Home > Family HIstory > LIFE HISTORY OF MARLENE RICE HILLAM

Your Grandmother's Reflections

By Marlene Rice Hillam

Your Grandmother's Reflections” was written to her grand-daughters, Allison and Ashlee Rencher


My Grandma, Chloe...


I was the first grandchild of my grandmother and grandfather Rice, so I had a wonderful relationship with them, especially my Grandmother. We were very close. I stayed with them often and "Grandma" taught me everything she thought I needed to know to prepare me for life. Chloe was her first name, and she was a beautiful, lovely lady. She was from a large family and was a twin. Her twin was a brother. She taught me how to do a lot of things and often made up little stories to teach me lessons. One of the stories I remember was told to me while she was teaching me to bake a cake. When I emptied the batter from the bowl into the cake pans, I didn't clean the bowl out enough, so this is the story she told me:

"Once upon a time in a far away land, there lived a very handsome prince who was looking for a wife. One hot summer day the King and Queen sent out a proclamation to all of the subjects in their kingdom and invited every young maiden to come to the palace. Each was given a bowl and flour etc. and instructed to mix up a cake. The maiden with the cleanest bowl was considered by the King and Queen to be the most wise in the Kingdom, because she knew the meaning of "waste not want not." Then she was chosen to marry the handsome prince and lived happily ever after."

My grandmother told me true stories too. She told me of when she was a young girl and had the responsibility of always taking care of her baby brother who was also a twin. Her mother had a large family and much work to do, so grandma was given the complete responsibility of his care. I think one of the ways I am like my grandmother is in my love for music. She always encouraged her children to develop their talents in singing, and playing the piano and other instruments. I loved to play the piano when I went to her house and for my tenth birthday, her gift to me was piano lessons, so I lived with her that summer and started taking lessons. Now, when I look back I appreciate this wonderful gift that is still a blessing in my life.


My Dad, Eddie...


My Dad, your great Grandpa Rice, lived a very adventurous life and has told me lots of interesting stories about himself when he was a boy. One of the funniest stories was about the day he and a group of his friends went "skinny dipping" in the canal just about three miles north of their farm.

It was a hot summer day when he and three or four friends rode their horses out to the sand hills. When they came to the canal on their way back home, the cold, clear water looked so inviting that they took off their clothes and jumped into the water! It was very refreshing and they were having great time diving in the water from the bridge. One of the boys spotted a car coming down the road toward the bridge, so they all jumped into the canal and hid under the bridge, waiting for the car to drive across. When the car finally reached the bridge, much to their surprise, it didn't cross, but stopped right in the middle. The mysterious person in the car turned off the motor and stayed their for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, they heard the car door open and someone get out of the car. They looked up, and there was a woman peering under the bridge and commanding them to get out of there and get their clothes on that very minute, or she would call the Sheriff. Of course they did not dare come out in only their "birthday suits," so they waited and waited until she left to get out of the water and get dressed. Then they rode their horses back home again as fast as they could go! My dad was about thirteen years old then, and said that he never did anything that bad again!


My Mom, Isabelle. . .


The funniest story I remember about my mother happened when she was probably thirteen or courteen years old (In those days, girls and boys went to dances and dated at a much earlier age). It seems as though my mother needed a new pair of shoes and had dreamed of having her first pair of "high heels" in time for the dance that Saturday night. So her father (Grandpa Berrett) took her to the shoe store and bought her a new pair of shoes, but much to her dismay, they were not the beautiful "high heeled" shoes she had her heart set on.

When they got home with the new "low heeled" shoes, she cried and said how she hated the new shoes that Grandpa had bought for her. Grandpa said, "just take them back then and get the other shoes if you want to be so foolish." Which she did.

The dance was about five miles (at least) from their house, and after dancing all night in those new shoes, she had to walk home over a road that we would call a "cow path" now. It was about three o'clock in the morning when she finally reached home. She was in so much pain with her sore feet that she could hardly walk for days. She never wore those shoes again!


Childhood Days...


I was the oldest of five children. When I was three years old my brother Bill was born. He was followed by a little sister named Yvonne. After Yvonne came Jan. After Jan came Kathy, and then Steve.

