Winter had not quite arrived. In fact, there was still a trace of Indian Summer in the air, and fallen leaves rustled noisily as treading feet shuffled through them. I like this time of year, and although I didn’t know it then, I’m glad I was born, October 27, 1905. I’ve searched the family records and tried in vain to get the folks concerned to tax their memories, I do not know who, if anybody, helped me into this “world of tears”. I was no doubt received with great joy, being another little girl and was probably meant to fill the vacancy--but no, I have not done that--the place is still unoccupied in the lives of those who knew her short existence, for the sweet first-born girl that had been taken back to her Heavenly Father. My mother never quite got over losing sweet Eva Irene in February 1904.
I was given a name that was a combination of family names and one of Scandinavian origin. Mother tells me that grandmother named me Thora only she couldn’t pronounce the name and she called me “Tora”, also Thora rhymed with “Dora”, being the name of one of my father’s younger sisters, whom everyone felt that I resembled. I was named and blessed in the old Burton Meeting-house (always so termed). When I was about 7½ years old, I went to my mother and asked her where she got my name and why everyone else in the family had two names and I only had one name, which I didn’t like, Thora or Tora. She then asked me what name I would like. After thinking for a moment I said, “Grandma, she had the name of Eva, you have Eva, so that’s what I want”. Before I was baptized, the church records were changed to read Eva Thora Porter.
For the most part, my foreparents are of English descent. My Father’s folks, however, were originally French, our real name being De Lagrande instead of Porter. On my Mother’s side, her mother’s folks were from Denmark, and her father’s from French-Canada.
I had a big brother (Aaron Osmer) there, just two years old almost to the day. Therefore I was the third in the family. Another little boy, Sarel Orien, soon followed me and as we have always resembled each other, in looks at least, I have liked to term him “my twin”. So the three of us tots spent our first few years on the Burton farm, most of which time was spent with various childhood ailments; chicken pox, measles, whooping cough, etc. In 1909 father and mother decided they wanted to establish a home in Rexburg, as the Nichols family had done. Father proceeded to build a frame home. As weather permitted, he spent every available hour working on the building. A small house near the railroad tracks was rented in which the family lived for a year or so until they were able to get into their new home. The early years in Rexburg were fraught with worry over finances and it took a year or more for the family to suffer through two tragedies that struck: the terrible burns of my sister Rea’s hands when she fell against a hot round bellied stove; and when father, a very ill man, had to travel by train to Salt Lake City for the removal of his gall bladder and appendix. He was gone for a very long time with doctors and hospital bills stacking up and when he did get home he was pale and weak and unable to do anything very strenuous for many months. He obtained a permit to operate a postal RFD route north of Rexburg and mother tried, at every opportunity, to bring in a little money by teaching piano lessons. I was also taught by my mother to play the piano. She paid for lessons for Osmer to learn the violin and he had to teach me. We took part in the family orchestra where we played on several occasions for church and other social activities.
I do not remember much of my days on the farm at Burton. I well remember, however, when our home at Rexburg was built and our moving into it. I was five or six years old. Practically all of my school days were in Rexburg—I remember distinctly my first day at school and my first teacher—Miss Langton.
Summer months were spent mostly in “playing house” in an empty corner lot where some brick and rocks had been left for the purpose of building, which project was never completed.
Some of my happiest days were spent during the summers of 1914 to 1919 when I was between the ages of nine and twelve on a homestead of 80 acres at Green Timber, Idaho, approximately 12 miles east of Ashton, Idaho, “among the pines”, bordering on the National Forest Reserve (Yellowstone Park). This was virgin territory and we had to clear the land of all trees, pile them in big piles and wait awhile for the timber to dry, then burn it & plow the land. It was new country and we only spent the summer months there clearing the land and planting small plots of grain etc.
We children, of course, had our share of work to do, but it was for us mostly a land of great adventures and new discoveries. We were happy to make new acquaintances, the closest family being two miles distant, and we formed a little club, which met weekly for games, explorations, picnics etc., and at night we had the neighbors come over and we burned up great stacks of quaking aspen trees that had been cleared and piled up during the day. Sometimes sage hens would build their nest in the stacks and would be driven out by heat and forced out of their nests only after their feathers had been badly burned and this was, of course, great sport to us youngsters.
