorts about Morgan in the early 1900s, but not many people are still alive today who actually lived it.

Beth Francis Rounds White was born in Morgan to Walter E. Francis and Maggie Taggart Francis 100 years ago. Even the house she grew up in shows the tenacity of the family. “The Francis house” on State Street, which was later sold to Homer Rich, is still standing today.

“Morgan was always a beautiful little town. It was wonderful place to grow up,” remembers Beth fondly. “I love to see all the growth in Morgan.  It means more people get to enjoy all this beauty.”

Beth came from a large family. She had five brothers, Jack, Jess, Sam, Ken and George and one sister, Ruth. “They all were wonderful,” she recalled. “My little brother George passed away when he was 12 and it was the biggest, saddest thing in our lives. He had a bowel obstruction and they didn’t have penicillin yet.”

Her sister Ruth joined a girls orchestra. “She played the trumpet beautifully. In those days they had concerts in the movie theaters once in a while and she performed there. My brothers were wonderful.  Of course they told me who I could and couldn’t go out with.”

The local opera house (currently Larry’s Spring Chicken Inn) had movies and plays. “Mother would take me to movies and plays there. Once, when one of my brothers was on stage, somebody came up behind him and was going to hurt him.  It was so real to me I called out and said, ‘Oh Jess, look out! He’s right behind you!’”

Beth remembered vividly the beautiful dance hall upstairs. “I was too young to go, but Mother used to take me and let me watch the others. I remember having a pretty dress and Mary Jane slippers that I would wear to the dances they would hold occasionally for the younger kids. My cousin Gilbert had a little grocery store next door. We could take a couple eggs in and trade them for some candy.”

Back in the days of the horse and buggy, Beth recalled the memory of the family’s first car. “Uncle Jess brought it home from somewhere he was working and it was a little black coupe. Before that,Grandpa had a two-seater Model T with a collapsible top. I learned to drive in that car,” recalled Beth with a smile.

At 18 years old, Beth earned her driver’s license. “It was called a granddaddy license. When they outlawed those and made me give it up, I was brokenhearted,” recalled Beth. Beth’s daughter, Ruth Brunker, added that she remembers when it was cold before there was heat in the cars, they would heat bricks and wrap them up in towels to put in the car by their feet.

Beth grew up on the farm her father owned. “When it was thrashing time, Mother had to make dinner for the thrashers. She would set up a big table outside and a big tub of water so that all these hard working men could come in and wash before they had their dinner. We had a granary out back and in the granary there were several different sections: one for wheat, one for barley and one for something else. We children would be in the granary playing when they would bring the grain in, and they would pour it over us. We had so much fun that way,” she mused.

“Como Springs was our amusement,” Beth remembered.  We danced there almost every weekend.  It was wonderful. We all learned how to swim there. There were no tennis courts or golf courses like there were elsewhere, but we all knew how to swim,” she said gratefully.

She also spoke of the healing powers of the springs. “The springs were highly mineral. When I was little I suffered from eczema. My mother would send my brothers to bring home buckets of water from Como for me to be bathed in and it helped me very much.”

When the ditches would freeze over, the youth used them for ice skating.  When they stopped having dances at Como Springs, they roller skated. “It just killed us when they made a roller skating rink out of that beautiful dance hall, but we had a lot of fun there.”

Beth considered the Great Depression years saying, “I don’t remember ever suffering from it because my father was such a good provider. No matter how bad things were, we had a farm and a garden and we always had enough.” She continued saying, “I remember being so proud, and I am still proud now, that my parents always owned their home. I never remember them paying rent or paying a mortgage. It seemed everyone in the country at the time owned their own homes.”

Passing this wise philosophy on to future generations, she emphatically stated, “I have preached that all my life. I have been married twice and told both husbands that I was never happy until my home was paid for.”

Speaking of her time in school, Beth said she always had great teachers in Morgan.

Beth was vice president of the studentbody at Morgan High School. “I had a nice voice and I loved to sing. I took the lead in all the operettas in the high school. There was a young boy named Reynolds Blackington who was always the male voice. My cousin Vera Taggart often had the lead and we sang as a duet sometimes. I loved music.”

But she acknowledged that the plays were something different. “There were other people who were more dramatic who got the leads in the plays, like my friend Chloe Robinson.  She was a real actress.”

“I loved drama, but I wasn’t great at acting. So I joined the debate team. Chloe debated with me and because she was such a dramatic person, we won many prizes. I guess that’s why I still like to argue,” joked Beth. “We had a great speech teacher named Bernie Farnsworth in Morgan,” said Beth.

During her Morgan High School years, the 4-H club had a contest where you had to demonstrate how to do something, and she and Chloe showed everyone how to properly make a sandwich. “We won a trip to the World’s Fair in Portland, Oregon. I can’t remember if an adult accompanied us or if we went alone. I don’t even remember if we won a prize, but it was quite something for two young girls to get to travel to Oregon,” remembered Beth. According to a newspaper article, the two won a third place prize.

“I remember myself, Vera Taggart, Leon Rich and Lavern Chadwick skipped school and walked to Devil’s Slide. We walked the railroad tracks. When we got there, we realized we had no way home.  But my dad came to get us. My father was the best natured father in the whole world. He was good to us young kids. But our principal punished us,” Beth recalled warmly.

According to Beth, her graduating class only had 30 people and just about everyone was a member of the band.

She wanted to go to school after she graduated, but her mother wanted Beth to stay home. “But I was determined and I attended Weber College,” said Beth.

She attended Weber College on a debate scholarship. “Weber had a famous professor named Leland Monson who taught us, and we won many prizes there as well.  I never regretted that. It was a great school. I was elected vice president of the studentbody going into my second year, but I didn’t feel like I was learning enough real life skills. So I decided to join my sister in Oakland, California, and attend a Merritt Business school there, from which I graduated.”

The last few weeks in business school, Beth was assigned to a job downtown to get on-the-job experience. “When I left I had a letter of recommendation to come home with, so I didn’t have any trouble finding a job,” commented Beth. “My first job was with the Forest Service. It was a government job during the years of WPA (Works Progress Administration). Our wonderful president Roosevelt used that to make work for thousands of boys who were out of work. They built roads and things like that. That’s what the politicians now keep talking about doing, but they don’t really,” commented Beth.

Her job was under a WPA contract. “I made exactly $54 every two weeks, which was considered good pay in those days.” Eventually the contract ran out of money. “I went to banks, but I wanted a secretarial job. Secretaries only made about $75 a month. I worked for Amalgamated Sugar Company, and I worked there until I got married.”

Beth married Frank Rounds II in April 1940. She said, “Believe it or not, there were years where no one would employ a married woman.” Thus ended her career as a secretary, but began her most treasured job as a mother. Beth had two girls, Beckey and Ruth.  Beckey died in 1964. She was made a widow at a very young age but remarried Dallas J. White in November 1954 and was married for 43 years before becoming a widow for the second time.

While Beth made her home in Ogden, she came back up every Sunday to visit her parents and her aunt, Karma Francis. “I have always been proud that I came from Morgan.”

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