Thursday, January 7, 2016

When Dreams Are Drowned...Saint Thomas, Nevada!

Vintage Vacation...
Your trip into the past begins at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The turnoff is a dirt road just to the left after passing through the north entrance station.

St. Thomas, Nevada...
Thanksgiving Day 2015 George and I set out to discover St. Thomas for ourselves.

New Year's Day was the second time I had visited the ruins of old St. Thomas.  What remains of the town lies exposed on the dried up lake bed of Lake Mead.  The ongoing drought has left the town high and dry since about 2002...enough time for the NPS to construct a rude parking lot with a pit toilet and signage.  We knew almost nothing about the town on our first visit,Thanksgiving Day.  I took a lot of pictures, but they didn't have context.  Back at home I decided to research the history of the town.  I found a lot of old photos and a couple of maps with homes and buildings labeled.  George and I wanted to go back, so we invited my sister Patti and her husband Harold to come with us to Vegas for New Year's.  Harold has a bad heart, so Patti and I hiked the 2.5 mile trail, while George waited with Harold.  We were surprised to see so many families out...we had the place to ourselves in November.

A drowned house in Thistle.

I have always loved ghost towns and this one especially appealed to my imagination.  The reason? In April of 1983 there was a landslide in Spanish Fork Canyon about 50 miles south of here.  The slide dammed the Spanish Fork River and created a lake that drowned the small town of Thistle.  I was horrified at the thought of my high school art teacher, Evan Nelson, losing his home to the flood.  Years later, the rooftops of destroyed homes still float in marshes clogged with algae and the broken limbs of trees. I think this will make a good story for another time.

History of St. Thomas
The Construction of Boulder/Hoover Dam.

Thanks to good ol' Wikipedia and a blog called Ken's Photo Gallery  I was able to learn a lot about the history of St. Thomas. The town was founded by Mormon settlers in 1865, lead by Thomas Smith and at it's peak had a population of about 500.  Church records show that by the end of 1866, 45 families were living there growing cotton and other crops.  The town was near the confluence of the Muddy and Virgin rivers.  There was a reliable source of water, which is why the Anasazi and Basketmaker Culture had made their homes in the area for nearly 1000 years.  The Anasazi complex, now known as the Lost City was also flooded. In the 30's, archaeologists and the Civilian Conservation Corps rescued hundreds of artifacts that are now on display in the Lost City Museum in Overton.

Most of the Mormons left in February 1871 over a boundary dispute.  A land survey had shifted the state line of Nevada one degree longitude to the east, placing all the Mormon settlements in Nevada instead of Utah or Arizona. The state of Nevada then proceeded to collect back taxes for previous years payable only in gold.  The settlers chose to leave without paying.  Others moved in and claimed the abandoned properties.  A few Mormons returned in the 1880's.  

Vintage Post Card.

From Ken's Photo Gallery Blog: "The construction of Hoover Dam and the resulting rise in the waters of the Colorado River forced the abandonment of the town in 1938.  Before the water got there, most of the buildings were knocked down, dismantled or moved.  The orchards and many of the large shade trees were cut down so they wouldn't snag boats from the bottom of the lake.  Over the years the town has been under 50-70 feet of water.  Fast-forward 73 years to today, and a 9 [13]year drought has provided an opportunity to explore a ghost town.  Foundations, walls, and grated cisterns dot the site, along with numerous alkali-crusted trails branching in all directions.  The ruins of St. Thomas are protected by the National Park Service as a historic site.  The cemetery was relocated to Overton, Nevada where there is a St. Thomas interpretive center..." This is just a brief synopsis of the town's origins.  Visit Ken's Photo Gallery blog post for more information.

Map created by Ken for his blog.  
Patti and I used this map to locate the different buildings. 
I printed photos of the old buildings on the back of the map page.

Gentry Hotel Area...
The gracious Gentry Hotel.

Ruins of the Gentry Hotel

Ruins of the Gentry family home.
Located across the street from the hotel.

Harry Gentry General Merchandise.
Located just south of Gentry Hotel.

Salvaging at the post office.

Someone ordered a last day post office cover.
Mail was still being cancelled in roofless building.

St. Thomas School...

St. Thomas School before demolition.
The school was also used as a Mormon church and a town meeting hall.
The town had no police, jail, or town government.

