Life History of Iola Harding

IolaI, Iola Harding Layton was born in 13th October 1909 on a farm about five miles south and 1 mile east of Taber, Alberta.  I was born in a little two-roomed house.  My mother was going to the bathroom when I started to be born.  So I guess you could say I was born in “The Pot”.  In the meantime, my dad had gone to town by horse or buggy to get the doctor.  By the time the doctor and my dad returned, I was already born and turning blue.  My sister Helen was born a year and a half later and my mother died at her birth because of kidney poisoning.  Because I had no mother, I was moved around from one Aunts home to another.  Then the Wilde family took me in for a while.  They lived on the Wadena Road, about 2 miles west from where we lived.  After a while, they wanted to adopt me, but dad said no and then he got a housekeeper, Mary Aspinall to look after us.  Being in a two roomed home or shack as I remember it, dad slept in the living room on a folding bed that went into the wall.  Mary, our housekeeper, my brother Bill and I slept together in the bedroom.  Shortly after that, dad and Mary were married in the Salt Lake Temple on the 10th of January 1913, they took my brother, Bill and I with them, and it was a fun experience, as we had to travel by train.  I always looked up to Bill, and because I loved him so much, whatever he said I did, or he said he’d go to the mountains and leave me.

A few years later, dad built on to the house, and we lived there until it burned down a few years later (1938).  Dad bout a house in town so we could live there during the winter months where we went to school, and then in the Spring, we would move back out to the farm and attend the Wadena school.  We had to walk a little over two miles west on the prairie grass to school.  Bill always walked ahead of me and left me to struggle by myself, even if I was in trouble.  He just walked on.  In those days, if anyone wanted to homestead, they were given a quarter section of land to build a house on.  Land around there was selling for about $2 – $3 an acre, but most people couldn’t afford that because times were so tough.  But dad did scrape up enough money to buy another quarter adjoining our land.  People moved in from other areas that could afford to buy this land, therefore they purchased big sections of land that my dad wished he could have bought.  Dad dug a well north of the house, but the water was too hard to use, and so he then dug a well in the basement of our home where the water was a little better.  There was a well two miles away where the water was soft, and dad used to haul it home on an old stone bolt pulled by horses.  We used this water to wash our hair and water the garden.  Also we would always catch water off the roof of the house in barrels when the rains would come.  This we used for bathing in.

Farming was done by horses in those years.  One winter we had a terrible blizzard, and when it was over, we were missing one horse and couldn’t find it anywhere.  Then in the spring, as the snow melted, we found it lying in the trees dead.  This storm was so bad that we didn’t want to go outside to do chores without first finding some binder twine, tying it to the house and unrolling it out to the barn.  Then we were able to follow the twine back to the house safely.

When I was around 14 years of age, I received my patriarchal blessing.  In it, I was told that I would have the gift of healing.  Then on one occasion, my mother was very sick, and I said I would go out and find dad and have him come in to give her a blessing, but mom said no, you just kneel down by my bed and pray for me.  This I did, and after I finished praying, my mother said she started to feel better.  This was a very special experience in my life.

Mother did a lot of reading to us during the evenings, as we didn’t have radios or other entertainment.  Because we didn’t have electricity, we used coal oil lamps for light, which wasn’t too bright.  Also, because we had a lot of horses we did a lot of horse back riding.  On the farm and in town, we had outdoor toilets, but in town we did have power.  We also had a little cold-water tap, but no sink, and so it ran into a pail.

Helen would come over from Raymond, Alberta where she was living with her Grandma Palmer (dad’s first wife’s mother) to spend the summer with us.  On Sundays, we went in a wagon to church and we would take a lunch with us and eat it in the wagon or at my dad’s brother’s place, Earl Harding.  Sunday school was at 10:00 a.m. and then we would have lunch, and then we would attend Sacrament Meeting at 2:00 p.m.  Mutual would then be held at 7:00 p.m. in the evening.  We could never stay for Mutual because we had to get home, as we lived out of town.  We lived pretty well on the farm and seemed to always have a lot to eat because we had pigs, chickens, eggs, milk, cream, butter and vegetables from the garden and such.  Because mother was sick so much of the time, I had to do a lot of the work for her at an early age.  I learned how to do everything in our home.  This left me very little time for fun.