We spent our summers on the homestead farm and our winters in Rexburg where we went to school. Our mode of living on the homestead was true pioneer, no electricity, and no running water, in a two-room log house which father had built, with a rough board floor and no linoleum. In the bedroom we covered the boards with straw over which we drew burlap sacking we had sewn together and tacked it down at the edges. Sides of pasteboard boxes partitioned off the rooms, with all sorts of queer advertising exposed to our view. The ceiling was flour sacks sewn together, likewise bearing all brands. Bees built their nests in the rafters above, which the boys took great delight in disturbing them as various intervals of the summer, sometimes managing to escape down the ladder fast enough to get out of their way. The boys slept in the rafters, which they had to climb a ladder each night from the outside of the house; they slept with the bees and bats. A small camp stove, beds with boards for springs and straw mattresses and rats beating the sides of the wall all night with their tails as we tried to sleep; coyotes barking close by and other wild things making queer noises; interesting and adventurous for us “kids”, but gruesome, hair-raising experiences for our parents, especially if father happened to spend a night or two away from us. We didn’t even dare go to the outhouse after dark because we didn’t know what wild animals would be out. It was fun to walk to Aunt May’s for an afternoon. She was so sweet and gracious and generally had a treat for us. We would travel to Ashton occasionally for supplies and on Sundays to Warm River where there was a branch of the church, and enjoy a picnic between services. We left the farm the year Farr was born because he was awful sick and needed cows milk from cows fed on greener pastures.
When I was fourteen, we put a down payment on a farm six miles north at Salem Idaho. The Salem Farm, purchased in the spring of 1920, meant real work for us all to make ends meet, which we never accomplished, because several summers in a row, at the time of harvest, most all crops were destroyed by hail and wind storms leaving all our work in vain and finally we forsook it all. The property in Rexburg and the Salem Farm. Those were the days of the “Great Depression” and, like many others; we lost both the farm and the home in Rexburg. We were forced to move to Pocatello in August of 1923 where father had a very hard time but succeeded in finding work in various jobs to keep the family alive.
Upon arriving in Pocatello, we had no place to live and so we spent some time in a warehouse. We slept upstairs with no running water, no bedrooms, kitchen etc. We put our blankets on the floor for beds, until we could fine a house to rent. During High School I had taken a business course and found work at Pocatello; my first employment being at Cavanaugh Wholesale Company, South Arthur, where I worked for about six weeks. Cavanaugh was a tobacco wholesaler and the men smelled and they wouldn’t leave me alone. Osmer worked for the Mutual Creamery and I was employed in the office at Armour Creameries for twelve years. We were living in a rented home on South Tenth. On pay day I would give my entire paycheck to my mother, she kept track of all our expenses and paid the bills, to help meet our families expenses, sometimes holding out pocket change for myself and saving to get some things I needed. If mother had known she would have been very upset. Another thing I remember when I was eighteen years old, mother took me to a store and bought me a new coat, the first coat that wasn’t a hand-me-down. Father would take any job he could get, working hard for little pay, for awhile he worked in a shoe repair shop, he finally found employment with the Pacific Fruit Express, a subsidiary of the railroad. The railroad was the only place people could find work in the GREAT DEPRESSION. He lied about his age, saying he was twenty years younger to get the job. Beginning in 1928, we, as a family, supported three missionaries: Sarel, New Zealand, 1928-1931, Rea, North Central States, 1934-1936, and Don, French, 1936-1939.
In the fall of 1927 the bishop come to me and asked me to go on a mission but I couldn’t possibly go and leave the family without my income, so I pleaded with him to ask Sarel to go. The bishop could see Sarel was working and running around with the wrong crowd but with his and my support we talked Sarel into going. He was promised by me that I would continue working and giving my paycheck to mother as long as he was gone. He was called to the New Zealand mission and left on February 3, 1928 taking his uke with him. He was gone for three years and three months and I kept my promise.
While Rea was in the North Central States on her mission from July 1934 to July 1936 she met Elder Horace E. Burgon, one day Elder Burgon knocked on our door in Idaho and wanted to meet our family. While he was there he asked our family to come to Salt Lake for October General Conference and have dinner at his mothers home. Mother and Dad had left for conference when I became ill. I called the doctor and went to see him. He told me to go home and put hot packs on my stomach, which I did. Feeling a little better we headed for Salt Lake. While eating at Burgons I got very ill and was taken to Mary Burgon’s doctor. He said I needed to go to the hospital but couldn’t go until Monday morning. I slept at Burgons until Monday and was taken to the hospital where they said my appendix had ruptured. During the next few days I was not expected to live. Elder Burgon came to visit and saw how sick I was. Each breath was taken with great effort. I said “Elder Burgon I won’t make it unless you get me help”. He knew what I meant and he left and returned with Apostle R. Clawson. I remember Apostle Clawson and Elder Burgon standing in the doorway. Apostle Clawson asked “Thora do you have faith that you could be healed” I said with a blessing I knew I could. Without that blessing from Elder Burgon and Apostle Clawson I know I would not have made it through the night. I can’t remember the words of the blessing, but with my testimony and the power of the Priesthood, I eventually got better. While in the hospital they had draining tubes in me and the smell was so bad you could smell it throughout the hospital.
