Norma_Farr_Brown_Autobiography by ashrafp


									                            The Life Story of Norma Farr Brown

I was born August 12th, 1921 in St. Johns, Arizona in my Grandmother Richey‟s house.

The first thing I remember is we lived in Eagar that I dropped a window on my thumb that was
hard to get out. That‟s the first thing I remember and then I don‟t remember much after that. I
guess I hurt so bad that was one thing to remember.

We moved back to St. Johns and then my father was working in Blue Water, New Mexico,
working on a dam that they were building there. Then we moved to Holbrook, Arizona and at
Christmas time I got a pedal car. I wasn‟t much for dolls–I liked cars mostly. I was about three
or four years old then. I remember in Holbrook we were in a big old taxi cab and I got my
thumb caught in that thing and they had to take the door off to get it out. Man, I was screaming
every minute.

Then my father worked for David Udall on a mail contract and we moved to Salt Lake City to
work for Mr. Udall in the mail business and we lived in a nice apartment in the basement of their
house. When we moved to Salt Lake City, my Aunt Vivian Richey Rencher went with us in the
car because my Dad drove a mail truck and Mom didn‟t want to drive the car alone with two
little kids so and Aunt Vivian went along to take care of us. I remember driving through much
sand and we were always getting struck as in northern Arizona near Cameron. We saw lots of
Indians and sheep. What I remember about Salt Lake City is the gutters were running with this
pure clean looking water, beautiful place. My sister who is about three years younger than I am,
she could walk and everything, we used to get our feet in that cold water and have lots of fun.
One day in this water we took my Mother‟s beautiful pitcher and were playing with it in the
water and it got away from us and went down the drain. I think it about broke Mama‟s heart–it
sure made us feel bad because she really treasured that ceramic pitcher.

 When I was about five and while living in Salt Lake, we went to Saltair Park and there was a
wheel that you would get on one side and it would scoot you off into the water and my Mother
got on that wheel and she got caught and that wheel was going round and round and she was
with it under the water and up again. Oh I tell you, I was scared to death. They finally got it
stopped. I remember that my mother figured that I needed Carter‟s Little Liver Pills every day
and I would get that in my mouth and it would never go down. But my Dad did not like Salt
Lake City and wasn‟t about to live there so we came back to St. Johns.

We had a rooster and we had an acre of ground. On the northwest of our lot was our house and
on the southeast was two hole potty (outhouse) and that rooster was so mean and he did not like
me at all. He‟d go round and round the house and when he got to the back of the house I‟d run
out the kitchen door and head for that out house and before I ever got there he‟d be pecking at
my heels. But what was awful was trying to get out of that little toilet! He‟d just go round and
round and he got me every time.

Then we moved to my Grandma Farr‟s place on the southeast corner of that block and one day
my Dad came in and said we‟re going to have rooster for dinner tomorrow. This was on a
Saturday. He said Norma, would you like to come and watch me chop that chicken‟s head off
and I said Yeah, I guess. So I went down and there was a chop block of something there. He
laid that chicken down and his head was just watching me every minute but I was standing quite
a ways back–I wasn‟t about to get close to that crazy thing. And my Father chopped that
chicken‟s head off and his body jumped off of that chopping block and headed right straight for
me and clawed me right down the middle. A dead chicken body!

And then I remember that I went to school and I‟d never seen a crayon in my life. And they had
these crayons in our first grade and they were such beautiful colors, I thought they‟d be good to
eat. So I ate one one morning and I went home and lunch tasted horrible. And I thought well
maybe that wasn‟t the right color, so the next day I ate another crayon. After that I decided
crayons were not good to eat.

We moved to another house in St. Johns before we moved to Gallup, New Mexico and my
Father worked for Uncle Albert who had trucking lines on the Indian Reservation and my Father
drove from Gallup to Ganado every day and his brother Joseph, who is the oldest in his family,
drove to Ramah, New Mexico every day. Gallup was a miserable place because they had snow,
lots of snow and ice, and the ice would be so thick that the cars would just make wheel tracks
right down through the middle of town. Our first house there had eaves that were quite wide and
icicles would grow clear to the ground on those and we used to run around that house underneath
those icicles.

And I was in school probably in the fourth or fifth grade then and I saw the movie King Kong1
for the first time and I‟ll tell you, I was terrified until I was a teenager of King Kong.