Some of my best friends were my cousins and the Birches.  They lived next door to us in town.   Alice Jesperson was a very good friend, and she joined the church through our friendship together.

At eighteen, I worked fro Milt Conrad in his home as a housekeeper from 4:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. for $15.00 a month.  I then worked for a threshing crew for $6.00 per day, which gave me enough money to take a beauty course.  The course cost me $50.00.  I could never have done this without working on the threshing crew.  After my course, I set up my very own beauty parlor in the back of a tire shop, owned by Lynn Bullock and Joe Elder.  Actually I converted a bathroom, which wasn’t being used, into my beauty parlor.  I had to pay $6.00 per month for rent.  I charged $0.25 for a hair cut and $0.50 for a finger wave.  I then moved my li8ttle shop next to the Palace Hotel, owned by Mr. Parker.


I guess you could say our marriage was the result of a Sunday School Party.  We were asked to bring someone who wasn’t too active, and so I decided to ask Calvin to come with me.  At first he refused, but later changed his mind and accepted my invitation.  That was the start of our courtship.  We double dated with Bill and Nora Murphy until we were married and were the best of friends throughout the rest of our lives.  Calvin and I dated for a year and a half, I was 24 years old and he was 23 years old.  A friend of mine, Horace Birch had been away and when he came home, he asked my to marry him.  I was going with Calvin and so I told Calvin that Horace had asked me to marry him, but Calvin said, “You’re not going to marry him, you’re going to marry me!”  Well that’s how he proposed to me.  I had been wishing for a long time for this moment, and finally it happened.  We were married in the Cardston Alberta Temple on 20th June 1934 by President E.J. Wood.  President Wood told us to give our boys the middle name of Harding, which we did.  We traveled to the temple with our friends and parents, in the back of a big truck, and we sat on benches around the edges of the truck, traveling home the same way.   That weekend we invited our friends over for a dinner to celebrate our wedding.

Back then friends would shivelry couples that got married.  When our friends Cliff and Edna Bennett got married, they had a new little two roomed house, and friends plugged the chimney and put Epson Salts in the tea kettle and so when Edna mad Cliff a warm drink, he didn’t dare tell her it tasted awful, and so he drank the whole cupful.  Then when they lit the fire, their house filled up with smoke.

When Bill and Jennie Harding married, their friends put a cow in their back porch, and when they came home, the cow had fallen right through the floor.

I would like to tell you about Calvin’s appearance.  He had gray blue eyes, brown hair.  He was six feet and 1 ½ inches tall and weighed 168 pounds when we were married.  He was a very nice looking man.  He had long skinny legs, and no matter how much weight he put on, his legs were still skinny and his weight went around his middle.  (This was a Layton trait).  Later in our married life, Calvin put a lot of weight on and weighed around 225 pounds.  He then later got Sugar Diabetes and lost this weight, weighing only 135 pounds when he passed away.

Calvin had a hard time communicating with his children.  He loved them all dearly, but couldn’t tell them so.  He had a deep gruff voice when he was angry and anyone who didn’t know him very well were afraid of him.  But after getting to know him, you found he had a heart of gold.  My sister Phyllis said of him, “Calvin was a real softy”.  She reminded me of how he took Mother and her to Waterton and Great Falls and wouldn’t let them help pay for the gas.  Whenever we were going anywhere Calvin would often say, “I wonder if Mother and Phyllis would like to come with us,” and they often did.  Phyllis said that when she worked in the Scale House at the Sugar Factory, that Calvin, who was the foreman over the outside drew and girls in the scale house would always come running if anyone entered the scale house that shouldn’t be there.  He seemed to have eyes in the back of his head, for he never missed a thing that went on, and was right on the spot if there was any trouble.  It was on these occasions, that he’d use his gruff voice and the men under him obeyed.  Calvin seemed to have a gift when I came to talking with foreigners.  No matter how poorly they spoke English, he seemed to understand them and was able to make them understand him.  This gift came in handy when he worked each fall at the Sugar Factory, as all nationalities hauled beets there, and he could speak with all of them.  He seemed to communicate well with everyone.  He also made friends with Joe Chow, a Chinese man who had a confectionary store.  Calvin would speak a lot of Chinese words, and so they got along wonderfully well.  Calvin talked to him a lot about the church.  He converted him to getting a years supply of food in his storage.  Joe had a lot of love for Calvin as was shown at Calvin’s passing.  Joe sent the family flowers and cried at the funeral.  It was then I realized how much Calvin meant to him.

