Things that I remember about my Grandparents
By Dale Romrell
October 26, 2009
I asked Evan, our youngest son, tonight how much he
remembered my parents. His answer was not
surprising. He said that he had very little memory of
them. Sometimes we forget that we are the link to our
parents and grandparents for our children and
grandchildren. I have a quote to that affect for my
Sunday school lesson next week. That is the
motivation for this effort.
Alfred (Fred) Romrell was born 13 February 1872 in
Ogden, Weber county, Utah. He died 11 May 1962 in
the Idaho Falls hospital. Bonnie had been staying
with him and was present the day he passed away. He
had lost the circulation in his legs. They had been
amputated the day before and the nurse had pulled
away the covers to check on the operation and he had
seen that he had lost both legs. From that time on he gave up and his heart beat quickly
Alba Burbank was born 26 April 1877 in Deweyville, Box Elder county Utah. She died
14 September 1961 in Rexburg, Idaho. Alba was in Wilford helping her sister who was
married to Fred‟s brother, Joe. Fred was quite a tease and proposed to Alba while his
face was all lathered up to shave. She accepted and they were married 20 October 1898
in the Logan, Utah temple.
Alba and Fred had 5 children 1 girl and 4 boys. My father Alfred E. Romrell was born 1
September 1899 and was the oldest child of his parents. Dad was born shortly before his
father left for a two-year mission for the LDS Church to Montana. He left 20 October
1899 just 1 ½ months after dad was born. This was a very trying time for Alba. They
had little to live on and she was away from her family and quite lonely. She was going
through a trunk and some letters that were filed there. She found a $10 bill in one of the
envelopes which was enough for a train ticket home to Bennington, Idaho for her and the
baby. This story as well as many others are in the life history of Fred and Alba written by
We lived ½ mile up the gravel road from Fred and Alba Romrell. We drove past their
house several times each week. Every day we went to school or church we drove directly
past their house both going and coming. Yet I suppose that I didn‟t know them very well
either. Grandfather Romrell was a farmer and farmed 60 acres of land adjacent to their
home. Grandfather was a very good farmer, but never had modern machinery. That
means that he did not own a tractor or any of the equipment that made farming quicker
and more productive.
He owned a team of horses and did most of his work with horses before the end of the 2nd
World War in 1945. After dad and Uncle Dan bought tractors in 1946 they worked with
Grandfather and did much of his harder work with tractors. Grandfather would have
been 74 years old before the tractor was readily available.
Grandfather and grandmother were very thrifty and used everything as long as possible.
They got up at daylight all their lives and went to bed shortly after dark. Grandfather had
a small frame probably about 5‟ 4 inches and never weighed more than 120 -130 pounds.
Grandmother had a larger frame but would never be considered fat. Grandmother was a
little taller than her husband. Grandfather was quick and smart. He was very agile even
in his late 70‟s and would help load hay wagons and tramp the hay on the wagons, all day
long and he never seemed to get tired.
It is very difficult to only have one pay check a year which occurs when you sell your
crops after harvest. Most farmers needed money each month for groceries and other
expenses. Therefore they had milk cows, chickens, pigs and possibly gardens which
produced extra produce. Grandfather was no exception to this rule. He milked about 8
cows night and morning most of his life. He had chickens which were used for special
dinners and they traded extra eggs for groceries at the grocery store in St. Anthony. They
also often raised pigs when they thought that they could get a good price for them. I
remember Dad and Grandfather killing, scalding and scraping the hair off the pigs. One
or more years Dad made a smoker from an old refrigerator and smoked the hams.
Usually in the fall Dad and Grandfather would kill a bull calf for meat as well. We did
not have refrigerators or freezers and neither did grandfather. The meat was kept in a
locker in St. Anthony. When they would go grocery shopping they would stop by the
locker and get a few pieces of frozen meet but not too much, because it would spoil after
a few days.
In earlier days they stored blocks of ice which they cut from the Wilford Cannel or Teton
River. The ice was stored under sawdust and used to keep meat and dairy products cool
in an ice chest in the house during the summer. During the winter the meat was just
stored outside on the north side of the house where it would stay frozen most of the
winter. When they had a car and the lockers in town became available the ice storage
process was stopped.
