Nelle Loriene Taylor
(assisted by her daughter, Roberta Bowman)
Birth & Childhood:
I was born in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua Mexico on March 22, 1916. I’m told that the wind was blowing hard that day. In fact, at one point my father called me “Windy” but I think that it was because I talked too much. When he called me that I would retort “Well, I take after my Daddy!”
My Dad was the most honest, trustworthy, likable man that I ever knew; to him right was right and wrong was wrong. He was very strict about the Sabbath day and insisted we keep it holy. He did have one bad habit; he cussed every other word. My Dad and Orson Hawkins would have contests to see who could pull the worst faces. Dad could screw up his whole face and mouth and make the funniest faces so he always won.
I don’t remember my mother. (She died when Nelle was only 5 years old.) Sister Agnes Hawkins who was her good friend would tell me about her: her long black hair, her singing ability. I do remember when she died and was laid out in our living room in front of a big window.
We lived in Colonia Juarez across the street from my MacDonald Grandparents. After school we would go over to their house to get cookies or candy.
After my Mother died Grandma Mac (Fannie Van Cott MacDonald) came to live with us for nine years. She was short and quite heavy and wore dresses down to her ankles and always an apron. She was a really good cook so she did most of the cooking and Dad got a lady to help with the other housework. Grandma Mac had a way with words; in fact, Nelle learned many of the surprising sayings she sometimes comes up with from Grandma. She also taught her to piece quilts, cook and clean house.
Grandma wanted to keep chickens so my Dad made her some little houses for the chickens. When the chickens were gone we used them for play houses. We sure had to clean them out good because they were really messy. Ella Romney, my best friend and I would play house out there all day.
Grandma Mac made candy for a living for years and years. She made fondant in chocolate, pink and white and then put it together and slice it. She sold it to the stores and everyone would buy it even though she gave a lot of it away.
Sometimes I would go ask Dad if I could have a new dress. He would tell me to go down to the Farnsworth-Romney store and get some material and charge it. Then we would take the fabric to Sister Jorgenson, a hunch-backed lady who was the town seamstress. She had a big catalog that had all the pictures of dresses and we would pick out which dress we wanted and she would make it. She made all our school dresses, Hannah’s and mine. We never wore pants, we always wore dresses to school; we each had 3 or 4 so we did well.
Sam Camphouse raised sugar cane. He would extract the juice, put it in a big vat over a fire and stir it until it turned into molasses. We children would go out and ask for cane to eat and he would tell us to take all we wanted. But when our Dad found out about it he told us not to take any more cane because that was Brother Camphouse’s means of support. One day Hannah and I came with our arms full of cane. There came Dad on his big old mule; he asked, “Where did you get the cane?” “From Brother Camphouse.” “Did you pay for it?” “No.” We got a whipping that day; the only one I remember getting from my Dad. It was a good one because it lasted all those years. My Dad was funny though. Whenever he got after us some time later we would find a 20 cent piece under our pillow.
Sister Camphouse was my Bluebird Primary teacher, she was such a good teacher. That’s when there were Bluebirds, Larks and Seagulls. She taught us how to crochet, and knit.
We went to Church in the old round school house on the Flat. Parents would go to Church but leave their children home; the older children would tend the younger. One Sunday I went up to the Bowmans to help Dorothy tend her little brothers. It was during this time that little Jessie Cardon found a gun, pointed it at his brother and killed him. It was devastating for everyone. I later worked with Sister Cardon in the Mutual and grew to love her.
When I was little we would have a plate just like the plates we eat on and it would have an orange, a popcorn ball and some of Grandma’s candy. We didn’t have stockings, just a plate. I remember once Dad went to Chihuahua and brought us some little porcelain dolls. It had a little painted face but no real hair, it was just painted on. I remember the clothes that came with it and the doll was in a little basket. I thought that it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen in my life.
One Christmas I snooped and Grandma found it out and she said, “Nelle, I’m afraid you’re not going to get much for Christmas since you’ve been snooping around and looking around.” Oh, I cried and felt so bad and told her I’d never do it again. And I never did. That was the Christmas I got a big doll that had orange hair and legs that moved. It was really ugly but I thought it was the most beautiful doll in the whole world. I would brush her hair and comb it so much.
We would go over to the Church on Christmas Eve and sing Christmas carols and then one of the Bishopric would come in and say, “I think I hear Santa; I think I heard little feet up on the roof.” We would all clap and get so excited and then finally “Ho, ho, ho” Santa would come in on the stage and he would have this big sack on his back that was full of oranges and popcorn balls and little sacks of candy. He would give us all some; that was the most delightful thing.
The Boy Scouts would get in a big old trucks and go up to the mountains by Garcia or Chiuchupa and cut down lots of Christmas trees. They would take them to the Church house and we would all go by and pick one. To decorate them we would string popcorn into long white chains. Then Dad would buy oranges and we would get a long threaded needle and we would thread it through the oranges and hang them on the tree. Later we would eat the oranges. We would also put little candles on the tree and light them.
In 1928 after 9 years of being a widower my Dad married Lillian Hatch. I was 12 years old. She was a wonderful mother to us; we just loved her. She tried very hard to make a nice home for us. We were so hard up; my Dad always mourned that he wasn’t able to give her more of the material things before she died. (They knew what it meant to live in poverty but they had a happy life.)
One in a while,
while in Elementary school 2 other girls and I would leave school and go
over by the store. Aunt Lillian told me that if I did that once more
she would tell my Dad. And I knew what my Dad would do so I never did
We went to the old school house on the Flat. Hannah and I would go out early to school and teeter-totter. Once Hannah decided to jump off. I was on my stomach on the teeter-totter board so when I came down hard it knocked me out. Hannah thought I was dead. I woke up and she was just screaming and crying. It really did hurt. We learned our lesson not to jump off.