Bill and I were best of friends when we were little and had a lot of fun, especially when we lived on the farm in Idaho for a while. We had fun in the haystack, the threshing machine, the tree house, and playing house while we herded the cows. Bill was very ambitious and creative, so what one of us didn't think of, the other did. When we lived in California, we loved to go on family picnics in the woods and out to Clear Creek. We especially liked to go swimming at the "cove" at Lake Almanore in the summer time. In the winter there was always ice skating and we loved to roller skate at the rink in Westwood. Every Saturday, we went to the matinee at the big movie theater there. The theater was the social meeting place of the community. I think I was obedient by nature, or maybe I learned obedience by testing the boundaries while I was young. I do remember getting in trouble once, however...

When we lived in Westwood, the biggest event of the year was when the carnival came to town. It was the most exciting thing I could ever imagine with all the beautiful lights, the sounds of motors and the music of the merry-go round, the smell of cotton candy and candied apples in the air. The big empty lot where it was held every year was only a short distance from our house, so I could always see the trucks pull in and see the lights of the rides and hear the sounds of the motors from my bedroom window.

One year, on the last night of the Carnival, my parents took me to ride the Merry Go Round and the Ferris Wheel. I thought I was in heaven for sure when we stopped on the very top of the Ferris Wheel and could see all over town and even see "Old Town" from up there.

The sight that I was most fascinated by, though, was the beautiful fan dancer with her huge pink fans. She had beautiful blond hair with a sparkling tiara on her head, and she was truly the most elegant thing I had ever seen in my young life. She performed inside of a tent, but before each performance; she would give a short preview on the outside of the tent. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why my parents would never buy a ticket so we could go in and see the show. Was it because we were too poor?

The morning after our night at the carnival, I asked for permission to go back to the carnival, because I knew they would be packing up and getting ready to leave that day and I would not have another chance to see the beautiful dancing lady again, but of course, my parents said "no!"

When they weren't looking, I went anyway. "Why couldn't they understand why it was so important?" It was a beautiful warm fall day and I has having such a pleasant time walking around the grounds and talking to all the carnival workers while they were packing up their booths etc. I even talked to the beautiful fan dancer. I really made a "hit" with those carnival workers! It was great! I had never felt so big and important in all of my four or five years of life! In fact, I was having such a good time that I completely forgot I was doing anything wrong. I was quickly reminded, however, when my Dad arrived on the scene and gave me a good spanking and scolding and took me home.


School Days...


I was a big dreamer when I was a girl. We used to go to Movies often. I especially loved the"musicals." There were beautiful singers and dancers and I wanted to be like them. I used to write letters to many Hollywood Stars and ask them for photographs. My bedroom was covered with nice glossy autographed photos that many of them sent to me. One I remember with a personal message just to me was from Gail Storm. She was my idol. Now, as I think about it; that must have the been the beginning of my [section mission here.... sorry!]

I always dreamed of marrying a wonderful handsome husband and living happily in a cottage with roses by the door, and of having sons and daughters and of becoming a piano teacher. All of my dreams have come true and are even better than in my wildest imaginings.

The first boy I remember having a "crush" on was a Junior while I was a Freshman. His name was Dick Gooderham and he had red hair. I don't know why I liked him. It must have been his hair!

We moved often while I was growing up, which I did not enjoy very much. But now, when I look back, I can see that I had many friends that I would not have had, if we had stayed in one place all the time.

The first friend I remember, was when we lived in Westwood, California when I was just a pre-schooler. Her name was Marlene Terry and she was about two years older than I and much wiser and more beautiful. I really admired her.

Shirlene Murri was my best friend when I was in Junior High School and lived in St. Anthony, Idaho. She was very kind hearted and had a nice family who were very good to me.

When we moved back to Westwood, Jan Bingham was my best friend and was the closest friend that I ever had. She was the only Mormon girl in the ninth grade and I was the only one in the eighth grade. We had a lot of fun playing the piano together. We didn't have music written for one piano four hands, so we would make up duets by playing from solo repertoire with one of us playing the treble and the other the bass. We took lessons from the same teacher and felt some feeling of competition when we played in recitals. Sunday after church, we would always get together and go for walks and sometimes we would make chocolate fudge at her house. After it had cooked to a "softball stage," we loved to pour it on her marble topped dresser to let it cool.

