Every story ever told is a family story.
When my grandmother, Emma Stevenson, died she left five little children motherless. Leland was the oldest, then Lucy, Evan, Noel and the baby, Stanley who was 18 months old. My grandfather, Ernest E. Stevenson, was brought to his knees leaden with sadness and the overwhelming responsibility that lay before him. Loving relatives came forward to help care for the children. After about two years Ernest’s brother, Dr. L.A. Stevenson, wanting to help, mentioned that his housekeeper seemed to be a woman who could take on the responsibilities of the children and care for his home. He married her and this one decision changed the course of all of their lives.
I will attempt to describe what took place in the lives of Emma’s children. If the heavens could see or weep - I’m sure a devoted mother beyond the veil could hardly bare up under the pain and sorrow of what transpired. After finding a home for his family on a potato farm in Shelly, Idaho – Ernest, went about earning his living traveling and selling to provide for his family, often leaving, Neddie, his new wife, to keep watch over the home and children. In the dead of winter, Stanley now six yrs. old and Noel approximately eight yrs. old were ordered to sleep out in an old chicken coop. They shivered together under one thin, worn blanket as water dripped down - by morning a slick layer of ice appeared on their coverlet, cracking as they began to move from their beds of hay. In the summer time, Neddie kept a lovely box of fresh apples in her room for herself and two stepsisters and brother that were born. Stanley would take a pitchfork, ram it through the open window into the juicy apples and run off with two or three and head for the underground storage where potatoes were kept nice and cool. It was such a good hideout and a delightful treat for these little boys -until they would get caught and paid a terrible price, by the hand of Neddie, a whipping with a leather belt.
After awful abuse on every level, Lucy’s final encounter with Neddie was when she threw an iron at her, yelling, “If y’re Ma’s in heaven I don’t want to go there!!” Lucy learned to dodge, and with loyalty deep inside her soul for her mother who she missed terribly, stood tall and responed back, “I don’t think you’ll have to worry…you won’t be going there.” (Irons in those days were soled wrought iron – heated on coal, weighing a good 10+lbs.) Lucy hugged her younger brothers good bye and ventured out on her own at about 15yrs. old, never looking back.
With cardboard to cover holes in their shoes the children would walk over snow covered riverbanks to school with bacon fat on stale bread, tucked into their pockets, that would have to hold them for the day. Often with empty stomachs they went to bed without dinner having watched Neddie’s children enjoy hot soups and stews.
One by one Ernest and Emma’s children had the courage to getaway from Neddie’s vicious and inhuman treatment. Neddie had it in for young Stanley, he was too close to her children in age and a constant reminder that there was once another woman, his own sweet mother, who adored him. He seemed to be resourceful, full of energy as he survived her mean spirited abuse. But, he had to plan carefully his escape. Surely, Leland, Lucy, Evan and Noel’s departure caused grief for Ernest and increased discord with Neddie. (today anyone found doing to children what she did – would be in prison.)
Stanley was ten years old when he finally couldn’t take it any longer. On a freezing, bleak winter day he packed a handkerchief full, hobo style, of his only belongings and walked out the door. Down a slushy road – wearing the only clothes he had on his back and an old Macintosh jacket that Noel had left for him. Not knowing where he would go he just kept on walking and walking. As daylight began to fade, he could hardly feel his bear hands and wet feet, through his worn out shoes with broken laces. Tears froze as they ran down and stained his cheeks. Suddenly out of now where, his father pulled up in a pickup truck, “Stanley, Stanley – get in. Where are you going, son!?” By now there were tears in both of their eyes. Indeed, what parent, mortal or immortal, does not weep, knowing that his children suffer? He told Stanley that he could tell that his heart was broken. His voice trembling, “When your heart is breaking… than that makes two hearts that are broken.” Stanley pulled himself up into the truck and they drove north heading towards a small Idaho town. It was quiet in the old rambler, for a long time, then Ernest told Stanley, “I’m taking you to Lucy – she will care for you.”
Lucy, who was not quite 18 yrs. old, greeted Stanley with arms wide open. They both waved goodbye as their dejected father drove away. Lucy didn’t waste a minute – she drew a warm bath for Stanley, who was soaked to the bone, took his clothes off and laundered them. She shared her meager dinner with him and he ate every spoonful of potato soup and bite of toasted bread. Lucy tucked him into a clean bed of fresh linen, kissed him on his forehead, reassuring him that all will be well.
This was a turning point in Stanley’s life, he thrived under Lucy’s loving care. She spent time with him, listened to him – they laughed together, sang and cried together. She gave him hugs and honest praise trying to mend a little heart. Lucy didn’t earn that much at her job, but whatever she made the two of them made it stretch. In a few years they moved to Salt Lake City, Utah - where Lucy found a better job and a humble place for the two of them to live. On her knees she continually prayed for guidance to know what to do. She enrolled Stanley into Jr. High and encouraged him to take part in a Scouting program. As she gave him a soft place to fall, she was giving her brother every bit of love that the two of them missed out on, determined to make up for the past.