We had this big iron swings that would go way up. One day we were swinging and little Ruth Farnsworth got in the way and the swing hit her right in the head. She died 3 days later. They took the swings down after that because they were too dangerous. They also made the teeter-totter smaller.
Out by the school was this big pit. We made little paths all around in it and we would run around it. Sometimes we’d fall but most of the time we would just run around all recess. We would run home and eat lunch as fast as we could so we could come back and play.
Aunt Lucille Taylor was my teacher for the 1st and 2nd grades. We had a little old room down in the basement that was so cold. But she was a good teacher.
I had never seen in airplane, only pictures of them. One day we heard this plane and the whole 8th grade got up and left and ran down where the plane lit. It was quite exciting. Sister Pratt kept yelling at us to come back but we wanted to see that plane more than anything.
My best friend was Ella Romney (Miller). We lived just across the street from each other; we were always together. Her older brother worked down in the Farnsworth/Romney Store and was so cute. He would drive around in his Dad’s car and we just beg for him to take us with him. And he would say “If you’ll stay here and not fuss I’ll give you some money.” So he would give us each a big 20 cent piece, which was a lot of money for us.
We had this little pinto horse; when LaSelle rode him it seemed like his feet touched the ground. Dad would let us ride him around. Dad also had a great big horse. We didn’t ride him, he was too big.
I was real good friends with John Carlton. I ate at their house almost every Sunday, more than I did at home. His mother was such a good cook, I would go out there on the Flat and just feast. His older brother Leo went with Hannah and I went with John.
Uncle Harvey Taylor owned a place up on
the way to Juarez that they called the Riquena. Lynn Taylor who was
dating Ella and John and I would go to get the milk. On our way up we
would stop and buy these yummy round “paletas” (popsicles).
High School Years - 1931 to 1935:
Nelle “batched” during 3 1/2 years of high school. That means she left home and lived in Colonia Juarez in order to attend the Juarez Stake Academy. She lived on her own with some other girls, doing their own cooking, laundry, etc. She didn’t get to go home to Dublan very often because it cost 90 cents and she didn’t have it that kind of money. Over the years she lived in 3 different places: in Sister Millie Whetten’s house in 2 rooms, upstairs on one side of the Bentley’s home (the old Ivins home) and in Grandma Hatch’s house. She lived with Ella Romney, Flossie Bluth, and for a time with her sister Hannah Vee and some other girls.
While living in the Whetten home Nelle was sometimes frustrated because she felt that her A. Maud (Taylor Bentley) wouldn’t share the produce from her large garden or the fruit from their fruit trees. So one day the girls decided they would get the apples another way. The apples were stored in boxes in a little shed by the house so the girls got the apples out of the boxes one by one through a hole in the slats of the shed. Nelle’s Aunt Rinda (Taylor Abegg) in Dublan would send wonderful things up to the girls with her husband Moroni; cinnamon rolls and sweets. Aunt Lillian, (Nelle’s stepmother Lillian Hatch Taylor) would also send bread up to the girls; 2 or 3 loaves at a time wrapped in a flour sack. “She saved our lives; sometimes that’s all we had to eat.” Sister Romney would give them fruit that she had put up for them to eat with their bread.
While living at the Bentley’s home the Clarks lived on the other side and they still had outside plumbing and Nelle remembers “that every time we went to the outside toilet laughing and talking on the way, Brother Clark would always be in there. He would say ‘You’ll have to come back in a while’ so we would go back and do something else and then go back in a while.” The Clarks had a big hound dog that lived with them. No matter how they put their food away, even tying it up in something that dog would get into it and eat it. So one day Nelle had had it! She got a big stick and went into the Clark’s side of the house to get that dog. “You’re going to get it now!” But just as she came around the corner there was Brother Clark coming up the stairs. So she changed her tone quickly, “Okay, doggie, here, you can have some bread.” Before she left the Academy she truly wanted something to happen to that dog!
Nelle lived upstairs with the girls and 2 boys lived downstairs on one side. One day Verla came home and when she turned down her bed some of the boys including her brother had put egg shells all over her pillow. They were always pulling stunts on us.
One day Verla got so mad at one of the boys that she threw a bucket of water at one of the boys and it went right down the stairs into the Bentley’s living room onto the beautiful rug. Bro. Bentley was going to kick her out but Hannah coaxed him into letting her stay.
During her years at Juarez Stake Academy Nelle had some special friends; they were sort of like the 5 Musketeers. The group was Nelle, Ella Romney (Miller), Nellie Spilsbury (Romney), Elois Cardon and Ivis Farnsworth. They talked and played and had a lot of fun. “We had more fun than anyone in the school!”
There were some special boys too. Herman Hatch and Ralph Sloan, whom they called “Molly”, Nelle doesn’t remember why, would always sneak up and peek on any couple who was having a date. “Then they would come and tell us all about it and they never got caught either.” They especially liked to peek on A. Maud and Miles Romney when they’d come home from play practice.
Nelle and the other girls (when they lived with Grandma Hatch) had to cross the long swinging bridge that spanned the river. It was made of wood with just some chicken wire on the sides. Greer Skousen and Molly Sloan always knew when they were going across the bridge and they would get on either end of the bridge and start swinging it as hard as they could. “It would scare us to death and of course that just made them do it worse. I would say, ‘I’m going to kill you, Greer Skousen.’ and he would answer ‘No, you’re not; you know you like it.’ But I was really scared; sometimes I would even start to cry I was so scared!”
