Saturday, August 26, 2017

Transcribed Autobiography of Frances Elsie Caroline Gustafson

Frances Gustafson (my great grandmother) wrote an autobiography before passing away. I decided to transcribe it to make it easier to read, here is the autobiography in full. It seems to be incomplete and drops off in the middle of a sentence but it is still an incredible window into what it was like to live through the great depression, the dust bowl, and other historical events.
Photo of Frances Elsie Caroline Gustafson
Picture of Frances Gustafson


This is My Life: Frances Gustafson Van Wert

A few minutes before the stroke of mid-night, when the bells began to toll out the old year and ring in the new, a red-haired, brown eyed baby arrived at the home of Rev. and Mrs. F.O.W. Gustafson of Greeley, Colorado.
Frances, the second child of the household, was a 7 pound youngster that was as ornery as they come.
Our family grew so we were three girls and a boy born in Greeley, Colo. My father was a pastor of the Lutheran church and served this congregation for about 10 years.
Since we lived near the campus of the Colo. State Teachers’ College, Ruth and I attended the Normal School.
In recalling incidents of this school, I remember we had student teachers that assisted the regular teachers. Since I was only in kindergarten I was to wait for my sister, before going home. Time seemed so long, that one day I decided I’d leave the room and dash on home the short cut. Skipping along through the campus underpass, I was suddenly stopped by a voice that startled me to no end. Looking up, my heart sank when I was ordered back to the room, by my teacher. She took me to the room, went for the yard stick, and gave me some swats. After this experience, I found it didn’t pay to try an escape.
Reading had become a fear, because I was required to read three languages in the first grade. German and English were taught in school and Swedish was offered in Sunday school as well as English. And to me, I was becoming confused. I saw no rhyme or reason in pronunciation and hence stumbled over difficult phrases. In my frustration of having to read aloud, I tore out a page from my book that I knew I’d have to read aloud. Later the page was found by a teacher of course, and again it proved to be a very unpleasant experience. My parents had to come for a conference.
Late winter of second grade, my mother was called to Michigan to be with her father, so my sister and I went there with her. We finished our school year there and I recall very vividly how she had us walk to school, because there was so much boot-legging and we had to pass a salon.
A year later my father was called to be a pastor in Colo. Springs. We moved in December and travelling in the Brisco, which was our brand new car, our trip from Denver to Colo. Springs was a full day’s journey. The highway was very hilly and the cars traveled 25 or less miles per hour.
To be so near the mountains was a thrill and every Sunday my father would take us children and mother to a new spot around Colo. Springs.
I entered third grade at Bristol school. Because of crowded conditions on the sixth grade I was sent to Washington School with part of my class.
The new Junior High Schools were being built that year, so our class got to sign the scroll to be placed in the corner stone of the buildings.
With the new Junior High building probably one of the biggest thrills was to walk the halls and see all the kids. There was a center court that we could all enjoy on nice days. I started taking violin lessons, so another thrill was playing in the school orchestra.
Finally, the day came to enter high school. Everything seemed so big and I hadn’t grown up to it. Tests came and I didn’t realize they played important places in my life. We were grouped. Choices were to be made as to whether take Latin or commercial subjects.
My family were professional people from way back, so I knew that I would want to do something professionally, but never thought I’d be a teacher, since I had become a slow reader.
High school was hard and I had to keep my head to the grind-stone more than I really wanted to. Latin was hard; I liked science and physiology (probably because of my wonderful teachers). History and English were possible – when I tried. Music seemed to answer all joys and happy experiences. Once we won first place when we came to Denver to play in the city auditorium. I never will forget the tension I went through at try-out time for placements for chairs.
How thrilled I was when I graduated from High school, walking across the stage of the city auditorium in a cap and gown to receive the leather folder with my diploma.
Each summer during high school I tried to get some Kind of work to help buy some of my school clothes.
We were now six children in the family.
Some of my jobs were selling flowers to the Harvey House at the depot, and doing house work in private homes. The pay was pretty good for those days 7.00 a week with board and stay home nights.
My father and mother told all us children, that we could all have a college education if we wanted it. They would never be able to leave us money, but would sacrifice to give us an education that no one could take away from us. (We all six chose it).
Pastors’ children were given a rate at church colleges, so I entered Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas the following year.
I took the regular freshman course and private Violin lessons. College life was really different – living away from home – having to make all my own decisions and everything – I loved it!
The friends I made there, many of them I’ll never forget.
The four years at Bethany passed all too soon. I sang in the Messiah. A chorus of 500 voices every Easter and two years I played in the orchestra.
These years were the depression years when the boys were poor, so practically all dating was just a stroll around the campus or down to the coffee shop. We were really lucky to be able to stay in school, but everyone was thrilled to be there, and knew it was a real sacrifice for parents.
Summer jobs were hard to find, but being I could say I was in College they often gave us the better chances for jobs.
One summer I was companion to Miss Callie Long who was recopering (sic) in Colo. Springs. She was Governor long’s sister. Being a maiden probably 10 or 15 years my senior, I didn’t have much in common with her, but it was a job. Sometimes on her dates, she asked me to go along and her friend would bring some date for me.
Another summer I was governess for Betty Mc Canna of Wichita Falls Texas.   (big oil people). They were living at the Broadmoor Hotel, so I lived there with them. (I could go home nights if I chose).
I ate in the main dining room with them and never had to wear a uniform. They treated me royally. My job was to see that Betty (age 10) as entertained. We rode horseback, swam, boated, went to see polo games, movies and any entertainment at the hotel. What a life! When they left, I helped them drive their Lincoln to Texas.  They paid my first class fare home on the train.
This was a place to study people with “means”, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The last few months of my senior year was a real worry to me, as to where I could find a teaching position, so I could help my sister younger as my older sister helped me.
I sent out application after application to schools and it seemed every one returned, “Sorry, no position available”. My hopes were about gone, when I received a telephone call Sept. 10 to interview a Superintendent at the Antler’s Hotel.
The position was not attractive as to location or pay, but I knew I had to get two years’ experience, before I could teach anywhere in a city.
I signed the contract and my folks took me down on Monday to the little town of Campo, Colo. When they saw the place Dad said, “Frances, you don’t need to teach if you don’t want to.” I knew I had to take it, and I stuck it out in the most terrible dust storms and not easy living conditions.
Because I played Violin in public, I was asked to play at many important gatherings in the communities. I became known in the County and I made several good contacts that later proved successful in helping me get better schools.
I changed to Villas Colo. and taught 5th and 6th with all the music in the school. Three years in the dust bowl was enough to get experience, so I decided to apply elsewhere. A Superintendent form Oak Creek heard I was a Bethany graduate, so he offered me a job for $1,000 dollars a year. It was a mining town but in the mountains where I’d be away from the plains and dust.
While in Oak Creek many things were different. They danced here, where before my contracts said “NO Dancing”, skiing was an attraction that I really knew nothing about before. The miners life was different, as that was the main occupation of the populous.
I joined the