As soon as I was old enough to plan for the future, my dream was to go to B.Y.U. When I graduated from High School. I knew that my parents probably couldn't help me as thy were not doing well financially. But I was taught to believe that if we want to do something enough, we can always find a way. I worked hard in school and was always on the Honor Roll. I was a member of the California Scholastic Federation, which we called, "C.S.F." (I wasn't a "brain", but I worked hard!)

Lassen Union High School in Susanville, California is my High School Alma Mater. I graduated from there in June of 1952 when I was awarded a tuition scholarship to B.Y.U. Then, I knew that my dreams would come true.


My Day Compared to Your Day...


I lived in California when I learned to drive a car. I was sixteen years old, which was the law then. My Dad taught me how to drive and I think we had a brown 1943 Chevrolet. Chevrolet then. I remember it well, because the hood ornament was in the shape of a bird and when the car got old there was a squeak from the front of the car that sounded like a bird singing when we would drive down the road. The first car I ever drove was an old army jeep. We had lots of fun adventures in it. The "fads" I remember in my teen age years were a little bit like your's are now. The boys wore faded jeans as they do now, but were considered to be "out of style" when the dark blue color wore off. "Crew Cuts" were very popular then and some guys even wore Mohawks. Leather "bomber jackets" and letterman sweaters were very popular for cooler weather.

The appropriate attire for school for girls were dresses or skirts and blouses or sweaters. We only wore slacks on certain occasions and wore Levis only on Sadie Hawkins Day. We usually wore straight skirts about mid calf length with baggy sweater sets. We usually dressed them up with a string of pearls or a pretty scarf tied at the neck. I didn't have many different skirts and sweaters, but I did have a box full of pretty scarves to change the look and dress them up a bit. Shoes were either brown penny loafers or gleaming white saddle oxfords with our socks matching the sweater and rolled down below and anklebone with an ankle bracelet (Can you even imagine anything so cute?!). We always polished our shoes every single night. It was a ritual that my father didn't really appreciate, but it seemed vital to me. On Sundays and special occasions, we wore dressy dresses with high heeled shoes and nylons. Slacks and shorts were worn around home, but hardly ever in public.

It might be interesting to you to compare our prices today with the prices then. I remember when theater tickets were raised from ten cents to eleven cents. A loaf of bread was ten cents, a "big" candy bar was five cents, stamps were three cents and a gallon of gas was around twenty cents.

The major news stories about the time we were starting our family were about the McCarthy hearings, which had to do with Communists in the government. This was happening about the time Linda and Melanie were born.

The United States Presidents that I remember were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan was my favorite because of his positive attitude and great sense of humor and, of course because he did so much good for our country.

The first President of the church that I remember seeing was George Albert Smith. When I was eleven years old; I had the wonderful privilege of shaking his hand. I will always remember how his eyes twinkled and how soft his hands were.


College and Courtship Days...


The summer following graduation, I worked three jobs to try to save enough money for board and room. Five days a week, I worked at an ammunition depot in Herlong, CA in an office doing filing and other office chores, in the evenings I worked at a grocery store called Miller's Market which was only a couple of blocks from our house. On Saturdays I accompanied a dancing teacher who taught ballet and tap dancing.

After working all summer, my savings were not quite enough to pay for board and room, so I had decided I would have to work until December and save more money and go to school the Winter Semester.

[Then I received a] call from my mother telling me that one of the ladies in our ward (Lucille Hansen) had just called from Provo and had found a place where I could live and work for my board and room. I needed to make a decision within a couple of hours and notify the people in Provo to whether I would take the job or not. I decided to take the job and was so thrilled to be able to start sooner than I had planned.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dyer of 1388 North 3rd West hired me to do their dishes every night after dinner, and weekly cleaning on Saturday, and watch their three children while they were away on company trips -- all in return for a bedroom, half bath, and breakfast and the evening meal. They were not members of our church, but were very kind to me. I owe them so much!

I arrived there the Saturday before school started. That night Mrs. Dyer introduced me to the girls that lived in the apartment near by because she knew that they were L.D.S. and that I could go to church with them the next day. "When, what to my wondering eyes should appear," but the four friends I had known four years before when I had lived in St. Anthony, Idaho! It also happened that one of those friends, Carla Lewis, was supposedly waiting for "her" missionary who was serving in the Southern States Mission at the time.