During her sophomore year Nelle had a big crush on Bob Bowman (brother of her future husband). They dated; mostly they went to dances because “that’s one thing he could do, dance!” But he had to play his violin with Sister Viva Bluth on the piano since that’s all the music they had. She would tell him he was “married to his violin” because he would only dance with her for the first dance, one in the middle and one at the end. But Nelle danced with everyone so it was okay. She says that their relationship was like “an old sock, on, off”.
Nelle recalls that Mr. Clark was one of her teachers at the Academy and once gave her a D in Algebra. “It was a horrible class; that’s why I talked all the time. He thought he was so witty and he’d tell jokes so we would tickle ourselves and laugh.” So she went to talk to him and told him that it wasn’t fair that he gave her a D for deportment and not for her work. “I can’t help it (talking); it’s in my genes.” But her work really was good so he changed it to a B. Nelle despised Math but was good in English and writing so sometimes one of her friends would do Nelle’s Math and Nelle would do her English.
One day when Nelle was 16 or 17 she got a letter from Brother Ara Call telling her she had been nominated the “Queen of the May”. This was a great privilege as it was also a celebration of the Mexican Cinco de Mayo but Nelle protested she couldn’t be Queen of the May for the Dublan Ward because she was a member of the Juarez Ward and besides she didn’t have anything to wear. But Brother Call insisted so she was. She remembers that her stepmother Aunt Lillian (she doesn’t remember why they called her “Aunt Lillian” but they did) said that “Nelle was going to have a dress no matter what” and she made a dress using a pale green organdy material with little pink roses. It had little straps and puffy sleeves and was long and full. It was the most beautiful dress Nelle had ever seen. And Nelle never knew where A. Lillian got the cloth or how they afforded it. A. Lillian also made her a big, broad-rimmed hat all lined. Looking at the picture of herself with her attendants (whom she picked) she says “I was thin once and that’s proof!” There was a big dance and a special ceremony to introduce the Queen and her attendants who were then crowned.
During her senior year at Juarez Stake Academy Nelle was vice-president of the student body. Ashton Longhurst was president even though Nelle really wanted Bob Bowman to be president. But they had a lot of fun activities including a program nearly every Friday with musical numbers and skits they had written and dances and parties. Sister Viva Bluth (who was named Viva because she was born on Mexican Independence Day; Viva Mexico!) helped them with these programs. She was Nelle’s favorite teacher; she taught them music and how to dance. Every year they would put on an opera and everyone who wanted to could be in it. “I never got a speaking part and that’s what I was the best at but I was good enough to hobble around in the dances.”
Another of the highlights of high school according to Nelle were the rock fights, “I nearly got killed!” and water fights. They broke out all the time. Also the young people were always making candy and dances were a very big thing, they had them every other week or so.
Once when Nelle was living at Grandma Hatch’s house she and the other girls had hung their laundry out on the clothes line to dry. Along came Harold Brown and told Nelle “If you had a red flannel petticoat you would have the Mexican flag.” She told him to shut up. But it was true because hanging on the line was their green and white underwear (the colors of the Mexican flag, red, white and green). Soon after that Nelle started dating Harold. They even went on a trip with another couple clear up to Chuichupa (another colony) for 3 days. Nelle isn’t sure exactly what they did but they had a great time hiking, visiting the Black Canyon, eating good food and sitting around big bonfires. One thing she remembers is the problem of going to the bathroom out in the middle of the mountains. She also can’t believe her father let her go but he did. Nelle graduated from the Juarez Stake Academy with the class of 1935.
First year of teaching school:
When I was about 18 Brother Keeler, the Superintendant of Schools called me in and said he would like me to teach school only he wanted me to teach in Colonia Juarez. I agreed to and taught 2nd or 3rd grade. I lived with one of Miles Romney’s wives, Francis (he had four). It was really fun. One of my students was little David Jewel. The principal warned me that he was terrible; he kicked his teachers etc. and that if he got too bad I could get a little switch and spank his bottom. He had a big black blind dog that he would bring to school every day. The dog would sit right in front of my blackboard so I would have to stumble over that dog every time I did something on the board and some times it would wander all over the room and distract the kids. I finally told David that the dog had to go. He had all kinds of excuses “He is such a good friend of mine, he would get so lonely” but I insisted.
One day David got mad and threw his books all over the room. I said “David, go pick up your books.” He said, “I won’t do it and you can’t make me.” And Nelle thought, “Oh boy, this is it.” I took him into the little room by my schoolroom and turned him over my knee and spanked him. He let out these loud screams that the principal heard so he came down. I just told him that David and I were having a little trouble here but we’ll be all right. David picked up his books and after that we became really good friends. He would come by and pick me up and would go to school together. One day David came in and said “Miss Taylor, you’d better keep your eyes open.” And I said “Why?” And he said, “Because you can’t see with them shut!” In some ways he was really cute.
One day school started and I couldn’t find David. When I asked the other students they said he was down on the river bottom smoking with Marion Wood. I excused myself and went down to the river and there they were. I told them they had to go to school and brought them back. He was smart as a whip. I always have wondered what happened to him; they moved to the States.
For one summer (not sure of the year) Nelle worked at Jacob Lake, Arizona a resort in the pines run by the Harold Bowman family. She was a cook and would make big loaves of bread and lots of pies. Because they weren’t allowed to eat the pies once Nelle burned one on purpose so they could eat it. The sink in the kitchen leaked so when people would ask where Jacob Lake was Nelle would say that it was here under the sink. “That would make Aunt Nina so mad!” They had to work hard but always managed to find some fun. At least twice a group of girls sneaked out and walked down to the bus stop area, put on some music and danced around for a while. Then they had to sneak back into their cabins without Aunt Nina catching them.
