Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Family History Bus Tour

We had the greatest experience yesterday! My mom, my Aunt Linda and Uncle Larry arranged a bus tour to see local family historical sites. About 45 members of my extended family attended and we all rode on a school bus driven by my Uncle Larry - the designated bus driver of the family.
Here we are loading onto the bus

Three cheers for our bus driver!

And three cheers for our tour guide!

After driving by the old Maeser School we arrived at our first stop: Grandma Beck's childhood home in downtown Provo. The current owners have beautifully remodeled and restored this historic landmark. And they were kind enough to allow our entire group to tour the home! There have been major changes to the interior but some of the layout is the same.

Three generations

Across the street from this home is the old Reed Smoot home - another Provo historic landmark. Reed Smoot was a US senator and LDS apostle around the turn of the century. He built this home in 1892 and it has been in the family ever since. Much of the home is original - including some of the furniture. The current owner of the home is Reed Smoot - named after his grandfather. He is a director and cinematographer and created many IMAX films and church films like The Work and the Glory and Legacy. Anyway - Reed happened to be home at the time and kindly opened his home to our group! What a treat! It was absolutely beautiful inside!

We drove by the old BYU Women's Gymnasium and then stopped briefly at Academy Square where my grandfather taught zoology before the main campus was built. Our next stop was lunch in front of the Maeser building on BYU campus (with Brick Oven rootbeer!). As my cousin Julie said, it was a beautiful Provo day.

We sat on the steps of the Maeser building and listened to more stories about my grandfather's teaching days.

We then walked over to the Brimhall building. This is where my grandfather's office was. My mom and her siblings have many memories of playing in this building.

Sarah Jane was getting pretty tired by this time. So she got a ride!

Our final destination was the old family home on 9th East. This home holds memories for more than just my mother and her siblings. My cousins lived there for a while and several of us lived in the basement when we were newly married. This is where Wes and I lived right after we got married and when Addie was born a couple years later. My grandma lived in this home as a widow for about 30 years. It was when we were living in the basement - when Addie was just three months old - that she passed away. She was 92 years old.
Words can't quite describe my feelings of coming into this home after all these years. There were tears as I walked into her kitchen - with the same cupboards and her old oven. And when I walked into her sewing room, I could still see her sitting at her sewing machine. The ironing board was out and it was as if I expected to see her linens or sewing laid on it ready to be pressed. I could hardly bear to look into her bedroom - the room where she died. It was early in the morning 11 years ago - almost to the day. I was downstairs in the basement when my mom called me to come upstairs and bring my stethoscope. I was to listen for a heartbeat and heard nothing. All of these memories and so many more came flooding back.
The home is now owned by the brilliant Utah artist, Brian Kershisnik. He was not home at the time but he is a good friend of my brother and generously allowed our family to explore the home and the yard. He has done some remodeling and improvements but essentially the home is the same as it was when my grandmother lived in it. It was hard to decide which was more exciting - seeing my grandmother's old home and our old basement apartment or seeing the inside of Brian Kershisnik's home!! (Out of respect for his privacy I am not including photos of the inside of his home - but it was beautiful and filled with his art.)

The old shed in the backyard

The door to the basement apartment. Wes made me a screen door for my birthday while we lived there but it's not there anymore.

The bird bath still stands in the backyard with the hand prints of my mom's family imprinted in the base.

This is only a glimpse of this wonderful day. I didn't take too many still pictures because I was filming most of it. I am so grateful to have a record of this! My mom has an incredible memory! Something that I did not inherit. The information and memories shared are priceless and I just wanted to hear more.
I love my family and my heritage.
The end!


Anna said...

That is the coolest thing I have ever heard of! What an amazing experience. We have a lot of history in Provo too and I would love to copy this idea. Wow, wow, wow.
And I was laughing so hard at the picture of Sarah Jane in a bag. Cute!!!!
One more thing. My Dad's office was in the Brimhall building and I have many fond memories of that building.
What a great experience!!!!! Thanks for sharing!

Elisabeth said...

What an incredible idea - executed to perfection by Mom, of course! I love that you captured this experience with words and so many beautiful photos. We only wish we could've been there with all of you.

Julie said...

Awesome photos! Could you e-mail me the group photo?
Love the one of your mom in front of the Maeser building.
I'm glad you got a photo of the hand prints. I didn't even try because I didn't think they would show up.
What a wonderful day it was!!

Rachel said...

When I think of family history I think of staring at a computer or shuffling through piles of papers. What a cool way to bring your heritage to life! Your kids will always remember it :)

Chris W. said...

This post is adorable! I would love to have a personal family history day like that but unfortunately ours would require way too much driving for one day. What a wonderful experience for your family!

Jen said...

That is really, really cool. We did a similar thing with Brian's family in Wyoming a couple years ago, but on a much smaller scale--no school bus! And what a neat thing to do on Memorial Day, too. Thanks for sharing.

By the way, I am going to be in Utah for a month this summer. Are there any possible plans for another Hershey reunion? I would love to help organize one...

Elisabeth said...

I also meant to say how truly lovely Mom looks - even with fighting cancer the life and light inside of her shines through.

KatiK said...

Amazing, amazing! The bus is a brilliant idea--what fun! Thanks for sharing, I had no idea your family was such a part of Provo's history. Jon and I lived right around the corner from the Smoot mansion when we were first married. I loved walking by all the gorgeous old homes in that area. Thanks for sharing some memories. The thoughts about your Grandmother were very sweet.

Nellie said...

Seriously, I think your family is the coolest around! No wonder you and Wes are always up to something fun -- it's in your genes!

We need to get going on exploring NC more . . .

Jennette said...

Wow oh wow! This is seriously cool. I can't believe how you guys continue to come up with just about the coolest things ever. I love all those pieces of Provo heritage that you have in your family history. What a great idea and what a great experience for everyone. Thanks for sharing!

The Harrises said...

What an awesome thing to do for a Memorial Day outing. I can only imagine the comments Wes had being back on a school bus. I'm sure it was pure laughter. I'm glad the people were so kind to let you through their homes. I love that yellow home.