On January 23, all of the "room mates" (as I called them, even though we didn't live in the same house) were excited about the basketball game that night and there had been some speculation about the return of "Carla's missionary." We all went to the ball game together, except for Carla. She went with her current boy friend, Jerry Hicks. During the game, Carla was paged over the P.A. system: "Would Carla Lewis please come to the south east entrance of the Field House?" When the "room mates" heard the message, they all wanted to go too, and insisted that I go with them. We ran all the way around the field house in the cold, and sure enough, there was Rulon [Hillam], his father [George Marvin Hillam], and a missionary companion. He was on his way home to Idaho and had not been officially released yet.

On our first date, we went to a play in the Joseph Smith Building titled "Papa is All." We had so much fun!! I had never dated a guy who was so much fun and appreciated life so much. After that, we went to lots of plays, dances, and had so much fun. I think he swept me off my feet!

When school was out, he went back to Idaho to work on the farm, and I went to California to work for the United States Plywood Corp. as an office girl. When it was time to go back to school in the fall, I didn't have enough money to go back to the "Y", but was able to get a full tuition scholarship to Ricks College, where I lived with Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Packer and worked for my board and room.


Marriage and Family. . .


On October 22, 1953, Rulon and I became officially engaged and were married three weeks later on November 12th, in the Idaho Falls Temple by Albert Choales, who was Rulon's former Mission President.

For our Honeymoon, we went on a car trip through central Idaho, through Spokane, Washington and over to Connel, Wa. where Rulon's sister Vonda lived. When we got there, his Mother and little sister Bernice were there also. They rode back to Idaho with us and Bernice was so embarrassed to be riding in the back seat of a car with "just Married" written across the back! Most cars and trucks would honk when they passed, and Bernice's face would turn red, and she would try to lay on the floor. It was so funny! We [Rulon and I] had a lot of fun going to Ricks College together that winter. We were in the same religion class.

[portion missing...]

secretary. The high light of that experience was singing in the "Messiah" in the old Rexburg Tabernacle just before Christmas.

Since our Country was still in war with Korea, our lives and education were interrupted by the "draft board" in February when Rulon was drafted into the Army and shipped off to basic training in Fort Ord, California. I stayed and finished that semester of school and then went to California to be with him. After our stay in fort Ord, we were sent to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and the next year to Fort Meade, Maryland. Linda and Melanie were born while we were back there. Rulon was discharged in February of 1956 and we were very happy to go back to Idaho again. We stayed in Ashton the first few months and helped on the farm. David was born that summer.

In November of 1957, we moved to Blackfoot [Idaho] and Dianne was born only four days after we moved there. She was born on November 11th, just one day before our fourth wedding anniversary.

We loved owning our first home and had so much fun "playing house" there with all of our little children. Julie and Danny were born while we lived there. Marg and Jerry [Hansen - Margaret Hillam Hansen is Rulon Abraham's sister] and their family lived next door. They had four children, the neighbors on the other side of them had four. The neighbors on the other side of us had four, the neighbors behind us had two and the ones next door to them had four or five. I think that makes about twenty two children of about the same age in five houses!

Our yard was the central meeting place for all of the neighborhood children since Rulon had built a sand box, and a merry go round in our back yard. Those years were lots of fun. My time was filled with changing, washing, hanging and folding diapers. What time was left was spent cooking, cleaning, canning, sewing, visiting and playing with the children and working in the church.

While we were there, I served as Primary President, Second Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency and Choir Leader (not all at the same time, of course!). Rulon was Young Men's President, and Scout Master.

Before we were married, we talked about how many children we wanted to have and decided that we would have as many as Heavenly Father would bless us with -- and He did bless us so much. We were blessed with six girls and four boys. Now we have ten children, two daughter in laws, five son in laws, and twenty four grandchildren.


Dianne...


We had just moved to Blackfoot four days before your mother was born. Her due date was December 27th, but she was born on November 11. It really was a surprise to us when she decided to come so soon. Her lungs were not fully developed and she had to live in the hospital for the first four weeks of her life.

The day we brought her home from the hospital was on the happiest days of our lives! She was so little and cute and perfect. She had the most perfect shaped little head which was covered with thick black hair. She had beautiful little features and looked just like a "tiny porcelain doll." When I held her the first time, I knew her name that her name was supposed to be Dianne. I knew that she was sent to us from heaven and was a very special spirit.

