My earliest memories of my grandparents, Ann Eva Dittmore and Benjamin Franklin Heaps was when I was a child and they and our family all lived in Pocatello, Idaho. As far as I can remember, they still had Wallace, Lewis, Avard, and Toady (Al’s nickname), Rachel, and Helen at home. We had Mom, Dad, Nita, Bill, and me.
When I was about three years old, Mother and Dad had many problems in the marriage, and Mom decided to leave Dad and so we, she and I went back to live with Grandma and Grandpa for a while. I don’t know if they were actually divorced during that time or just separated, but I got the impression it was a divorce. But I remember moving into their home. I was delighted to have so many aunts and uncles around to play with.
The best thing about it was their two dogs, Shep and Old Duffer. Grandpa was herding sheep or had herded sheep at a farm close to Blackfoot, Idaho. His two dogs were smart and good sheep dogs. They were smart and affectionate and well trained. Grandpa would tell them to do anything and they would do it. He had trained them to ride on the running board of his car and sometimes, they would even jump up on the rood and stand there very sure footed. Sometimes Grandpa would deliberately try to unsteady them by stopping quickly, but they were so sure footed, nothing worked in that respect. I loved Old Duffer. He was a black and tan border collie and I thought he was the world’s best. I used to like to lay down by him and I even loved the doggy smell of him. He would play with me until he got tired then run under the house.
My first memories were of fun family picnics up Mill Creek. We traveled in our car, an old STAR automobile, and the grandparents family in their car. They were memorable because we always had lots of good food and lots of fun, laughing times together. There were always baseball games, and other rough and tumble games that young boys love to play when out in the woods. Always there were walks in the surrounding areas, with discovery moments of the wonders of the woods for Mother and me. Grandma always had a chair they brought for her, because I never remember her in any other way than walking with crutches, and sitting on the ground was not something she could do.
There was one particular picnic that was memorable because of what happened that day. It was before schools started, in the late summer, and there were lots of salads, fried chicken, corn on the cob to be cooked over a fire and watermelons, enough so that we could have our fill. Mother and Grandma planned the menus and they divided up the responsibilities of preparing and bringing the food for everyone. This day, we had a box of food that contained the chicken and potato salad, and other things while the grandparents had the watermelons and the corn and the drinks, etc. They led the way up the canyon and we were following them. I was in the back seat with Bill. All of a sudden, their car moved to the right side of the road and rolled over the edge and turned over once and then slid to a stop. I was horrified as were the rest of us. Dad slammed on his brakes and stopped and got out of the car. Mother was opening the car door before it even stopped, to run to their aid. She shouted strict instructions for Bill and me to stay in the car. We were so terrified, we could do nothing but sit there and shake.
The car had rested on a slight flat place, which fortunately was there or it would have rolled over many more times. By the time that Mother and Dad got down the hill to the car, grandpa was helping Grandma out of the car. They were all very shaken up with bruises from being thrown around as the car turned over. when everyone was out of the car and examined to be sure no one was seriously injured, they all started to shed tears of gratitude and hug each other.
The big problem was how to get Grandma up to the road. The biggest boys and Grandpa and Dad made a cradle with their arms and were able to carry her up to our car. They put her in the front seat of the car. She was shaken up and shaking from the shock, but was all right. By that time I was crying too, with relief that no one was bloody or injured badly.
After they were up on the road, several other cars had stopped and people were offering to help in any way they could. The adults walked back down the hill to salvage what they could from the car. The awful scene that met their eyes was so scary, they all started crying and shaking again.
In the back seat, with the watermelons, was a large butcher knife they used to cut the melons. It was standing with the sharp blade straight up in the air. If the car had rolled over one more time, someone surely would have been seriously injured.
As many as we could squeezed into our car, went back down the canyon and home as soon as we could bet the car turned around and headed the other way. I don’t remember whatever happened to the picnic - in it ever got eaten or not.
The prayers of gratitude for the safety and the blessings of the Heavenly Father’s protection were many that evening, you can be sure.
Grandpa and some of the boys stayed until the car could be pulled off the hill and towed back to town. It wasn’t badly damages so it could be fixed. the mechanic found out that a cotter pin bold had come off and caused the steering wheel to be useless. That was fixed and Grandpa drove it a while longer until he could get another one. That was the scariest memory of my life.
Even though grandmother was in a rocking chair when she was up, she ruled the home and saw to it that meals were planned and the house was cleaned and things were done that needed to be done. She would give the family chores that she wanted them to do and if they didn’t get them done when they should, she would give them a little whack with her crutch when they were within reach. Sometimes they would tease her, but they were mostly good to do what she wanted them to do. But boys being boys, they would sometimes goof off and then she would get angry and tell them, “Wait until your Dad gets home.” Grandpa would always try to keep them in line and insist they obey their mother when he was gone. Theirs was a tender love and I remember how gentle he was with her, when he helped her into bed or moved her so she could rest in the afternoon on her bed. She had rheumatoid arthritis and suffered with that as well as a heart problem. She had eleven children so I am sure her body took a toll from all of those children.
It was while Uncle Lewis was on his mission that Grandmother passed away. We were all devastated and felt her absence keenly. That house never seemed the same after that...
Sometimes in the evenings, the family would all get around their big, round oak table and play, ‘Dirty Dora.’ I think they call it ‘Hearts” now. Oh, how they would laugh and have fun trying to pawn off the Queen of Spades to each other. Once or twice, as I got older, they allowed me to sit in and play also. Was I a happy young girl!!! I always wanted a big family as I watched how much fun they had together and how they loved each other.
One winter when the Heaps family moved through the block from us on Hawthorne Avenue in West Pocatello, the Heaps boys built two big wooden toboggans or sleds with wooden runners. In the evenings, after a big snow, my Dad would take our car, an old Dodge, and pull those two big sleds and go on the country roads where there was not much traffic. Sometimes, we would fall off the sled and get all snowy, or the sled would tip over if the car went around a corner too fast. Sometimes the driver wouldn’t be aware that we had fallen off the sled and keep going. Then, we would jump up and run and holler until he stopped and backed up to let us hitch the ropes on the bumper again. We all would take turns until we were so cold we couldn’t stand it anymore and then we would go to our house or the grandparents house and have hot chili or hot chocolate and warm bread or cinnamon rolls. What laughing and happy people we all were. Those times are some of the memories I treasure most.