Nelle and her older sister Hannah left home in the fall 1937 to go to Salt Lake City, Utah to work. She worked for a Mr. and Mrs. Sheets for $10 a week, which was a lot of money then. She did housework and cooking. Her sister Hannah worked in a home just a few doors down so they did a lot together. Every Thursday was their day off and they would get all dressed up and go downtown. All dressed up meant nice dress, gloves, nice shoes and stockings and a cute coat. They would go to shows (movies) have a nice dinner and stay out until 10:30 or 11:00pm. They loved that day off. One of the first things Nelle bought with her own money was a little black coat.
The family had a 3 year old daughter who liked Nelle more than her mother and wanted Nelle to do everything for her. She would follow her around and hang on her dress all day. She cried when Nelle left because she wanted to go with her.
One day her employer’s old father got fresh and made a pass at Nelle. She left there very quickly saying “I would rather starve to death than work there”. She left Salt Lake and moved to Provo in January 1938 finding an apartment after a couple of days staying with friends. She registered at Brigham Young Academy for the winter term taking such classes as English, Bacteriology (about which she said, I can say I’m not crazy about the class as a whole”), Social Dance (where there were so many boys), Geology, Religious Education, Typing and Home Administration which included topics such as “Food Problems in the Home”. She also took Gym where she played basketball and was quite the player. In one game she tells about Nelle made 10 points out of 11.
Nelle was a member of a sorority called “Alta Mitra” where she helped plan and carry out many fun activities and dances. She was in charge of one activity for the Cinco de Mayo when she and some other kids from the Colonies danced a medley of Mexican dances. She was also in charge of the food and it was so popular they didn’t have enough for everyone. There were many fun activities including going to the “show” (movies) every Sunday afternoon. Nelle had many friends who were always dropping by to chat.
For the second semester Nelle had to get a loan in order to continue her schooling. In order to pay back the loan she had to work. She worked cleaning house, in the bindery and in the library off and on. During one stretch of school Nelle’s uncle Harvey Taylor sent her $4 a week. Later she tried to pay it back but he wouldn’t let her. Sometimes money was pretty tight. At one point Nelle couldn’t afford to buy new shoes so when the soles of her shoes wore out she had to cut pieces of cardboard to put in the bottom. That was not much fun for walking on icy sidewalks. One day while at school she got a check from home for ten dollars, “What a lifesaver!”
After 2 years in Utah Nelle returned to the Colonies. For the summer of 1939 she mostly worked at home and had fun with friends. In the fall of 1939 she started teaching school at the Dublan Elementary school and taught for one year. But there was still much fun to be had with friends. For a while Nelle dated Harold Brown again and even wore his ring for a while but when he moved to Benson, Arizona and then Claudius Bowman came around she took it off. (Actually Claudius dated Nelle’s older sister, Hannah for a while but she met Alma Jarvis and they married later.) Claudius would take turns going with 3 girls; Nelle, LaPrele Bluth and Estell Shupe. They would say among themselves, “Well, it is almost my turn” or “It seems like it’s my turn”. Then all of a sudden he dropped the other 2 girls and went with Nelle steadily. She recalls that “he wore a white shirt, pale blue slacks and white shoes when he came courting. He was so handsome!” But it was sometimes hard to get him to have a good time; he always said he had a hard time socializing.
According to Claudius “by this time (1941) Nelle had become so desperate that she accepted the attentions of a chicken man and married him before the school could get her”. (Claudius at the time was managing a poultry business.) During the summer of 1941 Nelle spent most of her time with Claudius and making and shopping for items for her trousseau.
For a week in July 1941 Nelle and
Claudius spent a week with some other couples in the mountains camping
out. They visited Pacheco and Cave Valley and even had their pictures
taken peeking out of a huge olla.
Marriage and children:
Nelle and Claudius were married on September 18, 1941 in the Arizona Temple. They were accompanied by Claudius’ parents and sister Dorothy and Nelle’s father Loren Taylor. Some of the Mexico people living in Arizona threw a party for them and they received a few gifts including some money. They also had a reception in Dublan when they got home.
The newlyweds lived for a few weeks with Mother and Dad Bowman and then purchased a small house across the street from the Bowman home. Claudius was very handy and did a lot of fixing up, painting, putting in a bathroom and a kitchen sink. They bought a little refrigerator from Uncle Moroni Abegg and got a coal-oil stove, and brought some mattresses in from El Paso which made up a bed in the living room area. All of the children were born there in that bed and later they remodeled the house and added a window over the kitchen sink and a living room on the side. (The house was remodeled extensively in 1961.)
Nelle had difficulty having children; she had more than 2 or 3 miscarriages. Doctor Hatch had a doctor friend who came to hunt and also examine Nelle and gave her some pills and told her he would be up next year for the christening. Sure enough Nelle had her first baby, a son on October 22, 1945 who they named Claudius Bowman III.
The chicken business being what it was, Nelle resumed teaching school in the Dublan School leaving her year old baby with the hired girl. Later she conducted a kindergarten in her home so she could be there. Later after her fifth and last child was five years old in 1958 she started teaching again and taught for more than 20 years.
The other children to come to the family were: Jennie Loriene born on December 22, 1947, Flora Eileen born July 18, 1950, Roberta born September 4, 1951 and Conrad LeRoy born October 16, 1953.
Church service has taken much of Nelle’s time and talents and has profited from many hours of insomnia usually from 3:00 to 5:00 am when she came up with a lot of her ideas. Every job she had in the Church got the full measure of her intense energy and creativity. Some of the jobs she had included President of the YWMIA, Stake Gleaner supervisor, Sunday School teacher, Primary Teacher, Junior Sunday School coordinator, Counselor in Ward Primary and Stake Primary and Stake Primary President for 8 years. In April 1958 Nelle made arrangements for the whole Primary board to travel to Utah to attend the meetings and workshops that were held at General Conference time. They earned the money to go by doing fundraisers, one of which was catering a banquet for the basketball champions. The board members traveled in cars and stayed in the Hotel Utah. At the President’s dinner Nelle received for the Juarez Stake a gold cup awarded for their work in the Children’s Friend campaign; she also received a beautiful lavender orchid. It was a very memorable experience.