I got sick in Gallup and they sent me to St. Johns to live with my Grandma Richey and my
Grandpa Richey died soon after that. I remember that Aunt Vivian and Aunt Daisy and Uncle
Jay, my mother‟s sisters and brother-- now they weren‟t married at that time, they were quite
young and one Easter we had chickens at Grandma‟s house and we gathered those eggs. And I
used to find Daisy‟s and Vivian‟s hiding places and put all their eggs in my hiding place and so
came Saturday before Easter, Grandma said “well, everybody go get your eggs and bring them
in” and I went to my hiding place and there was not one egg in it! Daisy and Vivian had taken
those eggs.

My Uncle Jay had skunks that he had depurfumed and he had built an underground cage for
them and that was rather interesting. He used to go out and kill rabbits for our breakfast and
Grandma would fry them up and make gravy and biscuits. I‟ll tell you, I think that was the best
food I ever tasted.

The family moved back to St. Johns and we lived in Anderson‟s rental and then we bought a
house up at the end of the street. My Dad was real well acquainted with a man and a lady on the
reservation who had a trading post and she liked my Dad real well and she said “I‟m giving you
that house” but we never got a title to it and so her husband died first and then she died and her
family took the house so we didn‟t have a house.
    King Kong was first released in black and white in 1933
Down in this place where we lived by Anderson‟s I was just about nine years old, and in this
place from the gate to the house was quite aways away. My Dad bought a new car and left it
here with my Mother and I knew how to drive because my Dad had taught me in the mail trucks
he used to drive. And every time I thought about that car out there in the street, I would go out
and my Mother left the key in it all the time. I would get in that car and take off. Then she‟d
come screaming down the sidewalk “Norma, you get that car back here!” She finally learned to
take the key out.

We lived in this house of Sister Jarvis‟ when we moved from the Anderson place and I went to
High School up there in St. Johns. Well, I was kind of ornery and I guess I‟ll have to tell you.
This was a complete accident. There was a balcony above the big recreation hall in the high
school, gym I guess they called it, because they played basketball down there. And there was a
balcony up there and maybe four or five of us girls would pool our lunch money and go down to
Wilbur‟s market and buy food. Sometimes it would be a loaf of bread and some mustard. And
we‟d eat that for about a week. Well, one time, I don‟t know what we were eating this week but
I bought a big bottle of grape juice and I had pulled the cap off it and for some reason we didn‟t
drink it and the bell rang. I had a locker upstairs and I had one downstairs. These lockers were
two deep and the bell rang so I just slapped the lid back on that grape juice, put it in the locker
and just plain forgot about it. And one day, Mr. Allen, the principal called me in and he said
“Norma, we do not brew hard liquor in this high school.” And he fired me. The grape juice had
bubbled over and ruined the books in the locker below me. And so he expelled me. I don‟t know
if I was always trying to get attention or what but I was quite a cut up. I was out about a week or
so or maybe two weeks and he came up to the house one night and he said “It‟s kind of dull
around there. You can come back to school tomorrow.” I said “OK”, so the next morning on the
way to school some of my friends three boys and four girls, all good kids, said they were
ditching, would I go with them and this dumb kid didn‟t use her brain, she got in that car and
went with them. And they had a lunch and we went up and played in the snow near Vernon. And
in the afternoon, this was on a Friday and we always had a matinee dance and I said I think we
could make it back to the dance and so I came in the front hallway of the school and turned the
corner to get my books to take them home to study and Mr. Allen, the principal was standing
there. He picked me up in his arms, I was just a little kid, I didn‟t even weigh a hundred pounds,
he took me out and sat me on the sidewalk outside the gate to the high school and just then my
Dad drove by in his truck. He was coming home to visit for the week end. And he stopped and
he said “what are you doing sitting out here”. And I said, “I just got expelled, Dad.” And he
said “what for?” and I told him and he said “I want to tell you something. I brought you a new
bicycle” It was the most beautiful bike you ever saw, it was all silver it was a _______ alloy. He
said “You can‟t ride this thing for two months.” And I didn‟t! I was expelled from April for the
rest of the year and that took all of my credits away for a half a year.