Other Papers

In addition to the autobiography there were some other notes written out on some loose pages. The cursive was difficult to read so while most of the words I was able to transcribe I have still had to replace some with question marks. I'm guessing the notes were her outline for the autobiography since a lot of sentences aren't grammatically correct and ideas trail from one to another. I put them as close to being in order as I could.

Page 1:

One rare privilege of being a pastor’s child was the opportunity of meeting people. As a child we always had a lot of company. My folk always enjoyed having friends in the home. We children saved all sorts of methods to (?) people to stay a little longer. It was a lot of fun to sleep on the floor and have some special privileges.
Mother was sitting by the big window. Her water colors and paints were by her side and she was facing by the painting of a pretty flower.
Quart ice cream to celebrate the occasion.
I count myself one of the most fortunate women on earth. When I saw two trunks packed for college, when I hear 2 voices thrilled over their days at Bethany. I think of the lonliness then (?) will make in our home.
When punished we always hail to make up. Or we ask for forgiveness before going on our table. We had caught something from a parsonage life that I prayed I’d never never lose – That desire for a

Page 2:

right relationship with my parents and God.
Confirmation and the real meaning in our lives, the deep and abiding purpose of the confirmation experience. Not only as a guide to the study of the word of god, or the understanding of the key message of the bible, but the prayers of parents know that temptation will come, but that hopes and prayer would by the marvelous, rich, ever abiding resources and the power of the holy spirit to overcome, and overcome evil with good.

Page 3:

just once, but several times to be sure. I had caught something from a parsonage life that I prayed I’d never never lose – That desire for a right relationship with my parents and my dad.
Prayer and family devotion were a daily practice in our home and as my father was a pastor he naturally did a great deal of reading and research so we were exposed to good literature and books all our lives.
I read where preacher’s kids were brought up to spend ¾ of their day in the church and in my times they became the worst children in town. But “all God’s children” have impulses-and these impulses have to be expressed there and observed by the greatest number of people. No preachers kid can even have anonymity. We always were to set

Page 4:

a good example.
One rare privilege of being a pastor’s child was that we had an opportunity to meet many people. Since my father lived thru 2 gun shots in a holdup he promised God he would remain a mission pastor rather than seek the big parishes if god restored him to health, so his life was spent in organizing churches in Colorado and work toward a hospice society in C. S. to help these people find a Christmas home. Naturally C.S. was a summer resort as well as a health center. Often people came to recuperate or have a visit in the mountain area, they came to our home to inquire about places to stay and in those days hostels were about the only place, as my folks would say, “stay here while you look for something”. We children loved this because we could sleep on the floor and meant a frequent trip to the mountain. The fellowship was wonderful and when they were leaving they always offered my father some money for the bread and room. Dad said that

Page 5:

He would accept it only if he could add it to the fund started for his dream a “Christmas hospice in Colorado Springs.”
This dream came true because people who had visited C.S. began telling others and others would send contributions or donate to the cause and before long a hospice was erected near the parsonage. Many organizations heard of the effort (?) to give or donate things to it so it became an institution of mercy for many. My father put his heart into the work for the Hospice because it served many purposes in its day. At 65 he retired as resident pastor. He was superintendent of the Hospice until his heavenly father called his task here on earth over. He requested that it be given to the Bethany mission as a rest house for their nurses and all other people, but that lasted less than 20 years

Page 6:

He would accept it only if he could add it to the fund started for his dream a “Christmas hospice in Colorado Springs.”
This dream came true because people who had visited C.S. began telling others and others would send contributions or donate to the cause and before long a hospice was erected near the parsonage. Many organizations heard of the effort (?) to give or donate things to it so it became an institution of mercy for many. My father put his heart into the work for the Hospice because it served many purposes in its day. At 65 he retired as resident pastor. He was superintendent of the Hospice until his heavenly father called his task here on earth over. He requested that it be given to the Bethany mission as a rest house for their nurses and all other people, but that lasted less than 20 years

 Page 7:

Because when we drove by there the other day , I saw on it – “(?)  (?)”.
I Thanked God that it served the city and our church

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