Calvin and my dad, John James Harding, got along so well that he was often thought of as dad’s son, and was often called Brother Harding.  They went fishing, camping and to the temple together.  They also worked on the farm together as we lived in the same yard as dad.  Calvin said he really loved my dad.  Together they would take our boys fishing and camping at Lake Newell and sometimes to Waterton on Father and Son outings.

Calvin’s own father passed away nine years after we were married.  He was a kind and gentle man and had a wonderful singing voice (tenor) and he often sang solos.  I can remember him singing, “I’ll Take You Home Kathleen” at a Relief Society Party.  Phyllis said she could remember him singing “The Holy City” in church.  He sang in the choir, and also in choruses, duets and quartets.  He was a very special man.  He became sick with Palsy and some other problems, and was in the hospital the last years of his life where he died on 23 February 1943 in Ponoka, Alberta, our children never got to know him very well as he died before Myron was born.  Dick was 8 years, Jerry 7 years, and Leo 3 years, and so they didn’t remember him, as he had been in the hospital for several years previous.  Calvin was the oldest child, having five brothers.  They were: Cleland Samuel (1913-1989) Owen George (1916-1921), William Byron (1917-1987), Ivan Glen (1919-1978) Bernard Dell (1929)

Calvin never had any sisters and so he hoped that when we had a family, that we would have some girls to call his own.  But we had four boys first, and then Carolyn came along.  Needless to say, she could twist her father around her little finger most of the time.  But she knew that when he said no, he meant it.  Later another son was born to us, Gordon Harding and then we were double blessed with twin girls, Barbara Fay and Betty Kay.  These two girls helped dad later in life move sprinkler pipes at four in the morning and then again after school.  They used to sing while moving pipes at night.  For a few years, I helped but my back gave out and I couldn’t do it anymore.  But I often went out to the farm with them and sat in the car and listened to them sing as they worked.  They both had very good voices.  They also used to sing as they did the supper dishes.  I loved to hear them and so did Calvin.  Calvin led music in different organizations since.  The boys were not interested.

After Calvin and I were married, he worked at the Empress Canning Factory.  We lived in my folk’s town house for a while and then we rented a three-room shack the following winter because my folks moved in for the winter.  In the spring, we moved back in my folds house again.  Later we moved out to the farm with Bill and Jennie Harding and Calvin started to farm my dad’s farm.  Bill and Jennie had bought a piece of land closer to town and were building a home on it, but before they were finished the house, the one we were all living in burned down.  Bill and Jennie then went to live in their unfinished house, and we bought a shack and moved it into my folks yard.  We only lived in the shack for a couple of winters and then Calvin bought a two-roomed house and put it on the front of the shack.  Later my dad took the shack for his beet laborers and built two rooms on the back of our two roomed house.  Also a back entry was added later.  So we were quite comfortable.  We lived in my folks yard until just before Barbara and Betty were born.  Calvin then bought 28 acres of land just ½ mile south of my folks, and so we had a full sized basement dug and moved our house on it.  We had two bedrooms in the basement so the boys had a large room down there.  Carolyn had the other room, and we still call it her room today.  By this time Calvin was buying the south farm, which was dry land.  He farmed this land with the help of his boys until they were married.

When we first started to farm, we drove horses.  Later we bought a tractor and things became easier, but Calvin still got up at four o’clock in the morning.  He was always an early riser.  He always said he couldn’t lay in bed when there was work to be done, and he never did.

I helped in the fields by driving the tractor cult6ivating.  We burned weeds and thinned beets together.  While we were farming, we had many hardships.  Drought and hail being the biggest drawbacks, leaving us without much of a harvest after a spring and summer of hard work.  Calvin kept cows, pigs, and chickens, which gave us meat, milk and eggs and cream.  I planed a garden and although these were dry yeas, we were able to get enough vegetables to last throughout the year.