Dianne was always very creative and ambitious even when she was very young. She used to love to dress herself and didn't want help from an one. She did a good job most of the time, but quite often she

[portion missing...]

water all over her head, then style her hair herself. One day she played "Beauty Shop" with her cousins next door and her cousin Scott Hansen cut all of her hair off. She had so many bald spots on her head after that, that we had to keep her head covered when she went out side to protect her head from burning. It took more than a year for her hair to look good again!

I have always been so proud of your mother because she was always obedient, honest, spiritual, ambitious, compassionate and is now a wonderful wife and mother. Everything she does, she does well, I am especially proud of her because she is so caring and loving to others.

When It was time for your mother to go away to college; I felt very sad because I loved her so much and knew that I would miss her. I knew our home would never be the same without her. We were proud of her accomplishments in school, though, and it was a special event every time she came home.

It was at Ricks College that she met your father. I think they were in the same Family Home evening group. The first time I met him was when I attended Mother's Week with her. Sunday we went to church together, and as we were walking down the hall on our way into Sacrament Meeting; we passed a most handsome "guy," with a beautiful girl holding his arm. He smiled and said "hello" and Dianne introduced me to him. My first thought was, "I wish that Dianne were the one holding his arm instead of that other girl!"

After school was out and Dianne had sent her other boyfriends off on missions, Trent came to visit Dianne at our house. Every one in the family liked him, he was so fun to be around. He even helped us paint the back fence and which really made a good impression on Dianne's Dad. Painting the fence had never been so much fun or finished so fast before!

That summer they dated more and more, and loved to be together, so, on December 27th they were married in the Idaho Falls temple. The wedding was wonderful and reception was so much fun and so beautiful with lighted Christmas trees for decorations and our "One Horse Open Sleigh" full of home-made quilts. Her colors were pink and burgundy and her bride maids were her sisters. Standing in the line with the Rencher family was so much fun. We were all so happy to be celebrating the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Trent Rencher!


Testimony...


It is fun looking back on the days when I was your age and comparing your times with mine. Many things are just the same and many things are much different.

Every age is special. I have had a wonderful life, and if I could live it over again, I think I would want it to be just the same. I hope your life will be filled with as much joy as mine has been.

Our families and the gospel of Jesus Christ are the two most important things in life, and can bring you the most joy. I am so thankful that Heavenly Father allowed me to come to the earth at this time and to this place and to be born of goodly parents who wanted and loved children, and who taught me to live righteously. I am so thankful for my pioneer ancestors who came to the Salt Lake Valley pushing hand carts, who walked all the way and were true and faithful to then teachings of the church. I can't begin to imagine what my life would be without

[portion missing...]

example to me and good father and grandfather to our family. I am so thankful for beautiful, righteous virtuous, sons and daughters, and grandsons and granddaughters.

I am so thankful the righteous desires of your hearts and that you are obedient and respectful to your parents, that you follow their counsel and are sweet and kind to each other and the other people around you. I know that you will both have wonderful lives because you are both so good and strive to keep the commandments of our Father in Heaven.

We can have so much happiness and joy in this life if we will be faithful and follow in the footsteps of our pioneer ancestors by being pioneers in this day. Their path was so terribly hard. It seems incredible to me that they could even survive such hardships. Your hardships will be a different kind and you will need to be just as valiant. Neal A. Maxwell said, "The spirits who have been reserved to live in this time of challenges and who overcome, will one day be praised for their stamina by those who pulled handcarts."

I give thanks constantly that Heavenly Father sent you into our family and thank him for your valiant spirits. I know he loves you and I know that he sent his son to pay the price of your mistakes. Because he loves you so much, he wants you to live with him someday and to enjoy all the rich blessings that he can bestow upon you. I too, love you more than words can say and pray for you always. I pray that you will remain strong and valiant.

I know the gospel is true, that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that he sent his son to show us, the path to happiness, and allowed him to suffer beyond our understanding to pay the price for all of our sins. I know that this is true. I know that President Gordon B. Hinckley is our living prophet today, and I have a testimony of Joseph Smith and of the Book of Mormon. I love my Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

(click here to edit/submit a story)