My Uncle Elmer Johnson was an amazing cook. My cousin, Ellen Bremner, his oldest child recalls the many holiday meals he cooked over the years, and just how wonderful they were. Many people think that cooking is no big deal, but opening a few cans and heating them on the stove, is not cooking, nor is heating up a frozen dinner, which seems to be the norm these days. I suppose that in a busy world, such as we now live in, heating up a previously prepared (usually by some company) meal is the best way to get a meal quickly. Nevertheless, people like my Uncle Elmer…well they knew how to really cook…making a wonderful holiday meal from scratch, with everyone in the family standing there watching and smelling the meal with mouths watering and stomachs growling. The anticipation was almost too much to bear. Ellen tells me that her dad was a more adventurous cook than their mom, my Aunt Dee.
Uncle Elmer loved Christmas, and loved to spoil his four children, Ellen, Elmer, Darla, and Delwin, as well as Aunt Dee. I can imagine him at Christmas…just like a kid in a candy store, getting everything ready for his family, and then sitting there with a twinkle in his eye as they opened their gifts. The day most likely passed far too quickly and all too soon it was over, and life went back to normal.
Normal for my uncle was driving a truck. He worked for Burke Moving and Storage, as well as United Van Lines. He also worked for Dalgarno Transportation, where he and his son, Elmer got to work together. He was also a certified welder working on pipeline, and later in a uranium mine at Shirley Basin. Uncle Elmer was also a capable mechanic. Still, I think that as jobs go, Uncle Elmer was happiest when he was driving a truck. He liked to drive, and that made him a good teacher of driving. Ellen remembers that he was very patient with her when he was teaching her to drive. He encouraged her, even when she made a mistake.
Every summer, Uncle Elmer would take the family fishing in the Tensleep area of Wyoming. Uncle Elmer loved fishing, and he passed that love of the sport down to his kids. I think they all still enjoy fishing to this day. Uncle Elmer was witty and had a great sense of humor. That probably came from the years he and his brothers spent getting into mischief…good clean fun really. Uncle Elmer, and especially his brother, Les pulled many pranks. Their brother Tom was quite a bit younger, and so not as involved in their mischief, but I imagine he managed to contribute his share as he got older too. After all, he had his big brothers to show him the ropes. Unfortunately, Uncle Elmer passed away in 1981. Today would have been his 87th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Elmer. We love and miss you very much.
My grandmother’s brother on my mom’s side, has been an interesting character to me. I always liked Great Uncle Bill, and his wife, Great Aunt Stella, but I can’t say that I always knew him very well. Recently as I have been researching my family’s history, I have again come across Great Uncle Bill, both in pictures and in stories. I found a cousin named Marlene, who had told a story about a time in Great Uncle Bill and Great Aunt Stella’s life when they lived in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Great Uncle Bill had worked for the Railroad for a number of years, and while living in Kemmerer, the railroad provided them with a beautiful place outside of town. It was a two story house and a bunk house and a little house just for the railroad car that they used every day. The bunkhouse served a dual purpose, becoming a dance hall when it was time to do Great Uncle Bill’s favorite passtime, which is dancing, and more specifically square dancing. They loved holding those dances, and usually had more than a dozen couples in attendance.
Marlene tells about the summer she and her siblings got to spend with Great Uncle Bill and Great Aunt Stella. She painted a picture of Great Aunt Stella cooking on the old wood cook stove the house had. For one of the dances, Marlene and her siblings got to help bake cupcakes for the dance in that old wood cook stove. She tells me that Great Aunt Stella could make that cook stove create the most wonderful things to eat. The cupcakes were frosted with green and blue frosting, which were met with mixed feelings at the dance…probably because of the blue and green lips they would create.
Great Uncle Bill also loved to play the fiddle and was an excellent caller for the square dances. Marlene always had such a great time, because she had learned to square dance, and was better than most of the adults. It must have been great fun to be able to keep up with the adults at a real square dance. And Great Uncle Bill could really play the fiddle. It was his passion. He had won many competitions and was a grand champion, several times over.
After emailing back and forth and reading the story Marlene posted on Ancestry.com, I feel like I now know my Great Uncle Bill and my Great Aunt Stella better. Great Uncle Bill passed away in December, 2005, and Great Aunt Stella passed away in December, 2009. Today, his birthday, Great Uncle Bill would have been 96 years old. I can’t help but think about how sad it is that the fiddle is now silenced, the dances over, but then, that is just on this earth. I’m sure there is room in Heaven for a dancing fiddle player like my Great Uncle Bill and his favorite partner, Stella.