From Nelle’s journal, August 29, 1958: “This is the day I came into the money from Aunt Lucy Van Cott. She didn’t leave a will so her money was divided among all her relatives. Laselle, Hannah and I got $107.75 (dollars). I guess we’ll use it to go to Elwood’s wedding in California.”
One of Nelle’s favorite things to do was eat out. For every special occasion the family would go eat at a restaurant in town. Our favorite was Constantinos or
the Ranchito or the Restaurante Casas Grandes. Claudius always said that he could get a better meal at home but Nelle insisted anyway. (That is one thing that all her children inherited from her. They all love to eat out.)
Another favorite thing was to go to “the States”, usually El Paso, Texas. There were at least 2 family trips a year, one to shop for school clothes and supplies and go to the dentist and one to shop for Christmas. We usually stayed at the Hotel McCoy in downtown El Paso and ate at the cafeteria around the corner and other restaurants in the vicinity. We visited with relatives also mostly Nelle’s sister Flora and her family. On one such visit Nelle became very sick, showing signs of appendicitis. Claudius administered to her, anointing her with consecrated oil. She soon felt better and spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and going to a movie. (Later she had another attack of appendicitis and had to have an operation on that and a hernia repaired.)
About 1960 Claudius inherited some land out on the Flat from his mother so he decided to go into the orchard business. Nelle records, “It was a real thrill for us when we started to get the land ready for our orchard out on the flat. We have planted peach, pear and apple trees.” Around this same time Nelle realized her dream of having her home remodeled completely. They took off the screen porch, added four bedrooms and two bathrooms. They enlarged the kitchen adding a pantry and laundry room, installed a furnace for central heating and made a basement room under the kitchen. The work was done by Claudius’ brother, Donn, who did a beautiful job. During part of the remodel the family lived with Grandma Bowman with some of the children sleeping at Donn and Maurine Bowman’s house.
Nelle continued to teach school in the Dublan Elementary. In 1962 a new school building was constructed and it was nice to have a beautiful, modern school. For the next few years Nelle was busy with school, children and Church work including a stint as Mrs. Bishop when Claudius was called to be Bishop of the Dublan 2nd Ward (Spanish speaking).
As her children grew up, left home to go to school, married and began having their own children Nelle traveled a lot out to the States (mostly Arizona, Utah and California) to visit. She especially enjoyed going to help out when a new baby came. Most of the trips were long drives in the car but on occasion she flew in airplanes (and was terrified the whole time!).
Mission to Mexico:
In March 1978 Claudius and Nelle were called to go on a mission to the Mexico Villahermosa Mission as welfare missionaries. They were to enter the Language Training Mission on May 11. The next few weeks were spent getting their affairs in order (renting out the farm and house etc.), packing up their things and getting ready to go. On April 11 Nelle was so surprised when she went to Relief Society work meeting and found that they were paying tribute to her! They presented her with a R.S. pin and thank you note and then they all sang a song to her written by Glenna Call and Winnie Jones. This is the song sung to the tune of “The More We Get Together”:
We love our Sister Nelle, Sister Nelle, Sister Nelle,
We love our Sister Nelle, let us tell you why.
She makes us all feel that we are very special,
We love our Sister Nelle and that’s one reason why.
She shows appreciation, appreciation, appreciation,
she shows appreciation, And does it so well.
Nelle is so very clever, full of wisdom and wit.
We appreciate her humor and enjoy every bit.
Nelle’s a friend to little children, little children, little children.
Nelle’s a friend to little children, their teacher as well.
She’s my friend and your friend, we all love her dearly,
And so we’re all more friendly when Nelle is around.
She’s a very good example, example, example.
She’s a very good example, We’ll follow her way.
To be better mothers, she tried hard to teach us,
The more we learn from Nelle, happier families we’ll be.
We’ll share our Sister Nelle, Sister Nelle, Sister Nelle.
We’ll share our Sister Nelle, with our sisters down South.
Her years of experience, She’ll take to the mission
With all her talents, others too, she will bless.
Nelle recorded that she was so embarrassed but at the same time thrilled.
The missionary farewell sacrament meeting was held on April 23 and Nelle, Claudius and the Bowman family did the program. Their daughter Nina and son Claudius and his family were able to come to Dublan to take part, singing and giving talks and playing the piano. Music was also furnished by the Dublan Ward Choir and the Bowman brothers. Later that day Claudius gave Nelle a patriarchal blessing (for some reason she didn’t get one earlier in her life), which was very special for her. They were set apart as missionaries on April 26, 1978 by Juarez Stake President Waldo P. Call and promised many great and wonderful blessings, including the blessing of good health and that they would be protected as if surrounded by a band of steel around them. From April 30 to May 10 Nelle and Claudius traveled to visit their children and grandchildren. They visited Claudius and family in El Paso, Texas, the Jensens in Dodge City, Kansas and the Esmeyers in Salt Lake City, Utah. During the trip to Utah President Call’s blessing was fulfilled as they traveled through Wyoming. The weather turned very bad with snow and icy roads. On a curve in a mountain pass the car hit a black ice and slipped sideways. Claudius thought maybe they were going to roll over but something whirled the car completely around and it went off the bank backwards. If this had happened just a few feet earlier they would have gone down a steep embankment. They didn’t even get out of the car but drove back onto the highway and continued their journey. During their stay in Salt Lake they visited relatives, purchased enough clothing to last 2 years, installed air conditioning in their Rambler car and went to see the movie “Star Wars’ (#1) with their Esmeyer grandchildren.