Well, I didn‟t know what to do and I decided I was not going back to school. I was working in
Rose Café downtown and here came Uncle Albert and he said “Quit your job, get your pay,
you‟re going to Mesa to live with me and our family–Aunt Aldine and his children.” So I did, I
moved to Mesa and went down there. I think I was confused about everything that went down in
that big school but I did get my credits down there and when I got back to St. Johns the only
thing I had to take was the Arizona Constitution test and the Federal Constitution test. Well, the
principal said are you ready for that and I said “I haven‟t even studied them.” He gave me a
book for one of them for the first night and I went home and man, I read all night. I went back
took that test and I missed two questions out of a hundred on the first one and that was pretty
good. The next night I didn‟t miss any on the other one. So I decided maybe I wasn‟t so dumb
after all, I was just lazy.

 Then I graduated and I sang a solo at graduation, “The Wind‟s in the South Today”. The first
note was high C. I opened my mouth to sing and not a thing happened. And Lettie Patterson was
our music teacher and she was a very fine pianist and she looked at me and she just went right on
playing until she could bring me in again and I finally hit that high C.

I used to play the piano for the school orchestra and I also played for the chorus for our singing
time too. I played in a dance band and we used to travel around Arizona to play for the Proms
and the Senior Hops and things like that which was fun. We had one fellow and he had a car and
it was a big hearse we loaded all that equipment in that hearse. Charlie Patterson furnished the
hearse. So that was really interesting.

(How long did you take piano lessons?) When I was in the first grade, we didn‟t have a piano
and my Uncle Zack Farr had a distributorship for pianos and he came up and my Mother and
Father decided they would buy a piano. But it took awhile to get a delivery on that. But they
had these big fold out sheets that had the keys printed on them. I learned to play on one of those
first. I took a few lessons from Lettie Patterson and a few from a Sister Crosby and then Meryl
Karchner Shumway and her husband moved in and I took piano lessons from her while I did her
housework for those lessons.

 The first memory that I have of John was that he was just an ornery little kid in the first grade. I
pushed him off a box and bumped his head made him cry in Primary. In the first grade, he was
something else. He‟d just stomp up and down the aisle and everyday he‟d take a different seat.
The teacher, Stella Peterson, finally took him to a bench in back of her desk She put in on that
bench and sat on him to keep him from moving. She finally convinced him he to stay put. We
were in the same classes until his family moved to Phoenix when he was in the fourth grade.

I had lived in St. Johns for awhile and John came back and got a job in a meat market working
for Uncle Ernie Wilbur. After we got married and we lived in St. Johns for about a year and a
half. John was having trouble with chronic appendicitis and got down to 132 pounds. He went
down to Phoenix where he had surgery from Dr Merrill. When we first went back to Phoenix, we
had $10 and we took that $10 and paid our tithing and that afternoon John had a job in a meat
market. After recovering from surgery, John worked for Safeway. Then we moved to Holbrook
and lived for five months until the wind blew us out. When we went back to Phoenix, John got a
job in a war plant. In the meantime we had our little boy Johnnie.

We lived in a duplex and our duplex was on a corner and about 10 feet away was another house
and John went into the service and I was terrified. Before he went into the service, I was doing
my ironing in this duplex and the kitchen door was on the east and maybe nine feet across from
the kitchen was the dining room door. And just inside of that dining room door was a telephone
niche and it was so hot that day that I just had my slip and underwear on. And the phone rang
and I had my back to that dining room door that went into the kitchen and the phone rang and I
turned around and all I had to do was just take one step to pick up that phone and I picked it up
just in time to see this blasted “nigger” and I don‟t care if you don‟t want me to call them
“niggers‟ he was a „nigger”! He was in that kitchen and another step and he would have grabbed
me and I was just a little skinny thing then and I dropped that phone, all I said was “hello”, and
put my hands against that man‟s chest and pushed him right across that kitchen and out the back
door. “Lady, you didn‟t have to do that”, you know how they talk in that drawl. After that every
door was locked and at night it was something else, I had Johnnie‟s toys in front of the front
door, in front of the kitchen door and the door that went into the bedroom. It was a one bedroom
apartment. I was more terrified.

