James Monsen was the son of Peter and Dorothy C. Monsen, two of Mt. Pleasant's earliest pioneers. James grew up in Mt. Pleasant. The Introduction of his autobiography reads: "Since, by reason of circumstance, the writer of this little book has had little or no access to scholastic training, I suggest that when read, it be done with no critical intent, and that grammatical errors, if any, be by-passed. And, I most sincerely trust that its contents will convey to the reader a clear and correct concept of its true meaning and the purpose for which it was written." We wish to thank James Monsen for taking the time to write this "little book" as it contains some real treasures of early Mt. Pleasant History. In this post we share his early childhood memories of new wooden shoes, reading materials, school furniture and construction as well as dying yarn and weaving.
Mother was a great teacher, and in those days reading matter was not so plentiful as now (printed in 1949), and to say the least, much more expensive. So, to economize, Neils Johansen, our neighbor and mother joined in subscribing for such papers as suited them best. One was called the Dacota Post, and a novel with continued stories.Father thought it best to read the Deseret News, and especially the gospel sermons, which, of course, mother did read, but she enjoy other kinds of reading, and knowing that father rather opposed fiction and the like, many of the evenings were spent in Neils Johansen's home, not to sit idle with arms folded, but to work as well as read.
Johansen was a weaver and always had something on hand that even a child could do. Washing wool, picking, carding, spinning, spooling, and often making skeins, tying them into knots, dipping them into home made dye pots for different colors. So, while mother read, Johansen was not idle; and when he read, mother was busy at something, and even I sometimes wound yarn into a ball. I also ran the spooler while Johansen would weave, and to say the least, I listened very attentively to the reading, most of which was Danish; thereby I think I acquired much of what I know of the language.
While I enjoyed hearing them read while they worked, sleep would sometimes overtake me, and to be awakened to go home was anything but appreciated.
I recall now going with my sister Stena to the store. On our return we passed the then called second ward school house, where my brother Joe was going to school. We didn't pass by unnoticed. Joe came rushing out and grabbed me. I well remember how I protested and cried. My crying and Stena's pleading did not dissuade Joe from taking me by force into the schoolroom. Joe knew I liked roasted potatoes and they were there in abundance.
The house was heated from an open fireplace where they used wood for fuel, a splendid place to roast things. In the corner of the room some boys were engaged in pitching buttons. With all such going, I soon became pacified and glad that I was forced to join the gang.
The teacher's name was Hans Jorgen Schultz, and I remember he wore barndoor pants (?Means it has buttons to close the front, no zipper) and leather suspenders and wooden shoes. He had in his hand a birch stick about three foot long, which he used as a pointer, as well as a fire poker, and he was not adverse to poking the rude boys occasionally.
The desks were a double arrangement, about two feet wide on either side, sloping to the center, with benches on both sides, the students facing each other. I think four such desks constituted the furniture A blackboard, made from planed lumber, hung on the wall, That was my first introduction to a schoolroom.
The home was about 16 x 25. The desk and benches stood crosswise in the room, full length, except a pass-way at the ends.
Father had learned to make wooden shoes in his native land, and brought with him some tools with which to make such shoes.
I had arrived at school age, I guess about six or seven years old, but to go to school required footwear, and I had none. I think it proper here to say that as long as the ground was free of snow we went barefooted. I used to look forward with great anticipation to the advent of spring, so I could go barefooted. Now back to the school shoes.
By invitation I went with my father over in the Cedar Hills after a load of wood. When his wood was all loaded, he proceeded to find a pitch pine tree just to suit his fancy, and I wondered why he was so particular about his choice of a tree and asked him that question. "Well"he said, "I want a stick best suited for wooden shoes. I am going to make you a pair so you can go to school."
I looked forward with much pleasure to the finishing of my new shoes, so I eagerly watched that piece of wood from the tree to the finished wooden shoe. Mother had them nicely shined from the soot she gathered in the fireplace, and when I arrived at Sister Morrison's home (she was the teacher) I was more proud than ever, because of the comment made by her about my new shoes. I think, however, I was the only one there with wooden shoes.
At that, they were nice shoes, and there was none like them worn by others. The only objection I had to them, I couldn't run as fast with them as without.