Early 1930s School Children.
Note the rounded front steps.
"Recess was the highlight of the day.  We played all of those good games like OmpPomp Pullaway, Steal Sticks, Kick the Can, Run Sheep Run, marbles and baseball." --Euzell Prince Preston

St. Thomas School Bus.
"I remember when Marvae used to make taffy candy and bring it to school...soon as the bus stopped I ran to meet her. That candy was sure good." --Rachel Burgess Robbins.

George standing at the rounded front steps of the school.

Patti holds a photo of the school on the front steps.

Main Street...Highway 91.
The main street of St. Thomas was a continuous loop, not unlike a race track.
Not sure which part of the road this is.

Remains of Hannig Ice Cream Parlor

Ice Cream Parlor before front wall collapsed.
"The boys woke us...with their blasts of dynamite in the surrounding hills...There were parades, races...barrels of lemonade...And because July 4 was a special day, we were given a special treat...5 cents for an ice cream cone." --Inez Gibson Waymire

Lake Mead creeping up on this car.
The last resident, Hugh Lord left the town June 11, 1938.

Arrowhead Store.
St. Thomas became popular as a stopover on the Arrowhead Trail; the first automobile road from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City...later known as Highway 91.

Hand-drawn map available at the Lost City Museum in Overton.
The Lost City was an ancient Anasazi ruin also claimed by Lake Mead.

I am so glad we decided to go back to St. Thomas.  Knowing a little of the history made the town come alive for me and my sister.  George and I are constantly on the look-out for interesting places to visit in the Las Vegas area.  I am so glad I found the Ken's Photo Gallery Blog.  He has blogged about dozens of day trips he and his wife have taken since they retired to Henderson, Nevada.  When George retires, we will spend part of the winter in our Henderson place.  Until then, we will enjoy our long weekend visits...especially since our neighbors have stopped parking in our covered!

I hope you enjoyed this "Vintage Vacation."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Christmas Secret...Do You Believe?

My Christmas Secret!

Shhhhh!...When I was growing up. I had a Christmas secret that always made me smile. Not the I-can't-wait grin of anticipation, but the cat-with-whiskers-full-of-cream variety. You see...I believed I had an "in" with the Big Guy Up North...a connection no other child possessed. My very own grandmother was an official North Pole employee with the title "Santa's Helper." Her name was Patta Gray.

Patta and Richard Gray on their 50th Anniversary

Santa's Helper at Work...
She confided this to me when I was very young, and I believed her. Why wouldn't I? Her house was filled with dolls and toys all year long! Not to mention she excelled in making gingerbread cakes and cookies with brown sugar topping. And she was soft and pink and smelled delicious...just like Mrs. Santa Claus must.

Shirley, Mike and little sister Patti on a visit to Grandma Patta's.

Sometimes I got to visit for a few days. Grandma Patta and I spent the time up to our elbows in fabric scraps and patterns. The bodice of grandma's dress was studded with straight pins in lieu of a pincushion, keeping her hands free to cut and stitch the tiny clothes for all of Santa's dolls. With my awkward "help" she made designer outfits for Barbie, chic Chanel-style suits with real mink collars...just like Jackie Kennedy wore. Ruffled dresses for Chatty Cathy were next on the list, adorned with yards and yards of lace trimming. Even G.I. Joe got a new uniform or two! (Grandma hated Joe's big floppy made him hard to dress.)

Chatty Cathy...I didn't like her for some reason...she looked kind of bratty.

In the evenings, Grandpa Rich would get out his tools and work on the Barbie-size furniture he designed. He made four-poster beds and pink vanities with little gold knobs. The closet had sliding doors and rods filled with little pink hangers. With a hammer and wee brass tacks, he patiently upholstered miniature sofas and chairs. I was lucky enough to receive some of his furniture for Christmas one year.

My first Barbie looked like this one.

My first Ken had this fuzzy hair that came off if he got wet.

A Test of Faith...
I felt so special being let in on such an important secret. There were times I was tempted to brag about Grandma's unique job. But the kids I played with were starting to say awful things about Santa...that he didn't exist! Grandma had a saying...something about pearls before swine. Her secret was too precious to waste on non-believers.

As the years went by, it became more difficult to keep the faith. The pressure was on from friends and siblings to admit that Santa Claus was a hoax. But I stubbornly clung to the hope that they were wrong. One Christmas Eve I lined my dolls up on the couch so Santa could see that I took good care of my toys. My brother Mike teased me for being such a baby. "There's no such thing as Santa," he snickered.