Anyway this lady next door to us came over one day and said “We‟re moving to California
tomorrow”. I said “How come?” And she said, “Well, my husband suddenly got a job over
there and we have to go right away.” And I said “ You can‟t leave, you‟re my safety”. John was
in the service then. And she said “ Well, a couple with two children are moving in here”. And I
said, “Is their name Armstrong?” And her mouth dropped open and she said “How did you
know that?” I said “ That‟s my cousin.” I hadn‟t seen her for years and it was just amazing and
she said “How did you know their name?” But it just came to me.

So Amy and Ned lived there all the time John was in the service. We had to move down on
Adams street because people weren‟t renting to anyone with children and we had two of them.
The duplex was sold out from under us. And we moved down on Adams street because they
would take children. And I think John was home from the service then, of course. And I was
expecting Lynda, our third child.

Well, little Johnnie was about five years old then and that kid loved to wander. John was
working at Neb‟s market then and I called him up and I said, I can‟t find Johnnie anyplace. I‟d
looked all around the neighborhood. Well, Adams street is just across the high way from the
airport and that kid had gone over to that airport. So John came home but he found him coming
back home! He also had a way with directions. He wasn‟t lost. His mother was lost.

One day there across the street on Adams street were two boys one was Johnnie‟s age and one
was a year older and those two boys just dealt that kid misery all the time. They beat up on him
and one day he came crying home and I said “I‟m not going to let you in the house until you
walk across the street and tackle those kids.” “But Mom, there‟s two of them and they‟re so big
and they beat me all the time” I said “Well, today, you‟re going to beat them.” And he sat there
crying on the front porch and finally he got up and walked across the street and beat those two
kids to a pulp. And he was just a little kid. And you know, they were friends from then on. He
never had anymore trouble with those kids.

Then we decided to build a house in Phoenix. And all the kids were born in Phoenix except
Johnnie who was born in St. Johns and Lynda who was born in Mesa. I was always in the music
in the church in both the Stake and the ward. I was director of the choir and I was an organist.
I worked for Sperry Flight Systems for twenty years. It was about thirty miles from home to
work. I drove in a car with four ladies and we each took a turn driving one week at time in the
carpool. And Samma, one of the lady drivers, Samma Muffly was her name, had just bought a
brand new Buick and it was the first time she‟d driven it. We were coming down 44th street
coming home and we were coming to the Camelback crossroads that runs east and west. Her
car, we had the green light and she was going right on through. And just as her car got to the
center line, her car stopped absolutely dead, no jolt, no skid marks, no nothing, it just died. And
it was just like, I can‟t explain it, it was a miracle really. And Samma says “What‟s the matter
with my new car”. Oh and there was a station wagon driving on the inner lane of the four lane
road, we were on the outer lane, And that Station wagon went on but we stopped. And a car
came from going east on Camelback, and ran a red light. And it went through and mashed that
Station wagon, it just ran right into it, and Samma didn‟t even see it, she was so worried about
her new car. She turned the key on and the car went on. I said “Aren‟t you going to stop? That
was a bad accident back there.” I don‟t know if the woman in the station wagon was safe or not,
but you can‟t tell me that someone didn‟t just take hold of that car gently and stop it like that.
Because if her car had gone through the intersection, I would have been killed. And maybe
everyone in the car, because I was on the passenger side in front. So I‟m sure that no one in the
car were supposed to be killed. That to me was an absolute miracle.

 I worked for 14 years in the engineering department, I liked it, it was nice. And then they
opened another small plant a few blocks from the big plant of Sperry, and I asked to be moved
there. And they moved me there and when I was there they told me that they were going to
make me supervisor. There were only three girls in that complex, the rest of them were
engineers and technicians. And they were going to make me supervisor over that thing. I went
home and told John and he said “You‟re not even going back to work.” I said “ I have to. I have
at least two weeks work on the project I was working on” He said “OK but after two weeks,
you‟re out.” I told the male supervisor there “I have to quit. John says I can‟t work here
anymore.” He told me he felt like he‟d been kicked in the stomach by a mule. Well, I worked
for two more weeks. They took me out to dinner. John didn‟t want me to go out to dinner with
these two engineers so I said “Can we take another girl, Mickey Conroe?” They said “OK, but
she‟ll have to pay for her own dinner.” And so she was willing. We went out to dinner and I