Grandfather milked his cows twice a day by hand until about 1950 (78 years old) when
dad helped him put in a milking machine. The whole milk was put into 10 gallon milk
cans and was picked up on a flat bed truck by a creamery in Sugar City where it was
made into Challenge cheese and butter as well as cottage cheese. We did not have
yogurt, or sour cream until after their time. If you wanted to get butter or cheese you just
left a note on the milk can and the milkman would leave what you needed on top of the
empty cans he left when he picked up the milk. They would get a check from the
Challenge creamery every month. The check was based on the amount of butterfat that
you sent each day to the creamery. Usually the butterfat from the Holstein cows was
about 4 %.
Dad bought a young bull calf which had very good breeding. When it grew up we used it
for breeding our cows each year. Grandfather also used the bull. When a cow would
come in heat, he would drive it ½ mile down to our house and put it with the bull. This
bull really improved the quality of his dairy heard with more milk per cow and a higher
percentage of butterfat. It seems that grandfather got a high percentage of heifer (female)
calves and Dad had a few more bull calves than heifers.
Social Security became available about 1950 and Dad helped grandfather apply. He then
had a regular paycheck even though it was small. This helped him pay for groceries and
other needs. He still continued with his cows, chickens and garden for another 10 years.
About 1950 Owen started renting on a 2/3 share basis a few acres of grandfathers land
which were planted into potatoes. Grandfather continued to irrigate and take care of his
wheat, oat, barley and hay crops. Dad, and Uncle Dan and their sons would plow the
land and help Grandfather harvest all the crops.
Grandfather drove a car until after he was 80 years old. He bought used cars and I
remember him complaining about not being able to tell whether the cars were coming or
going as their shape became more aerodynamic. Grandfather had cataracts in both of his
eyes and it became difficult for him to see. His brother, Wren, had cataract surgery and
died just a few days later. Grandfather never got his cataracts removed. The first time I
remember going to a funeral was that of Uncle Wren.
When I was in the 1st and 2nd grade in Wilford grade school we would get out of school
earlier than the other grades. I would walk home when the weather was good and
sometimes I would stop in and say hello to grandmother. She sometimes had a cookie for
me and was always pleasant to talk to. Her house was always clean and very simply
furnished. The wood/coal stove, a small table and a very few cabinets with a shelf for
washing dishes was the makeup of the kitchen. Water was heated on the stove even
during the hot summer days. Grandmother did a lot of canning of vegetables from their
garden and bought peaches and pears and perhaps cherries for canning in the fall. They
also canned apples from their tree. They lived off the produce from this garden most of
Keeping wood chopped for the kitchen and living room stove was always a major job.
First of all you had to go to the forest and cut down the trees that were dead. Dad and
Grandfather often did this together. They cut off the limbs and loaded the logs on
wagons for the haul back home. The closest forest was 15 to 20 miles away. They would
leave at daylight and try to get the logs partly loaded before they quit for the day. The
next morning they would finish loading the logs on the wagons and haul the logs back
home. This was different work and enjoyable, but it was hard work as well. After
getting the logs home they had to saw them up into approximately 15 inch lengths with a
one or two man hand saw and then split them into firewood. Dad often said that when he
was using wood in the stoves that he got heated 4 times. When they could afford it they
would supplement the wood with coal. If you banked a fire with coal it would last the
whole night. The next morning the house would be rather cool, but not cold. If you used
wood for banking the fire at night the house was cold before morning. There is a great
story about getting firewood with granddad in my father‟s history. I know I heard this
story at least 100 times.
As they got older about 1952, grandfather and grandmother‟s garden went from about ¼
acre to about 100 sq. ft. I remember looking at their garden in 1953 and it was about 8‟
by 12‟. They still grew most of their small vegetables from this small garden and still
canned what they could.