Being at the Language Training Mission was a wonderful, spiritual experience. But the second day there, Nelle forgot one very important rule; “You must always stay with your companion”. She did feel like having breakfast so she told Claudius to go without her. He was back before too long and reminded her that they were to stay together at all times. Neither had breakfast that day but Nelle said “we certainly made up for it at lunch time!”
The first Sunday they were there after Sunday School Nelle was stopped by their district leader and asked if she would speak in Sacrament meeting later. She was dumbfounded but remembered, “We do what we’re asked to do”. She hurried back to their room wondering what she could speak about. She opened her notebook where she had been recording everything and there was a whole talk she had written for their farewell Sacrament meeting that she had decided not to use; so she had her talk.
While at the LTM Nelle and Claudius met Florence and John Fossum who were also going to the Villa Hermosa Mission. They became good friends and met again in the mission field when they were in Merida. They especially enjoyed going out to lunch together when they had a chance. (They continued their friendship even when they left the mission and kept in touch for many years.)
After one week Nelle and Claudius were tested for their fluency in Spanish; Claudius was given a 5 (out of a possible 5) and Nelle was as good as most missionaries get in 2 months so they discontinued their Spanish classes and concentrated on learning welfare principles which included teaching others about gardens, soil etc. They left the LTM on May 25 after only 2 weeks and traveled to their mission field stopping in El Paso for last-time visiting with family (Flora gave them a big family dinner), to buy a hearing aid for Claudius and for last-minute shopping. They traveled to Dublan to tie up some loose ends in their affairs and to do car repairs and give some patriarchal blessings and packing up all their stuff. They finally left for Villa Hermosa on June 6 with the trunk and back seat of the car packed full and had many adventures such as getting lost in the slums of Mexico City, getting pulled over by the cops twice, once for smoking exhaust and excessive baggage for which Claudius had to pay $1,500 pesos, the highest “mordida” (bribe) he had ever paid and once for almost running a red light. They also had the usual car trouble in Veracruz. A worn-out bearing tore a hole in the radiator and they had to stay all night in the car in a rainstorm waiting for parts. But they made it finally to the beautiful little town of Villa Hermosa on Friday, June 9 where they met the mission president. Again their first Sunday there they were asked to speak in Sacrament meeting with a short time to prepare and Nelle again was horrified and scared but prepared a short message and bore her testimony. They were assigned to labor in Tuxtla Gutierrez, a town in the mountains which had no drinkable water so they had to buy purified water to use. They were assigned to help teach leadership skills and to find inactive members, “the lost sheep”. They worked very hard with the auxiliary presidencies helping them with leadership meetings and training etc. and going over lists of members and trying to find them to bring them back into activity.
To Nelle’s delight one of her former students at Dublan Elementary, one of her favorites, Bowen Call was an elder working nearby. She fixed them a nice meal often when they were there and when Elder Call got sick Nelle took him into their apartment to care for him until he got better (April 1979). In fact, Nelle would often fix a home cooked meal for any of the missionaries around which they loved. Other missionaries in their mission from the Colonies were Paul Hatch and Dana Call and Wesley Wagner.
One of many highlights was meeting Elder Howard W. Hunter at a conference in Tapachula and having him recognize Claudius as someone he knew. Claudius reminded Elder Hunter that he had set him apart as a Patriarch and had visited him in his office earlier. He remembered Claudius’ parents very well and chatted with Nelle and Claudius for a few minutes. There were other Brethren who visited and spoke and taught.
Another highlight was that Nelle and Claudius were able to attend the very first baptism performed in the Mayan language for a Mayan brother converted by Elder Call and his companion held in Motul. (June 17, 1979)
Another enjoyable activity was visit various ruins in the areas where they served and traveled such as the pyramids at Izapa, the great Mayan temples in Tullum which includes the “Temple of the White God”, the ruins at Coba and Kohunlich and ChichenItza where Nelle climbed the stairs to the top of one of the pyramids and the beautiful Loltun caverns.
Nelle and Claudius labored also in Merida, working with 5 branches, one in Valladolid, 2 in Tizimin and one each in the beautiful tourist areas of Cancun and the island of Cozumel. They actually lived in Cancun and visited the other branches; to go to Cozumel they had to go by boat, a real “ocean voyage”; they even saw dolphins leaping out of the beautiful blue water and following the boat.
Later Nelle and Claudius were asked to work in the office on weekdays. Nelle was asked to be the records secretary even though she had never done anything like that before. She was probably the first and only female records secretary to serve in any mission. She was overwhelmed and nervous about the assignment but Elder Peterson who was the previous secretary told her “Don’t get discouraged. Spend a lot of time on your knees; you’ll catch on.”
Nelle had many wonderful experiences such as drinking milk out of a coconut and teaching the sisters had to make banana bread. The first batch one of the sisters made was terrible! Nelle found out later that she had used 2 cups of vegetable oil instead of one and had used the big cooking bananas. Nelle also made cookies and cinnamon rolls to share usually with the missionaries. She learned many things too: that she didn’t like Horchata (a rice drink) or cilantro (a spice they put in everything), to take dramamine before a trip in the boat if the water was rough, to take cold showers or spit baths, to like some kinds of fish like shrimp and breaded barracuda, how to ride on a local bus with standing room only and to be prepared with some kind of talk because she was called on many times with no time to prepare. She learned that if the chorister was teaching the practice hymn wrong if she and Claudius and the elders sang really loud they would start to get it right. She also learned that you can survive not being home with your daughters to welcome a new baby; two grandchildren were born during the mission: Joseph Jensen and Erin Esmeyer.