 When I quit Sperry I was just a nervous wreck for a whole year. And when we were at
Conference in Scotsdale one year, and that year, as we walked down the hall, President Choles
was in his office, he was the Stake President. I said “John, let‟s go on a mission, let‟s go in and
tell him that.” We walked in there, the door was open, and he seemed really pleased that we
were going on this mission. I had thought about it, but we hadn‟t talked that much about it.
Anyway, President Choles said “I have the impression that you‟re going on a mission to
Mexico.” And we did. We had made arrangements to go to Mazatlan, for a month, and while
we were there, my sister Yvonne came down and we had a really nice time. President Choles
said “You go to Mexico for that month, and then we‟ll get you all set up for your mission.” So
we came home and went on our mission to Yucatan, Mexico, in April of 1980. I really enjoyed
it. We had already had our physicals, in fact the day that we talked to President Choles, we
talked with a doctor to get our physicals. Then we went on that mission and that was something
else. We had two Cadillacs, mine was the newest one that John had given me for my birthday,
but John went down and bought another Cadillac, and put a trailer hitch on it. That‟s the one we
took on our mission. We took a trailer into Mexico for our mission. We had trouble with that
car. One thing, we had to stop every mile or so and put water in it because it was draining water
all the time. The motor had swallowed the water hose. John found the spring up in the radiator.
Well, we stopped and finally John got that fixed. And one time we were going through a town,
and trying to follow the map, and we got to a place and we got kind of lost, well the road went
that way, and it was an L-shaped street, we got down that street, and couldn‟t get that car around
that corner. There was a school there, and a church, and us buzzing around there trying to get
out, and we just couldn‟t move. We couldn‟t back up because there were cars on both sides of
the street, we just couldn‟t back that straight. And I was sitting there, and I said “You know, if
we could get that Volkswagen off that inner corner, we could get around that thing”. And boy
we had a lot of help, about eight guys picked that Volkswagen up and set it on the sidewalk.
And we got out of there, and I‟ll tell you, it was funny, we had people just dying with laughter.
Those were some of the problems we had. But we finally made it in to Merida, Mexico, and the
mission was just beautiful.

We had a motorcycle on the back of the trailer that we took down there, and one time we were
riding that motorcycle, the streets were terrible in that part of the city, and there was a puddle of
water there, and I thought “well, that‟s alright”, and we took that motorcycle into the puddle, and
got wet clear up to our waistlines. In that mud puddle. It was a big deep hole. A little old lady,
she had nothing to do with us, but she fell into one of those holes, and got her picture in the
newspaper. And believe me, Merida got busy and did something about the streets there. Then
we went on down and got into the mission home down there, and met our mission President,
President Martinez. He gave us an assignment. He said “You‟re going to speak in church next
Sunday, but Norma, I want you to take all of the Relief Society lessons for this year, and I want
you to make it, instead of a page long, I want you to make it a paragraph.” And I thought “Huh,
what a job!” And he said “When you get through with that, do everything but the Christmas one,
and my wife, Sister Martinez will do that. You give the lessons to the two Mexican lady
missionaries to correct.” I gave the lessons to them, and there were no corrections, they were
just all perfect. And I‟ve often said I don‟t think I could do that again, I think I was inspired and
helped to do those lessons.
We did a lot of traveling in Mexico, here and there. We went to Chichenitza the famous ruins
down there. We went through there many times, but we couldn‟t stop because we were on
assignment. But one Saturday the other missionaries had their free time too, we piled twelve in
that Cadillac. There was John and I and the two lady missionaries in the front seat and the rest of
them were piled in the backseat and we had one little elder, he looked like he was about twelve
years old, and he was lying down in the back window, and the rest of them just piled in the back,
they didn‟t mind, and it was seventy miles down there, so you knew that was quite a ways, but
we had a nice time at the ruins. And this big “Sinotee” that‟s really famous, don‟t remember the
name of it now, we had heard that they threw sacrificial maidens in there, so we asked one of the
lady missionaries when or why they threw the maidens in and she said “Well, they threw them in
every 31st of February every year.” They never really found any bones down there but they
found a lot of trinkets. They had lots of Sinotees on the peninsula down there, and the water was
so clear, you could walk into it and never realize you were walking into the water. The water
was just absolutely so clear, there was not a single running river on the peninsula, it was all
underground. And we used to go down to the beach to baptize the converts but John and I as
missionaries, could not even put our toe in the water. They said they lost missionaries that way,
they said water and missionaries don‟t mix. We taught the Mexicans and the Mayan Indians on
our mission. John went a lot with the young missionaries. And I went with the Lady
missionaries. I couldn‟t speak the language too well, but I could understand President Martinez,
when he spoke, showing his teeth and speaking slowly.
We spent one month at the MTC before we went on our mission. At that time you were
supposed to spend two months on foreign language, but John knew Spanish so well, from
traveling so much in Mexico, they let us go after one month. John says he spoke broken
Spanish and I corrected him. Broken Fluent Mexican. And we already knew the customs of the
country. You had to have your hands on the table when you eat, never on your lap, because you
might have a gun, and shoot your neighbor across the table. But I had a nice time down there.
One time, I served a demonstration luncheon for the ladies, and one apple down there cost a
whole dollar and twenty cents. So that was something else. Then the ladies served a luncheon
and they had jalapeno peppers in dishes all down that long table. And one lady said “Do you like
jalapenos?” I said “Yes, I love them, I eat them all the time” but I had never tasted one that hot!
I sat there, and they kept looking at me, and my eyes were just streaming. “Do you like them”,
“Yeah, I like them”. I don‟t know why they were hotter than the others.
Then we went to one place in Guymus where they served us a dinner. They told us to bring our
own dishes for Pissoli, and we brought paper plates, and Pisoli is a soup.

