By Glenda Joyce Memmott Black. Glenda used a history of the Hiskey and Baird Families written by Thalia as a source for this history. She also included material from interviews with Thalia’s children that she conducted between 2003 and 2006. Guy L. Black added minor editing, supplemental history, some source citations, and photographs.
Thalia was born 25 May 1912, in Erda, Tooele, Utah, a daughter of Peter Hiskey and Lillian Marianna Stratford Baird. At the time, Thalia lived with her mother and father and her brother, Rex. They lived in a two-room, one-bath home until Thalia was fourteen. She had a half brother about ten years older than her, who was living with his mother in Arizona.
Dr. Davis came from Tooele, a distance of seven miles. There were no telephones at Erda at that time so it is uncertain how they got word to the doctor, but he came in an automobile—the only one in Tooele Valley.
When but a small child her mother often told Thalia a story which seemed to be her mother’s code of life and which has indeed played an important part in Thalia’s life.
Mary and June were sisters. Mary was very pretty but June wasn’t pretty at all. This made June feel very badly indeed.
One day June left the house and walked slowly along the path that led through the garden and past the two big trees at the end of the walk. She was very sad. She hated Mary and was planning in her mind all the mean things she would do to Mary to get even with her. She walked slowly past the pine trees and into the wooded area beyond. Suddenly, she heard a voice calling “June! June!”
She was startled, at first, then she saw the dearest little fairy imaginable, dancing along the branch of a tree.
The fairy laughed gaily, and then she said, “I know why you are walking here in the forest alone. You wish you were beautiful like Mary.”
June’s eyes filled with tears. Then the fairy said, “I will help you to be even more beautiful than Mary, but you must do exactly as I say.”
June promised to do just as the fairy told her to do.
“You must go back home and not do a single thing that is mean or selfish for a week. Then come back and I will tell you something else to do.” June didn’t know what good that would do, but she had promised and so she went back home. She did feel a little happier, inside.
As she went into the house, she saw Mary playing paper dolls. She was just going to snatch them away when she remembered her promise to the fairy, so instead, she went and got her own dolls and they played happily together.
By the end of the week, June was much happier. She skipped down the path and all the way to meet the fairy. The fairy was delighted so she laughed and danced along the branch.
Then she told June, “Continue to do the same thing this week and in addition be willing to help your mother with the work. Don’t ever pout or sulk about the work you must do and even do something nice for someone else each day without being asked.”
June thanked the fairy and ran every step of the way back home to get started.
She sang and worked and played all week. Then she went back again to the fairy. Again the fairy was overjoyed. She told June that there was one more thing she must do. Besides being kind and unselfish and thoughtful she must spend a whole week without even thinking a bad thought. June agreed.
This was much harder and it took quite awhile before she could go back to the fairy. Finally, when she knew that she had done as she was told she went again to visit the fairy.
The fairy was very happy and she told June to walk along the winding path a little farther, to the crystal clear lake and to look into it. June followed the path to the edge of the lake and looked down into the blue, blue water. There, looking back at her, was her own reflection, smiling and beautiful.
She knew then that beauty comes from deep inside of us. It is made up of kindness, unselfishness, willingness to work, little thoughtful acts, and happy thoughts.
Thalia felt that this story was an example of what her mother was like.
Her father was a tall, large-boned man who loved the desert. He loved the croak of the frog, the coyote’s howl, the sagebrush, the sound of the nighthawk, the hoot of the owl, and the pine canyon breeze.
He was at peace with the world. He was honest all the way through. He never cheated anyone. He never had an enemy.
Thalia was baptized by Bishop Bryan in Bryan’s Pond on June 4, 1920, and was confirmed the following Sunday by Brother August Vorwaller.
She and her brother Rex attended school in a little red schoolhouse, walking about two miles from their home each day. Occasionally, their mother took them with the horse and buggy. At that time there was no junior high school, but one school included grades one to eight. High school included grades nine to twelve inclusive. When she entered the seventh grade, her father began to drive the first school bus in the area for high school students. He bought a 1-½ ton truck and put a canvas covering over the back. It looked very much like the campers of today. He gathered up students from Erda and Lake Point and took them to the TooeleHigh School.
When she was fourteen, her dad went to work at the smelter, and they moved from Erda to Tooele where she attended high school, graduating 24 May 1930.
LDS Seminary classes were started in connection with high school when she was in the ninth grade. The first few months, classes were held in the Stake House that was a distance of about three blocks from the school. She walked this distance after school, leaving only about twenty-five minutes for class work. The seminary building, a beautiful brick structure with a single classroom, was soon completed. Brother Leroy Bentley was a wonderful teacher who helped them to apply right teachings to their lives. Among the teachings Thalia received, two took root in her life as words to live by:
“Cheap stones are broken and crushed by hard knocks, but the diamond is only made brighter. Which are you?”
“The road which runs directly across the motorist’s way doesn’t fool anyone, but the road which runs nearly parallel to the true road takes many a motorist far from his destination.”
