Moses Lake Oral History

Narrator: Remina Jorgenson
Interviewer: Andrea Stucki
Date: November 17, 1995
Moses Lake, Washington

[The following is not a verbatim transcription]

 Side 1

She read from a prepared statement for the first 15 minutes or so of the interview:

She majored in physics, chemistry, math—had seven kids—decided that best place to raise kids was on farm. She and her husband heard about the Columbia basin—he went and saw it—spent a day looking the place over—bought a unit in 1940, while Coulee Dam was still being built. Construction was stopped because of War. She and husband decided to move there.

 Came to Moses L. in 1946—water not in their unit—bought land in May Valley next to the lake—farmed rocky land but produced good crops.

 Husband Melvin and her sons participated in various community and church organizations. Melvin Branch president for 7 years—he wrote a 40-year history of the ML branch of the LDS. She was drama and musical production director for the church.

 Talks about musical productions in which she was involved for LDS

 Talked about how they got kids to rehearsals for church productions. She said that she has great photos of the LDS musical/drama productions that she and kids put on for church. These various productions involved between 100-1200 local kids.

 Talks more about church productions and member involvement—what the church did in the community—what women in the church did.

 Said that she has photos and newspaper articles re: church activities. She did lots of the directing of these church productions.

 She was born in 1907 in Lyman, WY. Parents moved to UT when she was 8, and she attended BYU and got her degree there. Maiden name was Larson. The only other place that she lived before coming to ML was Vernal, UT.

 They grew mostly alfalfa on their farm, but also a little wheat.

 Husband was shown the area where they finally bought by a realtor.

 No direct connections between her or her family to LAFB.

 I: How did LAFB change ML?

J: Lots of base fellows come to church and other LDS functions—dances and recreational things. They also came to Sunday dinner at her home, and some were interested in her daughter.

 I: How did the population of ML change?

J: "It was amazing how it grew once the water came into the valley. There were new people . . .every week we had new people coming, just ever so many. It grew, from the beginning, when my husband went in as the branch president there were 350 and when, in seven years, it increased to over a thousand. So that was just from our church, so you can get some idea of how it was increasing."

 I: When the dam came in did the ethnic groups change at all?

J: Changes to the ethnic groups—an improvement—was a product of the times. "When we first came I remember there was one grocery store, a little post office, and a little furniture store. And that was it, in Moses Lake. It was just that small (chuckles)."

 J: When the dam was built the main change was the increase in area farmers. "Oh yes, yes, that’s what brought them in."

I: Would you have moved to ML if the dam hadn’t been built?

J: "No, no, because it was all dry farming and we weren’t interested in dry farming."

 I: Why does she like ML?

J: Great place for kids, lots for them to do, lots to do for everyone. All kinds of activities—it is a growing and producing community—she’s really enjoyed the growth and opportunities offered there (e.g., sports programs, parks, swimming, skiing in the mountains, camping in the mountains, it is a very interesting area to live in.

 I: What things did she personally do in church?

J: Children’s plays, Relief Society work, bazaars, singing mothers, president of the Stake MIA for 10 years, took LDS youth into the mountains on camping trips, performed dance and musical festivals.

 Neither she nor her husband worked on the dams—too busy farming.

 I: Why did her kids stay in ML?

J: Lots of opportunities here for advancement in knowledge, citizenship service opportunities, jobs.

 I: What does she think of the ML industry boom?

J: It was wonderful—especially important was the beet factory)—growth great for church, crop diversification, best climate for water production of any place in nation—ideal climate—long summers and productive winters—ideal.

 She’s from a family of 9 and her husband from a family of 11

What work she did when she and her husband farmed. Commentary on her kids working and on the positive impact of kids working.

 Problem today is that kids today don’t have anything to do. More commentary on what ails today’s youth.

 I: Before the industries came did they have problems transporting their produce?

J: "Yes, we hauled produce down to the Tri-Cities, and hauled some of it into Canada to sell it. Yeah, we’ve done a lot of different things with our produce . . . like raised a big patch of watermelons one year and couldn’t sell ‘em here so we took ‘em into Canada and boy, they snapped them up just that quick ." (laughs)

I: So having industries is really beneficial?