Monday was always washday, and it was an all day affair.  The clothes had to be washed by hand on the scrub board for many years, and wrung through a wringer machine, which I turned by hand.  We then had to hang the clothes out on the line summer and winter.  The clothes would freeze as stiff as a board, and so we would have to hang them around the house till they thawed out and dried completely.  Making bread was also a full time job trying to keep our large family fed.

Calvin taught his children to work at an early age.  In the winter, we would bring snow in to melt for our water.  The younger children brought in the wood and coal for the stoves, emptied ashes and other small chores.  They later milked cows and did some of the harder chores.  As soon as they could steer a tractor, they helped in the fields.  It seemed to take the whole family working hard to make ends meet.  The children were only given spending money, and as they boys got older, they were allowed to take the truck to go on dates.  After we finished paying for the farm, we started to have a little money, but it was used for new machinery, and it always seemed that there was something else to buy.

On day Calvin asked me which I would rather have, a large living room or a bathroom and running water.  I chose the large living room as the one we had was only 12’ x 12’ and in the evenings when all the family were home, we were too crowded.  We had a 16’ x 20’ living room built on and we took the partition out between the old living room and the new one.  I have always been happy with my choice.  It was around ten years later before we were able to get a bathroom.  It was through a tragedy that this happened, as our house caught on fire because of a broken gas line under the house.  When I lit the fire, the gas exploded under the back entry, kitchen and one bedroom were badly burned.  The High Priests came to our aid.  Men from the Taber and Barnwell wards helped us rebuild our home in just three weeks, with Johnny Evanson in charge.

Four days after the fire, Calvin became very ill and the doctors couldn’t find anything particularly wrong with him, although they thought it might be his kidney.  Some years before, Calvin had one of his kidneys removed.  Then years later, he had heart problems, and so he could have had a small heart attack which could have brought his sickness on at the time of the fire.  Because we had nowhere to live after the fire, Leo and Diane gave up their home for us to live in while our home was being rebuilt.  They went to live with Diane’s mother.  We certainly appreciated all the good friends that helped to rebuild our home.  At this time we finally had a bathroom added on and a furnace put in.  This project cost us around $7,000.

Jerry recalls the time when he and his dad had just built the cistern and they were taking the forms off the roof in the cistern, when all of a sudden his dad said “Get out of here” and he pushed Jerry up and out through the cistern opening.  Then he stood up with his head out through the hole when suddenly the roof of the cistern collapsed.  If his dad hadn’t of been alert, they both could have been crushed.

Calvin became the Ward Athletic Directory after we were married.  He had a good group of players on the ball team.  They played other Wards and other Stakes, and were successful in winning the tournament, and so had the privilege of going to Salt Lake City to play the winning teams there.  They made a good showing, but didn’t win; but had a good time and a wonderful experience.  Calvin was later made the Stake Athletic Director.

Calvin was also a delegate in the Social Credit Party and he had opportunities to go to Edmonton many times, along with Clifford Pierson, to conventions.  He was also Chairman of the United Grain Growers Association for a number of years.  He was in charge of the banquets, dances and meetings held in the Taber area, and was the Master of Ceremonies at these functions.

Through the years we attended many General Conferences held in Salt Lake City and attended the Dance Festivals, which were thrilling experiences for us.  We traveled to Salt Lake with Jesse and Helen Atwood a lot of the times, and stayed in Ogden at their daughters home, Nola Brandley.

Calvin was the choir director for about 23 years and he had many wonderful experiences as a choir director.  He entered his choir in concerts in Lethbridge several years.

One very special and sacred experience he had was when President Spencer W. Kimball called him to lead a Men’s Choir for a solemn Assembly to take place in Calgary, Alberta.  This choir consisted of men from all Stakes in the Region.  These men were chosen by their Bishops of the different Wards, and only the best singers where chosen.  The practices were held in Lethbridge with the final practice in Calgary.  Calvin felt very humble about this calling.  He said that it was the highlight of all his choir experiences.  He had led Men’s choruses and mixed choruses for many Stake Conferences, but he said the spiritual experience of singing at a Solemn Assembly where President Kimball and many of the General Authorities were gathered, was an experience that he would always cherish.