When I finally got back to Pocatello and talked to the Doctor there he put his arms around me and apologized and said he was so sorry, the advise was totally opposite of what I should have done and he almost lost his practice over the wrong doing. With draining tubes still in I tried to work part time and kept giving money to the family. Finally the Doctor, Doctor Call, advised me to leave town and if I didn’t he would put me in an institution. Therefore, I quit my job and had to tell mother I needed to leave town and asked her if Don could drive me to Boise, Idaho.
In the spring of 1936, trying to recover from the serious illness, I left Pocatello and took a part time job in Boise with Utah-Cal Freight lines. In a few months they offered me full-time employment in their Salt Lake office and I was working there when Rea returned from her mission. She soon came to join me in Salt Lake. Mother wasn’t at all happy about that. Rea found work in the office at Woolworth’s. After awhile Rea came to me and told me she was going to marry Elder Burgon; also Wilma was getting married and it would leave me alone. I ask Rea what I should do. I was getting up there in age and had no one in mind to marry. Rea asked me “what about Leland Rawson”? So I called him up and he came to see me in Salt Lake. We both (Thora and Rea) were married in 1937. I was married to Leland W. Rawson December 23, 1937 in the Salt Lake Temple. I married Lee because of his values and his dedication to the gospel, which was very important to me. I knew he would be loyal to the gospel and me, but if I had known I was unable to have children I never would have married.
Mother promised me if I helped her financially raise the family and keep missionaries in the field she would give me the little house in Pocatello when I got married. She kept that promise.
Lee took me back to Pocatello and I wasn’t going to be a working wife. However, workers in the Bannock County Court House begged me to come help Mr. Lucien C. Farr set up a Triple-A Farm Program and sign up the farmers in the county. I was working there when, in the late fall of 1942, Lee received a surprise call from the newly appointed Governor of Idaho, C.A. Bottolfsen. He requested that Lee serve as superintendent of the Idaho State Liquor Dispensary. This was a real shock, but he finally accepted. We sold our home and moved into an apartment near the Boise State Capitol. To the full satisfaction of the governor, Lee served through 1943 -1944 when there was a change in administration. He was then employed by the Federal Government in the field of licensing of various businesses in four Western states.
We served two wonderful years as missionaries in the British Isles, which we funded from the sale of our home in Pocatello. We were set apart September 17, 1947 and returned November 5, 1949, returning to Idaho in late 1949. Lee and I sponsored several young people we met while in England on our mission. They came to the United States and lived with us until they found jobs and could be on their own. Being broke and in our late forties, we were both lucky to find employment in Pocatello at Bistline Lumber Company. Later, I was employed by Idaho Bank & Trust and we were able to pay for a new home that was built at 1150 East Pine Street Pocatello, Idaho. However, we were just getting settled there, when Lee was offered a job with Walker Bank & Trust in Salt Lake City. We sold our new home and moved in December 1952. I found employment at Utah Motor Transport Association and we worked at these jobs until retirement in 1968, Lee having become an officer of the bank.
In 1956 we were both called as ordinance workers in the Salt Lake Temple and served there after office hours. In 1968 we both retired from office work and I from service in the Temple due to poor hearing. Lee stayed on, was ordained as a sealer and shortly became an assistant in the sealing department. He performed sealings for both the living and the dead and served over 38 years of continuous service in the Temple.
The unexpected death of my sister Rea was and still is very difficult for me. It set me back so I couldn’t keep my mind on completing the family history, which she encouraged me to complete. I know some day we’ll be together again. We were such good friends. Now it’s up to the next generation to complete the family histories and thanks to Roger Porter, son of Sarel Porter, great strides have been made. Look on his web site: http://alvinandevenicholsfamily.homestead.com/AlvinWNichols.html
I have always had a strong testimony of the Church. No one ever had to force me to get ready and go. I always wanted to go, especially if we were having visiting authorities from Salt Lake. It was a real break to leave the farm and have our baths on Saturday night and prepare for church on Sunday. My testimony to you is that we will all have to report our lives to our Savior, Jesus Christ and tell Him what we have done with our time here on earth. I know that He will have to present us to the Father if we are worthy to be in His presence. I know I will soon be reunited with my family and hope to continue to serve where I am needed.