There were other challenges to learn from; Nelle records “In Cancun we had cars, buses, motos and drunken neighbors to keep us awake. Here (in Merida) we have cats, dogs, turkeys, trains and of course, mosquitoes”. There was also the heat and humidity to contend with and the worry about children who didn’t write letters often enough.
But there were wonderful experiences too and fulfillment of blessings promised. Many times Nelle and Claudius were protected while traveling in their car, once being hit by a drunk driver and there was no damage to them or the car. One time they hit a motorcycle but the damage to it and the driver was minimal. Two months before being released from their mission Nelle started having a toothache. Having no confidence in the dentists there Claudius gave her a blessing asking the Lord to bless her to take away the pain until they went home and she could get care. She didn’t have any more toothaches until after they moved to Salt Lake City and had a good dentist. Both Claudius and Nelle had sickness come to them and through Priesthood blessings they were healed almost immediately and were able to continue with their work.
From Nelle’s journal: October 17, 1979 - “Guess what! I fell down! I had on these miserable wood soles and heels shoes and as I opened the front door kerplunk! I fell on my nose and I mean literally on my nose. My knees had to go someplace so they fell as hard as they could on the hard cement . . . I look like Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer and I feel like I just turned 100 years old. Those shoes have been disposed of ‘never to be worn again.’ And I feel like my nose is longer than my arms. Moral: never wear wooden heels and toes shoes on hard cement. You’ll get plastered every time.”
Nelle and Claudius were released from their mission in November 1979 by President Martinez because they were stopping on the trip home in Mexico City to see their son Claudius and his family. They had a last opportunity to both speak in Sacrament meeting, were given a special luncheon by the mission president and his family with a big cake with 18 candles representing the 18 months of their mission. After the luncheon there was a special meeting where many people expressed their love and thanks and said many nice things (Nelle says, “much exaggerated, of course”).
On Nov. 14 they started their journey home and as usual had car trouble, this time it was the “mystery of the heating-up radiator”. Even after they had the radiator replaced in Villahermosa it again heated up and had to be fixed. They finally made it to Mexico City on November 17 where they enjoyed staying with Claudius, Marina and their children, celebrating Thanksgiving Day and attending the ground breaking ceremony of the Mexico City Temple where there were over 10,000 saints in attendance. Elder Boyd K. Packer presided; when he lifted the second shovel full of dirt his shovel broke. Luckily they had an extra to quickly hand him so he could continue.
While in Mexico City Nelle and Claudius did some sightseeing and were able to attend a symphony performance at the Palacio de Bellas Artes featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman.
Later in 1983 they were able to go back to Mexico City for the Temple dedication. They were able to attend the first session with all Claudius’ brothers and sisters seated in the ordinance room next to the Celestial room. It was a very special experience.
Since they were still having problems with their car Claudius decided to sell it there, send their stuff home in one of the Wagner’s big trucks and fly home. They were notified of the death of Carlos Taylor (son of Nelle’s brother LaSelle) so they flew to Ciudad Juarez so they could attend his funeral in El Paso. They arrived home in Colonia Dublan on December 1st where they stayed in Grandma Bowman’s little house since there home was still rented out. They stayed there for two weeks and then traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah to stay with their daughter Roberta and family and help handle some family problems that their son Conrad was having at the time. Since 3 of their children and some grandchildren lived in Utah they decided to buy a home there. After enjoying Christmas with their children they decided to rent the Clark’s home on Winward Drive in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake City. Nelle was asked to teach in the Relief Society just a few months after they moved in. She did a good job always using humor and stories to spice up her lessons. They also had their grandson Christopher live with them for a few months so that his parents could solve their problems. Their other grandson Michael was living at the Primary Children’s Medical Center and in foster care. In April 1980 these two grandchildren who had been abandoned by their mother were taken away and eventually adopted by a LDS family and were not seen by the family again.
The next few years were spent working in the Church (Nelle was a Relief Society teacher), enjoying children and grandchildren and going to all their programs, recitals, games etc. and helping out by babysitting and welcoming new grandchildren, there were quite a few.
Nelle was quite a poet. She enjoyed writing poems especially for her grandchildren for their birthdays and special events. These are just a few of the poems she wrote:
May 26, 1979, poem written to granddaughter Jeniann Jensen for her 2nd birthday:
You are a child of royal birth,
Two years ago you came to earth,
In keeping with His holy plan
To grow and progress all you can.
A special spirit in these last days
To walk uprightly in His ways.
You were blesssed with parents true
To guide you in the things you do.
Some day you’ll go back again
To serve and love and reign
With Heavenly Father up above,
To share forever in His love.
Poem written on June 18, 1979 to grandson Claudius Marcel on his 9th birthday:
Just a Year Ago, Marcel
A beautiful thought came to me of late
That just a year ago you turned eight.
I thought of all the preparations you’d made
And all the wonderful plans you’d laid;
To be baptized as Jesus was,
And begin anew to obey His laws.
You read the Book of Mormon through
And studied the mission lessons too.
Other things, I’m sure were done
To inspire, direct and help you, son.
Soon the day for baptism had come
And you reviewed the things you’d done.
Your worthiness was soon made clear,
And with friends and loved ones near
You were baptized as Jesus was,
And took upon yourself His laws
To live more righteously each day
And all His words try to obey.
Then hands were placed upon your head
And an inspiring, humble prayer was said.
Then you received the Holy Ghost,
A blessing you will need the most
Because it will prompt you what to do
And guide and help you your whole life through.
Poem written August 11, 1979 for grandson Bryan Esmeyer on his 6th birthday:
Bryan, Our Husky Boy of Six
Here’s hoping that your birthday is a happy day for you
And finds you doing all the things you like the best to do.