Calvin was Music Director in the ward and Stake where he would hold classes to teach those who wished to learn to conduct.  He took many courses himself to learn how to do this properly.  He was a very good choir leader.  He enjoyed his work and never got out of patience, no matter how long it took the choir to learn a new anthem.  Calvin formed a Quartet with Arthur Anderson singing with him.  They had to find others to sing from time to time as they kept moving away.  They sang in church and at Ward parties and concerts, and so you can see he was involved in music all of his life.  Other positions he held in the church were:  Mutual – 1st Councilor to Earl Gedelman; Ward and Stake Athletic Director; Ward Music Director.  Priesthood – Priest Advisor; Elders Quorum President; Seventies Group Leader; High Priest Group Leader.  Bishopric – 1st Councilor to Harold Evanson.  Temple Ordinance Worker for 7 ½ years, until his passing.

When we were called to be ordinance workers in the Cardston Alberta Temple, we were thrilled.  We loved this work very much.  Each Wednesday we traveled to the temple to fill our assignment, no matter what the weather was like.  We went in several blizzards, when we could hardly see the road.  One time there was such a blizzard that when we came out to go home, our car was nearly buried under the snow.  The men had to help each other dig their cars out.  We then heard that a snowplow had just come from Lethbridge, and it was going back, and so we were able to follow it.  Five hours later, we finally arrived home.  We couldn’t see the snowplow part of the time as it was snowing so hard.  I was frightened, but Calvin assured me that we would be all right and we were.  While we were working in the temple, those years of our lives were so peaceful.  Calvin commented several times that he didn’t see how Heaven could be any better.  Those were the happiest years of our lives.  Calvin became so kind and gentle and such a joy to be with and I was really looking forward to the years ahead.  Traveling to the temple each week with Stella and Harold Evanson helped make this a wonderful experience.

When Calvin awoke on the 16th of April 1980, his leg was swollen twice the normal size.  He said he wasn’t in any pain, but all I could think of was gangrene poisoning.  I called Leo and Jerry to administer to him and then I called the hospital and they said to bring him in before 8:00 a.m.  I was really frightened.  I was afraid Calvin would have to have his leg amputated because he was a diabetic.  Right after the boys administered to their dad they asked if they could help him into the car, but he relied, “Of course not, I can walk.”  Calvin walked out and got into the car, and I was going to drive him into town.  I just backed out and started forward when Calvin slumped down with his head forward.  I put my foot on the brake and grabbed him with my one arm holding him up straight, and with the other hand, I tooted the horn until Betty (who was still living at home) came out.  Then I moved over and held him with both arms.  Betty got in and drove as fast as she dared.  When we got down the road a ways, Calvin sat up straight and looked around as though he didn’t know here he was.  I asked him if he was all right, but he didn’t answer.  I thought maybe he’d had a slight stroke and couldn’t speak and so I didn’t bother him again until we got to the hospital.  Then I asked him how he was and he said, “I’m all right.”  When the nurses came out, they asked him if he could get out of the car on his own and he said yes. The nurses held his arms and helped lower him into the wheelchair.  I went with him to the examination room, one nurse took his blood pressure and said to the other nurse, “I can’t find any, you try.”  Then they called for a stretcher, Just before they got him on the stretcher, one of the nurses asked him, Do you have any pain?” and he said no.  They took him to the Intensive Care unit and the doctor said he was dead by the time they got him there.  They worked for about an hour trying to revive him, but they couldn’t.  There was an extra large crowd at his funeral, and the front of the chapel was filled with flowers.  There was a wonderful feeling of peace during the service.  I’m sure he was happy he was buried 19 April 1980.

Calvin didn’t owe any money to anyone when he died.  He just finished paying off all of his debts the fall before, and he had put some money in the bank, and so I was all right.  I always felt badly that he died when he did, as we were planning a trip to Disneyland that summer with Rodney and Carolyn.  He was looking forward to this trip and we had saved out enough money for it.  Instead, Betty and I went, but I kept wishing Calvin could have been there with me.

Over the years, I have had my tonsils out, a hysterectomy, had a perforated ulcer repaired, and a complete hip transplant, and have suffered with arthritis throughout my life.

We had a large family, which consisted of: Richard Harding, Gerald Harding, Leo Harding, Myron Harding, Caroly Elsie, Gordon Harding, Barbara Fay, Betty May.


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