In earlier days they got most of their water from the canal which was across the road
from their house. After we got a well they got their drinking water from our well but sill
used the canal water for washing clothes and bathing. Grandfather had two extra milk
cans. He would put the cans in the trunk of his car and get water from our well once of
twice per week. The trunk would not close so he would tie it partly closed with a short
They had a very nice outdoor toilet. It contained two regular holes for adults and a small
hole for children. I used it many times. It seemed nicer than the one we had at home.
The toilet was set on a hole that was about 4‟ by 4‟ and about 5 feet deep. When the hole
got full, the toilet was moved to another hole that had been dug near by and the old hole
was covered up. Toilet paper was last years Sears catalog. The index was yellow and
was made from softer paper than most pages of the catalog which contained pictures.
The picture pages were scratchy. The index pages were always used first. While waiting
for the right urge in the summer, everyone would look through the catalog pages and
wish. I always looked at the toy section. During the winter months you waited until the
very last moment to go to the outhouse and then you would finish as soon as possible and
run back to the house on the well used path. I do not remember having to get up in the
night to use the outhouse, but those who did kept a special pot under the bed for just such
occasions. We called it a “thunder” mug. There were no lights in the outhouse, but yet
everyone had to use it before they went to bed. It was difficult to make sure that you
were completely finished and with the catalog you didn‟t want to make extra wipes.
Grandmother had an electric washing machine that she would use either on her porch or
in the kitchen. She used a round washtub for soaking the clothes before washing and
would use a scrubbing board on some of grandfather‟s clothes that were real dirty.
Another washtub was used to rinse the clothes after the wash was complete. A winger
was used to remove most of the water before the clothes were hung outside on a
clothesline to dry. During the winter months when it was often -15 or more degrees F.
she might do some drying inside, but most was still done outside. The soap she used was
made from lye and fat from animals that were killed for meat. The wash water was
warmed on the stove because you could not use the lye soap except in hot water.
Laundry was a full day‟s job once each week . Grandmother would always start with the
white clothes and then use the same water again for the colored clothes. This kept her
from having to heat the water again.
The next day was spent in ironing all the clothes that were washed. I suspect that
grandmother even ironed her sheets, but I don‟t know that for sure. She was that type of
a lady. Carol says that after grandmother got running water in the house she bought an
automatic washer and dryer.
Grandfather had taught himself to play the piano when he was young. He played for the
Wilford Ward Sunday school and church each week until his hand got so full of arthritis
that he had to stop. He played both by ear and by notes and was quite good.
Grandfather had good health until he was in his mid 80‟s. I suspect that it was because
he worked so hard all his life. Grandmother had gallbladder problems and often did not
feel very well.
It was fun to stop by their home and play outside while the older children and our parents
were talking. They had a buggy step that was about 4 inches square with a handle where
it had attached to the buggy. We used this for a toy road grader and made lots of roads
for cars that we never had. I never remember toys at their house, but we always enjoyed
visiting with them. Grandfather had an old car that was decaying behind some trees. We
played in this car whenever we had a chance. At least one door worked and we were
great at pretending. Carol said that the car didn‟t have a top. I suspect that it did have a
canvas top which had long before rotted away. Some time when we stopped to see our
grandparents some of the children were asked to shovel snow or help do some chore that
needed to be done.
About the end of the war Dad was able to find some plumbing that was in a house that
had burned in Sugar City. He removed the plumbing from that house and brought it to
our house where he installed a toilet, a shower/bath tub, a sink in the bathroom and in the
kitchen with both hot and cold running water. The water was heated by a water jacket
that was put in the firebox of the wood stove. The water then went to a hot water tank
and had sufficient capacity for a couple of baths. Dad did the same for his parents except
I do not know where they got the plumbing fixtures. He helped them find a well driller
and then installed the plumbing and the fixtures. They appreciated not having to use the
path especially during the cold winter days and nights. They had hot water for baths and
laundry as long as the wood/coal stove was being used.
After all her work was done grandmother would often sit by the small kitchen window
and watch the cars go by. She was often lonely and would sometimes complain that
uncle Dan would go by every day to his farm, which was located next to our farm, and
not stop and see her as often as she would have liked. I‟m sure that she told Uncle Dan
the same about us. As they got older, however, my parents would usually get them
groceries and take their eggs to market.