Jumping on the trampoline, or riding on your bike,
Seeing a weekly moving, maybe an all-day hike.
You can bring joy to others in so many different ways
That your six-year old birthday could last for days and days.
Do you help with little sisters? Can you take the garbage out?
Have you tried picking cherries? You would like that, there’s no doubt.
Bryan, have a very special birthday,
Add six candles, blow them out.
Share your cake and share your presents
That’s what birthdays are all about.
Poem written Dec. 6, 1980 to grandson Joseph Jensen when he turned two:
Joey, El Travieso
We know a busy, little boy
Who has just turned two.
God chose this angel from above
And sent him to me and you.
He gathered sunbeams for his smile
From out the sky above,
To brighten up our shadows
To share with us his love.
Some folks may call him “mischief”
“Travieso” fits him too
But it doesn’t really matter
‘Cause we love him through and through.
So Joey just remember
You always make us glad
You always have a funny face
To cheer us when we’re sad.
The spring of 1981 Nelle and Claudius did some traveling; they went to visit Claudius’ brother Bob and his wife Rickie in Dixon Illinois. They all visited The Church historical sites in Carthage and Nauvoo and traveled to Washington DC where they went to concerts, museums, the Botanical gardens and the Library of Congress. It was one of the happiest experiences of their lives.
Claudius and Nelle had wanted to buy a home in Utah so they decided to sell their home in Mexico to Ron Taylor in order to finance a home in Salt Lake. They found a nice little house on Olive Drive just a block from Claudius’ sister Dorothy. They bought the house on February 16, 1982 and moved in a few days later. They attended the Winder 6th Ward where they made special friends and had great experiences.
Nelle and Claudius took many trips to the Colonies, to Arizona to visit their daughter Nina and to attend Lunt/Taylor family reunions. Another great trip was in April, May 1982 when they went to the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, the first they had ever seen. They also visited New Orleans, took a paddle-boat trip on the Mississippi River, visited Florida, Key West, and spent a day at Disney World. They traveled with a group of senior citizens including their dear friends Elbert and Ella Miller so there was never a dull moment.
In August 1983 Nelle had quite an ordeal; she had to have a hysterectomy and hernia repair operation. She came through well but stayed in the hospital for 7 days. The first night home she developed a high fever and was in a lot of pain so the doctor suggested she go back to the hospital. She had a infection and had to stay in the hospital another 7 days. During this time she had many visitors, calls, and cards but was glad to get home. A few days later she developed a rash that was very itchy. She said she “felt like I had the 7 year itch but was 10 years behind in scratching!” As soon as she quit taking a certain medication the rash went away.
Then in Sept. 1984 Nelle had total knee replacement surgery on her right knee. She had been suffering for a long time with pain in that knee. She came through the surgery very well and was up and around, on crutches in no time. Later in May 1990 she had to have the same knee replaced again.
In May 1985 Claudius and Nelle traveled to the Colonies to attend the Academia Juarez High school graduation. The special thing about this graduation was that many of the students graduating had been Nelle’s students in kindergarten about 18 years ago. Four of the graduates told Nelle that she had been their favorite teacher. Nelle also enjoyed celebrating her class of 1935 high school reunion. They had a party and dinner at the home of Nelle’s best friend in high school, Nellie Spilsbury Romney. Fifteen of the 33 graduates were there. During the giving of awards Nelle got an award (a set of ear plugs) for making people laugh.
Another outstanding experience was the Centennial celebration of the Mormon Colonies in Mexico in August 1985. There was a week of activities including a pageant, barbecue, parade (the Bowman family built a float), a talent program, dance and a chuck-wagon breakfast. It was a wonderful experience with many people coming “home” to celebrate together.
About this time Claudius began having problems. First he lost his singing voice, then he began having problems eating and swallowing. They went to many doctors and had many tests but it wasn’t until the middle of 1987 when Claudius was beginning to be weak and tired and his voice was affected that the doctor diagnosed Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This changed their lives considerably over the next year and a half as Claudius became weaker and weaker with his muscles losing their function. Nelle spent most of her time caring for him. She writes: “It was a blessing for me to take care of him. He was no trouble at all; never complained. He said to me many times, ‘I don’t want to be a burden to you’. And I would reply with, ‘You are not a burden to me; you are too skinny! (114 lbs).’ Claudius passed away on January 10, 1989 in his sleep. He had insisted that he wouldn’t have a permanent feeding tube put in which was scheduled for that day. Now Nelle had to adjust to being alone; she very much missed taking care of her sweet husband. (Actually, Conrad lived in the basement but he was gone so much working that it was like being alone most of the time.) She writes: “My sweetheart has been gone three months; it seems like three years. I get so lonesome sometimes I can hardly stand it. The good memories we had together and the fact that he is not suffering any more keep me going.”
In August 1992 Nelle’s son, Claudius, moved in with her, living in her basement. This was a very big help to her to have someone who could do some of the work around the house and to have someone to talk to. He lived there for almost 10 years taking care of Nelle especially during the years her health began to deteriorate. She continued to have back pain, knee problems and early stages of dementia. But for the most part she was a joy to be with, she never lost her sense of humor or her enjoyment of eating out and visiting with people.
In August 2001 because of health problems Nelle moved in with her daughter Roberta’s large family in West Valley City, Utah. They remodeled their home to fix a room and bathroom for her. There she enjoyed the numerous family activities and getting to know some of her grandchildren and hardly ever complained about the noise or the food. They enjoyed listening to her stories and experiences and many times Grandma would have the little kids laughing hysterically as they sat around the dinner table listening to her jokes and funny stories. They also learned that Grandma was always ready to go out to lunch or dinner at the slightest suggestion.