J: "Uh-huh, uh-huh, the industries have been wonderful. It’s been wonderful. I mean if you can’t sell your products then its no need of raising them. And it’s expensive to raise them . . . machinery, water, taxes, fertilizer . . . it takes good management to be able to pay out because of the expense of producing."

I: Have those things changed a lot?

J: "Where you are assured of a market then it’s comfortable, otherwise it would be a real headache. And its good that they have allowed . . . in the first place we could only own a unit, a wife and a husband could only own a unit, but one unit won’t justify the machinery that it takes to produce, so they’ve allowed us to increase our acreage so that we can afford to buy the machinery that it takes to produce. A unit is usually about 80 acres—I know some of the acres, one of my sons farms better than a thousand acres in order to justify the machinery that it takes. I asked him just the other day how much that new tractor cost and he said around a hundred thousand dollars. So, I mean, you've got to produce an awful lot to pay for the machinery and the trucks and tractors and harvesters that’s involved in rotation. You need to rotate your crops, you know, and you have to have different machinery for different crops."

 She taught in Vernal before she was married—phys. Ed and drams

 I: Were she and her husband politically involved in ML?

J: Not much, except when son ran for Superior Judge. They campaigned by running around and hanging signs.

 I: How have politics in ML changed with the dam?

J: They’ve improved a lot—better men and women running for office and serving—quality of the candidates has improved—more people to choose from.

 I: Were there lots of migrant workers?

She used to go into town and pick up a whole load to come out and take care of the hand work.

J: "And by the way, the irrigating system has changed, oh my (chuckles). At first we had open ditches, and they’d be washing out because of the sand, you know, and then we got tubes from railroads—little rubber tubes, and we put them in the head ditches so they wouldn’t flood out. And then after that we had open ditches but we used siphons, and the open ditches would flood out so we put concrete ditches in, to the head ditches, and then we used the siphons. And then we went from that to wheel moves, and we put in wheel moves, and they worked fine. And then we got in the overhead sprinklers, and the improvement of that is that there’s the big arm that goes out to the corners and waters the corners. So I’ve seen all of that change, and it’s wonderful, marvelous, and just thrills me to pieces to see all these new timesavers."

 Highlights in LDS church history in ML—she said that participation was wonderful; she was associated with great talent and leadership in the dances, programs, camping trips.

 I: How has the church changed?

J: People don’t do as much as they used to—they did a lot more in the church.

I: Why, does she think? Funding? No time?

J: She says TV is the culprit—instead of making their own entertainment they watch TV. When did she first notice these changes? Last fifteen years or so—people now have their big satellite discs—attendance down as a result.

 The church established as a branch when she came—now it is a stake.

 J: "Boy, we sure had an experience. I’ve got pictures here of the fallout. We were at church, and we saw these big fluffy clouds rolling, and we went into church, we didn’t know what they were, nobody had their radios on and nobody knew what they were, and we went into church, and we hadn’t been there, oh, but an hour, when our bishop said, "we’re going to close church and want you all to go home because those clouds are from the volcano, the ashes falling, and we want you to get home. The highway was closed off, you couldn’t go on the highway, we had to go around by the factory and then the back road to get home. And we kept the windshield a-wiping and you couldn’t see, and we wobbled all over the road, and we nearly ran into a car that was coming and we couldn’t see it, and I’m telling you we just crept along at ten miles an hour trying to get home. It was really serious. And then three or four inches of that stuff all over everything—the next day my raspberries were flat on the ground it was so heavy they just flattened right on the ground. It covered, ‘course, the gardens and the farm was all covered with it and it wouldn’t go away!(laughs)."

I: Did it help your farming at all?

J: " They say after it’s been worked in, but it ruined a lot of the farm. It was terrible. And if you used water on it it just solidified, so we had to just scrape it off of the house, and scrape it off of everything . . . it was early enough in the spring that [the crops] came out of it fairly good, but they were down for quite some time. They were young enough that it didn’t effect them too greatly. You couldn’t scrape it off—we tried to scrape it off—but where you going to scrape it? Oh dear, it was really . . . tracking it in, tracking it in (laughs) . . . ."

 I: Did LAFB change the community?

J: Yes—it has been a great addition to the community—she is happy to see Japanese people mixed in with the community.

 I: Does she and her family have many connections with Japanese people?

J: Yes—during church functions—she says that they are "very high class people."

 END

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