When it came time to harvest the hay, it was a joint endeavor by all our family and Uncle
Dan and his family as well. Before we were able to buy a truck we used hay wagons to
bring the hay to the stack from the field. Grandfather had an iron tired hay wagon that
was really noisy and very bumpy to ride. We had a hay wagon made from a car chassis
that had rubber air inflated tires. I remember one time we were taking the iron tired hay
wagon to grandfathers and two dogs came out from a neighbor‟s house. They would bite
at the tires and scare the horses. Dad got a rock and hit one of the dogs and they no
longer came out as we went by.
When I was very young we would haul hay using horses to pull the two wagons,
grandfathers and ours. Owen and Marva would use pitchforks to pitch the hay on the
wagon and Delwin would load the wagon and tramp the hay down so it stayed on the
wagon. Carol or I would drive the team up and down the rows of bunched hay as the
wagon was being loaded. If someone got behind and they needed to stop the wagon we
would holler “Whoa” pull on the reigns and stop the horses. As we got older Del became
the second pitcher, grandfather would load the wagons and I would take them to the
haystack where Carol would run the derrick horse and Dad would stack the hay. By this
time we had purchased a truck. We had a very good hay crew, but it was a lot of work.
One day we were hauling hay on Uncle Dan‟s farm and I went around a corner a little too
fast. Grandfather put his hand on the door handle to brace himself and fell out of the
truck. I was really scarred and thought that I had hurt him badly. He got up and got back
into the truck. I took him home to see Dad to make sure grandfather was OK. He
continued to load the truck the rest of the day. I am sure that he had some bruises but he
As grandfather got older he became hard of hearing. He was driving the truck up and
down the rows of potatoes as the sacks were lifted on the truck and loaded by Owen and
Delwin. When they needed the truck to stop they would have to bang on the cab so
grandfather could hear them.
Grandfather „s derrick was getting old, as was our derrick. Dad decided it was time to get
two new derricks. He and Owen or Delwin went to the forest and found some large
straight live trees that were very big (About 14 inches in diameter at the base). They cut
down the trees, skinned off the bark and let them dry for several months. They also
brought home some other poles for the “A” frame and the base of two derricks. When it
was time to bring the derrick poles home Dad used his car and a two wheel trailer that he
owned. I do not know how, but with leavers and a lot of hard work he, Owen and Delwin
got the derrick poles on the two wheel trailer and put the large end of the poles in the
trunk of the car. Dad tied the poles in the trunk and tied the trailer to the middle of the
two poles. The road home for a few miles was very crooked so he had Owen sit on the
trailer and with a pole to the tongue of the trailer he was able to help guide the trailer
around some of the sharp corners. They made it home safely and then quickly made two
derricks so they could get the hay up.
While I was on an LDS mission (1957-1959) grandfather was shopping in St. Anthony
and while crossing the road he was hit by a car. The accident broke his leg and he was on
crutches for many weeks. Grandmother was also having stomach problems and could not
keep food down. Dad needed help on the farm as well, so Carol and Bill came from Utah
State University and helped them during the summer. Carol spent the mornings helping
grandmother and grandfather. She would help grandfather up the two steps from the
kitchen to the living room and bedroom. The steps were very difficult for him to
negotiate with crutches. She would cook for them and try to find foods that grandmother
It was not many months after this that our grandparents had to have additional help and
they moved in with Alta Stewart, Aunt Fern‟s daughter who lived in Rexburg.
Grandfather and Grandmother were very proud of their family their grandchildren and
great grandchildren. They were always a good example for me. They were very kind
and considerate of others. They filled their responsibilities in the Church. When
grandmother got older and it was very difficult for her to attend Church, grandfather
would often stay home with her or perhaps just go to priesthood meeting.
All of their children were married in the temple and had wonderful families. I knew all
my father‟s brothers and sisters well and their children were some of my best friends as I
grew up. Uncle Dan was the only bishop I remember until I returned from my mission.