We came home and sold our house in Phoenix and bought a lot in St. Johns and had a small
house built there. We bought a 5th wheel trailer and traveled a bit mostly to Utah and Mexico.
We made some good friends both places. The Stouts came from Hurricane, Utah. We met them
in Mexico on the beach in a trailer park. And one time we came back from Mexico and it was
kind of late at night and we decided to stop and we stopped in a place called Why, Arizona called
Coyote Howls trailer park. It‟s a huge park. The next morning John walked across the road and
got acquainted with the people and he said he was Morris Farr from Utah. And John said, “my
wife is a Farr.” And so we got to talking to them and they were relatives of ours.

We bought a house in Why and we stayed there for six months and then we would come back to
St. Johns and the mountains for six months. We bought over two and a half acres in the pines
out of Nutrioso.

I was an adventurous kid and did some stupid things. If I had my life to live over again, I‟d be
different. Wouldn‟t we all?

I stayed with Grandma Richey at times. On her ranch in Richfield she would go up there in the
summertime where it was just really nice. They had about seven pure water springs on her
property and it grew water cress. Boy, that sure was good. I must have been a problem because
I was always living with other people other than my parents. And I didn‟t know I was that

When we lived in Holbrook, we used to come to St. Johns quite often and we had to go over a
railroad track, and there was a big long freight train, so we were sitting there waiting for that to
come and it was going East. And John was sitting there impatient, revving the car and getting
ready to go right behind that train. And I said “Don‟t you move from here”, and he said “Why
not?” I said “I don‟t know John, just don‟t move.” And as soon as that train passed, there was
another train behind it coming the other way. If we would have gone, we would have been
crushed! How did I know? Something just told me not to move. And so we didn‟t, and my life
was saved there, and to me that was a miracle.

We took our family to Mexico for fifteen straight summers. We went to Guymus quite often
with friends to do some deep sea fishing for sailfish and Marlin and that was fun. There was a
motel on the beach there and we would all get a room on the second story because we could all
see when the boats would come in. And one day I saw John coming and I was in my suit and I
threw off my towel, and ran down the beach and got in the water just in time to see a great big
(whew!) Shark headed right for me. I was going to swim out and meet the boat. I tell you, when
I saw that shark, I would have won some kind of a race getting out of that water. I used to get so
sea sick in that boat as long as I wasn‟t steering it, but anytime they would catch a big fish in that
thing, John would knock me away from that wheel, and I would get really sick, so I would get up
on that bow and lie there, and hold onto a chain, and I was so seasick, I would think “All I have
to do is turn loose of this chain and I would be no more, I wouldn‟t be this seasick”.
One time John‟s sister Margaret was with us and she got seasick and she always claimed that
when she was expecting a child that nobody was as sick as she was, she had morning sickness so
bad. Until she got seasick, and then she said “I never realized that you get this seasick.”


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