Laurn Earl Ashliman Autobiography
Colaborador: weavta Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Laurn Earl Ashliman
Note: This history was written by Laurn in 1991. A daughter, Sue, has retyped it and added an ending. The life summary at the end has been copied as Elgarda typed it.
I was born on Monday, May 22, 1905 at North Logan, Utah. My parents are John Ashliman who was born in Bern, Switzerland, and Eleanor H. Gubler who was born in Woodgren, England. John Ashliman joined the Mormon church in Switzerland when he was nearly sixteen years old, and then he immigrated to Santa Clara, Utah. Eleanor was born into the church, and immigrated with her mother to Utah when she was seven years old. She met John Ashliman when she was fourteen years old and he was twenty-four. They were married a year later on April 25, 1894 in the St. George temple. I was their fifth child. I was always called by my middle name Earl until about 1930. Then I went by my first name Laurn because I was working with another Earl.
I can remember Halley’s Comet that appeared in 1910. I can remember the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 where 2,200 lives were lost.
During my early childhood my family lived on a forty-six acre farm in North Logan, Utah. Father was a farmer, teamster, trapper, and carpenter. Times were hard and money was scarce so we children had to do our share of the work. I hoed garden, cleaned ditches, stacked straw, thinned beets, picked berries and herded cows. When I was just a little kid I would herd cows for twenty cents a head for a week. I rounded up about twenty milk cows from the neighbors and took them to the nearby foothills to graze for the day. In the evening I brought them home, usually riding on the hips of my favorite cow.
We had a sizeable berry patch. When we finished picking berries Dad took them to town in his buggy. Sometimes I went with him, and sometimes he took my older brother Clarence. We would have a contest to see who could see the most motor cars in the city of Logan. Once in awhile we counted up to four or five cars!!
When I was seven I started school in a one room building that was about three quarters of a mile from home. I walked both ways fall, winter, and spring. The school had a pot belly stove in the middle of the room. No running water in the building. No “facilities.” The latrine was outside and one went only when one really had to go.
When I was about ten years old Dad built a new house on the “upper 46.” I helped Dad and my brothers clear sage brush off from the land. After we grubbed the sage brush up we burned it with hand made torches. The torches were made with a long piece of ½ inch pipe. A cork was put in one end, then it was filled with kerosene. A wick was plugged in the other end. The house was built during the cold weather. My older brother Clarence and I had to go and sleep nights in the unfinished house, which was freshly plastered, and keep a fire going so that the plaster would not freeze. We had to go outside periodically during the night to bring in more wood. We could hear the howling of wolves and coyotes nearby.
I can remember World War I very well. That was in 1918. There was a terrible flu epidemic at the time. This is very vivid in my memory because some of our family, including my mother, were so very ill. Many people died with the flu. My older brother Raymond who was just twenty years old was one of them. A private funeral was held outside our window.
When I was in the seventh grade I had to miss school awhile in the fall and again in the spring and work and earn some money to help support myself. Because I had missed so much school, my teacher suggested that I repeat grade seven.
When I was in the eighth grade I got a job making the fire in the school house every morning. I got up very early every morning and rode our horse down to the school house to get the fire going. Then I rode back home, did my chores, had breakfast, then walked back to school. Dad needed the horse on the farm.
When I was about fifteen years old I started taking violin lessons. Dad traded berries for my lessons. I helped Dad and Mother pick out my instrument. I wanted this very much, and I made a commitment to practice and to learn.
I graduated from the eighth grade on May 11, 1921. That summer I drove a team and wagon to Arbon Valley to work on a farm. In the fall I went back home and entered high school in North Cache High School in Richmond, Utah. I had to walk about two miles down to the main road where I caught the Interurban train that traveled between towns. My last three years of high school were at Brigham Young College in Logan. While there I studied violin with Professor Ottie, a German born musician who could play any instrument. I was in the orchestra and we played many operas and the Messiah. I graduated from Brigham Young College (equivalent to high school) in 1925.
During the summers when I was going to high school I worked on a farm in Corinne, Utah. That first summer my friend Revere Palmer and I started to hitchhike from Logan to Corinne. We thought we would get more rides if we went by way of Cache Junction. We only got two short rides, and we had to walk the nearly thirty miles to get there. We arrived at Corinne about midnight. We were tired and it was still three more miles out to the farm. We stopped at an old, old hotel that really hadn’t been used as such for years and years. The owner of the hotel answered our knocks and let us use one of the old cobwebbed rooms upstairs. Before daylight we got up and left. We didn’t have any money to pay the bill, and we hope that the lady has forgiven us. (This is the only time in my life that I haven’t paid what I owe!)
We walked on out to the farm and we got there just as the owner was out hitching up the horses for the day’s work. He asked, “Have you had your breakfast yet?” “No!” was our
reply, “Nor dinner or supper yesterday either!” We were then well fed and started our day’s work. Our pay was fifty dollars a month, and room and board. A typical day’s work was get up early, do the chores, then go in and eat breakfast, then back out and harness up the horses, cut hay, or haul hay, run a Jackson fork to stack the hay. Then we would go back out after dark to do the chores. At the end of the day our boss would say, “Well we didn’t do much
today, but we’ll sure give it hell tomorrow.”