Putting one foot in front of another, in a few short years they moved to Los Angeles where Lucy’s work helped continue to provide for them and gave important guidance to Stanley as he made new friends. Wherever they moved they always found their Ward and Bishop, remaining active in the church. She taught him values and life’s lessons, that you are not only judged by the people who you love,…but by the people who love you. Manual Arts High School, working in a deli, early morning milkman-deliveries, Stanley began to feel more responsibility and carried some of the load. With the combined Stakes he was asked to be the Young M-men and Gleaner leader in Southern Calif. (today that would be over all the Young Adults.)
More chapters unfold from here, with the great depression in the 30’s, Leland became a medical doctor, Lucy a mother of eight, Noel a Lawyer and published author, Evan a Idaho farmer-educator, and Stanley, Los Angeles Policeman, law school and Legal advisor to the Chief of police, father of seven, great Scout leader with the Silver Beaver award and Bishop. All five were married in the temple. – perhaps the greatest part of the Ernest and Emma Stevenson’s children begin at this point…..more to be continued later.
If heaven was missing an angel,…it’s because Lucy was here on earth. Early in their life they learned that it’s not how much we have but, how much we enjoy what we have, that makes happiness. She knew that the two greatest needs in every person’s life is to give love and to receive love. Basic to our self-esteem is the knowledge that we are children of God and that He loves us. This knowledge is powerful.
*(an interesting side note: Just before Ernest died in his later years he emphasized to his family the importance of forgiveness,… forgiveness frees the soul.)
Says I to my Missis: "Ba goom, lass! you've something I see, on your mind."
Says she: "You are right, Sam, I've something. It 'appens it's on me be'ind.
A Boil as 'ud make Job jealous. It 'urts me no end when I sit."
Says I: "Go to 'ospittel, Missis. They might 'ave to coot it a bit."
Says she: "I just 'ate to be showin' the part of me person it's at."
Says I: "Don't be fussy; them doctors see sights more 'orrid than that."
So Misses goes off togged up tasty, and there at the 'ospittel door
They tells 'er to see the 'ouse Doctor, 'oose office is Room Thirty-four.
So she 'unts up and down till she finds it, and knocks and a voice says: "Come in,"
And there is a 'andsome young feller, in white from 'is 'eels to 'is chin.
"I've got a big boil," says my Missis. "It 'urts me for fair when I sit,
And Sam (that's me 'usband) 'as asked me to ask you to coot it a bit."
Then blushin' she plucks up her courage, and bravely she shows 'im the place,
And 'e gives it a proper inspection, wi' a 'eap o' surprise on 'is face.
Then 'e says wi' an accent o' Scotland: "Whit ye hae is a bile, Ah can feel,
But ye'd better consult the heid Dockter; they caw him Professor O'Niel.
He's special for biles and carbuncles. Ye'll find him in Room Sixty-three.
No charge, Ma'am. It's been a rare pleasure. Jist tell him ye're comin' from me."
So Misses she thanks 'im politely, and 'unts up and down as before,
Till she comes to a big 'andsome room with "Professor O'Neil" on the door.
Then once more she plucks up her courage, and knocks, and a voice says: "All right."
So she enters, and sees a fat feller wi' whiskers, all togged up in white.
"I've got a big boil," says my Missis, "and if ye will kindly permit,
I'd like for to 'ave you inspect it; it 'urts me like all when I sit."
So blushin' as red as a beet-root she 'astens to show 'im the spot,
And 'e says wi' a look o' amazement: "Sure, Ma'am, it must hurt ye a lot."
Then 'e puts on 'is specs to regard it, and finally says wi' a frown:
"I'll bet it's as sore as the divvle, especially whin ye sit down.
I think it's a case for the Surgeon; ye'd better consult Doctor Hoyle.
I've no hisitation in sayin' yer boil is a hill of a boil."
So Misses she thanks 'im for sayin' her boil is a hill of a boil,
And 'unts all around till she comes on a door that is marked: "Doctor Hoyle."
But by now she 'as fair got the wind up, and trembles in every limb;
But she thinks: "After all, 'e's a Doctor. Ah moosn't be bashful wi' 'im."
She's made o' good stuff is the Missis, so she knocks and a voice says: "Oos there?"
"It's me," says ma Bessie, an' enters a room which is spacious and bare.
And a wise-lookin' old feller greets 'er, and 'e too is togged up in white.
"It's the room where they coot ye," thinks Bessie; and shakes like a jelly wi' fright.
"Ah got a big boil," begins Missis, "and if ye are sure you don't mind,
I'd like ye to see it a moment. It 'urts me, because it's be'ind."
So thinkin' she'd best get it over, she 'astens to show 'im the place,
And 'e stares at 'er kindo surprised like, an' gets very red in the face.
But 'e looks at it most conscientious, from every angle of view,
Then 'e says wi' a shrug o' 'is shoulders: "Pore Lydy, I'm sorry for you.
It wants to be cut, but you should 'ave a medical bloke to do that.
Sye, why don't yer go to the 'orsespittel, where all the Doctors is at?
Ye see, Ma'am, this part o' the buildin' is closed on account o' repairs;
Us fellers is only the pynters, a-pyntin' the 'alls and the stairs."