Patti Play Pal.
I found out the hard way one Christmas morning that Grandma Zetta's lipstick is forever!
Poor Patti Play Pal!

A few minutes later, Mom came into the room and told us to get ready to go to Grandma's. It was almost time for Santa to come and pick up the doll clothes and take them back to the North Pole. He was a bit behind schedule and the elves needed to get the dolls dressed. I smirked when I saw the startled expression on Mike's face. He'd see!

Still...something deep inside nagged at me all the way to Lehi, where my grandparents lived. "He's not coming," the voice of doubt informed me. "He's not real." I remembered everything my friends had told me. They said it was all a big lie...our parents bought the toys and pretended to be Santa.

Miss Revlon had pierced ears!

Waiting and Waiting...
While the adults visited at Grandma's, I squirmed on the sofa. Anticipation and dread played tag in my stomach and I couldn't eat the cookies grandma had made. When you are a child, minutes seem like hours, and waiting is torture. He's not coming.

As I squeezed my eyes shut and focused all my faith into a wish...I heard the silver tinkle of sleigh bells. I knew that if I opened my eyes, the magic wouldn't work. But the sound of boots on the front porch stamping off the snow seemed real enough. Grandma hurried to the door.

How I remember many years ago.

"Merry Christmas!" a hearty voice boomed. When I opened my eyes, a man in red stood in the doorway shaking snow off his whiskers. I watched in awe as Santa reached into his sack and pulled out a candy cane for each of us. My little sisters danced about with excitement and forgot to say thank you. But remembered! He winked at me, restoring my faith for another year.

Grandma made doll clothes for many years after that, taking orders from neighbors and friends. Even when I was finally too old to believe in Santa Claus, she still personified the Spirit of Christmas. I wish my own children could have known her.

Cute little brother Tommy and sister Lisa came along some years after this story.
Look at their sweet little faces. I miss these little kids.

"May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white..."

It's Snowing!
Merry White Christmas!!
I have posted this story before...but like "The Night Before Christmas" and other holiday gets taken out of the Christmas box, dusted off, and shared again and again.  This is my most cherished Christmas memory.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Merry Merry Miscellany!

Christmas Crafting...

Winter Fairy Gardens...
Christmas Deer and Other Woodland Creatures.

I'm still having a lot of fun creating little winter "Fairy Garden" scenes for Christmas.  Several of them will be given away as gifts.  No matter how much I love them, I cannot keep them all. This post will be mostly I can finally get them blogged.  I am fortunate that my shopping is done for the most part.  Just have a few miscellaneous things to get.  

Today I am making Peppermint Snickerdoodles with white chocolate peppermint kisses on top.  I may have to make them twice...they are so yummy!  They remind me of some cookies my mom made for me to take to a Christmas party when I was in Jr. High.  I never tasted anything so good as those Snickerdoodles with a dab of pink icing and a little candy cane on top...a priceless memory for me. It makes me happy to think of my mom today.  I sure miss her...especially at Christmas.

This one is a favorite.
I love the rusty bucket and the tree full of bells and a rusty star.

The tiny deer is a salt shaker from Cracker Barrel.
I bought over a dozen little deer and owls to use for crafting.

A gift for a friend...rusty coffee can from Oatman, AZ.
Route 66!

I made 10 of these for gifts.
The cans were saved from Costco Chicken.
We had a lot of enchiladas this!

A gift for one of my daughters...little Yellowstone Bears.

I re-did this wagon scene I made last year.
I like using Snow Tex over sheet moss.
Looks more realistic...snow-wise.

Random Decorations...
Pioneer Woman Christmas Cow Creamer.

Kitschen Korner.
Pedestal from Target...cute!!

Tiny Gingerbread Houses.
Just 1.5" tall...the candies are Wilton candy sprinkles

Jack Frost joins the hall decor...

...along with Dri-Shu Santa.

The Cookie Kings found a home in the kitchen. 

Pinterest-Inspired Three Tier Display.

Nicholas and Christ Child...

This is one of my favorite images this season...St. Nicholas and the Christ Child.
It reminds me of the book..."The Immortal Nicholas" by Glenn Beck.

I have it framed in my office to remind me of the reason we celebrate this time of year.
I just printed it 5" by 7" and used my coupon at Hobby Lobby for the frame.

That's it for now...
Merry Christmas!!!