I had an exciting experience one day while mowing hay. I was working with a team of horses that had been rodeo bucking broncos. They had been trained to buck whenever they were gigged a little. The ham strap happened to break on one of the horses that caused the harness to slip back a bit, and it started to gig! This got the horse excited and she started to buck and try to turn around in circles. She finally broke loose and raced off down the field--with me in pursuit.
During the winter months while I was going to high school, I played for dances whenever, and wherever I could. My friend Revere accompanied me on the piano. One night we went over to Avon, about twenty miles from Logan, and no piano in the dance hall--just an old pump organ. Imagine Revere playing jazzy dance tunes on a pump organ!
After I graduated from high school in 1925, I borrowed eighty-five dollars from our neighbor so that I could go to Pocatello, Idaho to attend summer school at the Idaho Technical Institute. I went to school for twelve weeks and earned a Provisional Teaching Certificate. Although I had excellent recommendations, I was unable to find a teaching position, no jobs available. Hard Times!! So I went to work for Troy Laundry in Pocatello so that I could start to pay off my loan and be self sustaining. After awhile I found a better job as manager of a confectionary store.
The time came to move on. On October 11, 1926, I left Pocatello and went to Oakland, California where my brother Clarence had work. I worked for a short time erecting steel lockers, then got a better job selling shoes for Regal Shoe Company at 9th and Market Street in San Francisco and in Oakland. This was just temporary employment, so I kept looking. I saw an ad in the paper advertising for a man to work at Bancroft Book Store in Berkeley. I went for an interview and went to work the next day. In a year or so the store moved into a new store and I was made manager of the Engineering, Stationery and Art supplies department.
Highlights of my life now were swimming in the ocean, going to football games, sometimes as far away as Los Angeles. Gasoline was only ten cents a gallon and I had a job!! I played in the Oakland Symphony Orchestra. I was earning money and I wanted a new car.
The first car I ever had was an old used Model T Ford that I bought in 1926. I junked it before I went to California. I bought my first brand new car in 1928. It was a Durant. Then I bought a new 1930 blue Chevrolet coupe with a rumble seat. She was my pride and joy--my Blue Betty. I owned her until 1940.
The big depression came in 1929. Times got tough and tougher, and I was soon without a job. I took temporary work with the Smith Stationery in Oakland which lasted until Christmas of 1931. On February 8, 1932 I left California and went to Idaho looking for work. In March of 1932 I arrived in Idaho Falls and went to work with my brother Eldon
who had an auto wrecking business. I worked for him and lived with his family until Eldon died on July 19, 1933. Then I moved over to live with my brother J. R. (John Ralph) on Placer Avenue. J. R. and Lena added me to their family of seven children. J. R. was a building contractor, and he used me as much as he could. Building was at a standstill, and work was scarce. I kept looking for something better.
In October of 1934 I found work with Modern Shoe Company as a shoe salesman. As soon as I had a steady income I moved to a light housekeeping room on North Water Avenue. I still had my violin and liked to play. I played in the Idaho Falls symphony orchestra and also in a violin quartet. This quartet became very well known and played at many functions. To brush up and learn better techniques I started to take lessons from a professional violinist who had played in operas in France--Ferdinand Pascal.
One day in June1936 I met Elgarda Zobell while I was working in the Modern Shoe store, and she was working in a dress shop down the street. We met several times when she was taking a bank deposit down the street and I was out sweeping the sidewalk. One day I said, “If you come in and buy a pair of shoes from me, I will make a date with you.” She did, and I did. We were married on October 20, 1936 in the Logan Temple. We set up housekeeping in upstairs rooms at 218 First Street. Our rent was ten dollars a month. We had two rooms, and shared a bath with another apartment. Our heat and cooking facility was little coal stove. We had access to a garden spot. I was making eighteen dollars a week, and Elgarda was making twelve dollars. We bought what was necessary and saved up a little money. (We loaned our first one hundred dollars to some friends so that they could start to build a basement house!)
On January 1, 1938, our first baby, Dee L. was born. I had never driven my 1930 Chevrolet, Blue Betty, so careful as I did the day I brought my son home from the hospital. Ten days in the hospital had cost fifty dollars, and the doctor had charged fifty dollars, and we paid cash for this million dollar prize.
On the first of July, 1938, I was transferred to Rexburg to open a shoe store. We had a pickup truck full of shoes and enough shelving to put a twenty foot section on one side of the Classic Shoppe. Business flourished and in one year I moved to a larger store across the street to 54 East Main. Ray Nahra, my boss in Idaho Falls, had promised to sell me the Rexburg shoe business as soon as I could raise money to make a deal. In 1943 I bought the business and named it Ashliman Shoes.
