Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pioneer Day: Celebrations in Joseph City, Arizona

St. Joseph, Arizona

Salute of guns, serenades, parades and programs made our Pioneer Day complete. Orations were the order of the day. The comical side of life was enjoyed as Alex Walbeck responded to the demand that he perform. He bounded onto the stage with great gusto and wild gestures and loud exclamations. Suddenly, with modest embarrassment, he clutched his pants, and in a side line would say, "Oh! a suspender button." Then he renewed his "oration" only to interrupt himself at the opportune time with another outburst of "another suspender button." This usually brought down the house. 

A dear old Sister Neilson, very large in stature, dressed in a red flannel petticoat, beautifully embroidered in black mohair, and wearing a lovely shawl over her plump shoulders, walked on the stage and seated herself. Nearby was a gentleman who represented the U.S. Census Bureau. He opened his very large book and began asking questions. She answered the best she could, in her very broken English. "Husband?.... Nine." "Daughters?.... Nine." "Sons?': "Nine." "Nine sons, nine daughters, nine husbands! Incredible!" She sprang to her feet and in wild array screamed "no! no!" as she ran off stage. 

Samuel Greenleaf Ladd, called to Arizona in the first company of settlers, gave the most impressive prayers at our meetings and celebrations.

All the old favorite songs were burlesqued and thoroughly enjoyed. It didn't matter what kind of voice the performer had, the idea was the ability to act it out. Such songs as "The Cork Leg" could be fully enjoyed only if Brother Ladd gave them. Johann Westover was always called on to sing "Valley Tan." Susan Heward's favorite was "Tommy, Make Room for Your Uncle." No one could sing "Tap-Tap-Tapping at the Garden Gate" quite like Eliza Tanner.

Lois Bushman had a bird-like golden voice and was in great demand on all occasions. Some of her favorites were "Slavery Days," "Love Me When I'm Old," "Gathering the Shells from the Sea Shore," and "Silver Bells [of Memory]."

Henry M. Tanner's favorite recitation was "Soap Your Coat Tail." His wife, Eliza, was exceptionally good at reciting "Betty and the Bar."

As told to Emma S. Luke by Maria B. Smith.

Kate Carter. Heart Throbs of the West. Vol. I-XII. Salt Lake City, UT, USA: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1947.

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