Every year my sales increased until the Teton Dam Flood on June 5, 1976 ravaged through the town--destroying everything. This was a sad day in our lives because we thought we had lost our life’s work. The Bureau of Reclamation, who was responsible for the defective dam, paid for our lost inventory and repaired my building. I leased the building to Hudson Shoes, a firm from Idaho Falls, and they resumed business that fall. At that point I retired from working; I was seventy-one years old. I wouldn’t have retired then if I hadn’t got flooded out!!
Fishing was always a great hobby of mine, and when I first came to Rexburg I started to tie my own flies. I soon had fly tying down to perfection. I shared them with my fishing buddies, and by popular demand started to sell them in my store.
When we first moved to Rexburg, we rented a nice basement apartment at 156 East Second South. Rent was twenty-five dollars a month. In the spring of 1941 we bought a little house at 155 South 2nd West. It cost $1200. It was on a half acre of land and had nice raspberry patch. Plenty of room for a garden , and a place for chickens. For several years I raised chickens for eggs, for meat, and for hackles to make fishing flies. One year I even raised a few turkeys. I even learned how to caponize a few of my cockerels.
In the fall of 1948 we made plans for a new home. We had outgrown the little white house now that we had three children. Sue was born on August 18, 1940 in the basement apartment, and Jeanie came on August 18, 1942 while we were living in the little house. (Dr. M. F. Rigby charged $35 each for delivering our girls.)
My brother J. R. and his son Ern built our new home for time and material. I helped when I could. Dee also put in a few licks! Out beautiful new home at 26 North 3rd West was completed in March 1949. We moved in on March 20, 1949, just in time for Lorna to join our family on my birthday, May 22, 1949. This was a beautiful home. I landscaped the yard and kept it tidy. We had a big garden, lots of flowers and no weeds. This was where our children grew up, dated, got married and moved on. This was HOME for nearly twenty-five years.
In 1973 there was talk of a new highway going through town and probably going right through our living room on 3rd West. We made plans to sell it and build a new one up on the hill. Harry Barker, my nephew, built a new house for us at 266 Apache. We moved in March of 1974. On the first day of June, 1976, we sold this house--just because.
El and I moved to a temporary place on Center Street, storing all of our furniture and most of our personal things in our shoe store basement. Then on June 5, 1976, the Big Flood came. The Teton Dam broke on that Saturday morning, flooding Rexburg and vicinity, taking out many homes. Our old home at 26 North 3rd West was destroyed. Of course our shoe store and all the contents were totally destroyed. Our shoe inventory, our furniture, our personal belongings--everything gone. No wonder it was a sad day!!
Harry Barker had started to build a new house for us at 20 Mill Hollow Drive. He and his crew postponed the building a week or so, and they cleaned out muddy shoes, water soaked furniture, stuff and more stuff and hauled it to the dump. Dee came from Pittsburgh to help; Sue and Dean came from Idaho Falls; support from Jeanie in Boise and Lorna in Moscow helped us to survive.
El and I lived in our temporary quarters until the new house on Mill Hollow could be used. We moved in and “camped” when the house was just barely plastered and had a bathtub and toilet installed. Strong people can do nearly impossible things. The house was completed that fall, and early the next spring I started to landscape. I made an unbelievable garden down at the bottom of the hill. My neighbors accuse me of going over the place with tweezers to get every little weed.
I was in the shoe business in Rexburg for forty-two years. (Note from Elgarda: “Laurn was known as an expert shoe fitter and an honest business man. His customers regret the day when he had to retire.”)
I had two avocations: Tying flies and freelance photography. My hobbies include: photography (I have a dark room where I can do my own black and whites), fishing, fly tying, rod making, hunting, gardening, classical music, and bird watching.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Dad had always had the energy and looks of a much younger man. However, in his later years he did have a few health problems and started slowing down. He still looked forward to his and Mom’s annual stay in Hawaii. Dad always said he felt better when he was in Hawaii. They went for their last time in March of 1994 when Dad was almost 89 years old. He enjoyed putting photo books together and looking at them to relive his trips. He loved sharing these pictures and experiences with family members.
As Dad approached his 90th birthday, we family members kept saying we wanted to have 90th birthday party for him. He would answer, “Don’t go making too many plans,” or something to the effect that he wouldn’t attend any party. We respected his wishes.
Mom wanted to attend Karl and Ellen’s wedding in Philadelphia on April 29, 1995. Dad was really not well enough to go, but he insisted that Mom go with us girls. He stayed home alone. Dean went to Rexburg to visit him on Saturday night, and they watched the Lawrence Welk Show on television together. Mom returned home on May 1.
On Friday, May 5, Dad’s doctor thought Dad should go to the hospital for a few days. He had a persistent swelling in his feet that was not responding to treatment. Soon after midnight the doctor called my mother with the startling news that Dad had suffered a mini-stroke and had not long to live. The family who lived nearby rushed to his bedside and he passed away peacefully Saturday, May 6, 1995 at 7:30 in the morning, just two weeks before his 90th birthday. He accomplished many things in his life and passed on great values of integrity and hard work to his family.