He told them the truth about nickel slot machines, off color stories, complaining, and other seemingly small insignificant problems.
He taught them that repentance is a daily must, and that when the day is done they should think of the little things, the little digs they have given other people, and repent each day of the little things; then they would never have to repent of big crimes.
During Thalia’s last three years of high school she took care of the school book store. She sold school books and supplies to students for ½ hour before school, ½ hour at noon and ½ hour after school. She also helped the principal in his office. For this work she was paid $15.00 a month during her sophomore and junior years, and $10.00 during her senior year. This was during 1920-1930, when the depression struck.
During the summers following her sophomore and junior years she had the privilege of living in the home of Judge Albert Christensen. She lived with him in Orem, Utah for three weeks, and worked picking berries. Right after her senior year, she spent six weeks at the home of the Patten family, who lived directly across the street from the Christensen home. Thalia found the Christensen family’s way of life to be a model or ideal for her own life. There was nothing small or mean in the Christensen home. Like the Constitution, their home guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Judge Christensen and Sister Christensen (whom they called Aunt Myrtle) put their backs behind the job of helping their children, and his children by a former marriage, in their pursuit of happiness. It was while living in their home that Thalia learned the real meaning of freedom to progress in the field of one’s choice.
Soon after school started during her freshman year she met Evan George Black. The following year his family moved across the street from Thalia’s family. Although they knew each other during high school and went everywhere together with groups of friends, they never dated until after Thalia was out of high school. They were married in the MantiTemple7 Oct 1931.
Evan and Thalia stated that they tried to achieve certain standards for their children. Those standards included encouraging their children to have self-discipline. They wanted their children to be good because the children wanted to be good, not because someone made them be good.
They had individual talks and prayer with each child, with help for the child in correcting mistakes. Discipline in the home was always accomplished by helping the children correct themselves. Corporeal discipline was never used for punishment. This ideal led to the following experience.
In Thalia’s own words, “One Sunday afternoon after fast meeting, Evan and I went to Tooele, to get some genealogy. While we were traveling, I spoke of a problem that had been bothering me for a long time: ‘Why is there a scripture which advises us spare the rod and spoil the child, when Jesus taught patience and kindness, and said suffer the little children, etc?’ I was concerned over the seeming conflict.
“Evan didn’t satisfy me, but we were interested in our trip and forgot all about it. When we reached Tooele we went to Elliot’s home. Being that it was fast Sunday, they were having a Sunday school meeting in the evening in their ward, and Steven was taking part; so Agnes and I went to the meeting with the children, and Elliot and Evan stayed at home to visit. While I was listening to the program, a voice spoke to me very clearly. The voice was from an unseen person, and came from directly behind my right shoulder. The voice said, ‘The rod is the word of God.’
“I can bear testimony that the only way to make our children be good is by teaching them and helping them use the word of the Lord as a guide to their actions.”
One day Thalia purchased a basket of apples and told Pete and his friends they could have all the apples they wanted if they didn’t waste any. Not knowing the meaning of the word “waste,” Pete and his friends proceeded to take one bite out of an apple to taste it, throw it to the side, and then get another one. They repeated the process until the whole basket of apples was wasted.
One day the school checked all the kids for ringworm by putting them under an ultraviolet light. If you had it in those days they shaved your head. It was very demeaning to those students who were suspected of it, and they were made to sit on the other side of the gym. The next day all of the children sitting on the other side of the gym arrived at school with their heads shaved.
When Pete was in first grade, the school discovered students with head lice. Pete came home with a terrible story, saying that he had head lice. To calm Pete’s fears, Thalia made a trip to the school to inquire, then returned home and assured Pete that all was well. It was quite funny, as Pete’s hair was very short.
Eva remembers a time that they were visiting Grandma and Grandpa Baird in Erda. Grandma and Grandpa went to church, but Thalia stayed home. She decided to bake a cake for her mother. She rummaged through the cupboards for the ingredients, and baked the cake. When it was done it looked rather strange, like a chunk of concrete with water holes in it. Thalia made the children promise not to tell anyone, and pitched the cake into the compost pit. Several weeks later, when they were visiting again, Grandpa Baird found the concrete cake and brought it in, thinking it was a meteor. Finally, Thalia confessed that it really wasn’t a meteor, but a cake she had made. Grandma Baird asked her where she had gotten the flour. When she told her it was under the sink, Grandma replied, “Oh, that was not flour, it was water softener.”
Thalia was never known for her cooking ability. One day she discovered a recipe for sweet and sour spam. Evan happened to say, “Mmm, I like this.” Ten days later, while visiting Eva, he asked Eva for something to eat. Then he told her, “I’m so tired of sweet and sour spam.”
Another time, Thalia made some biscuits and Evan remarked how hard they were. Thalia threw one of them at Evan. It hit his head, bounced off, and broke a window.
Another time Thalia made bread, but did not take time to bake it. Instead, every time it rose, she would just poke it down. After three days, she decided the dough was too old to bake, so she threw it out to the puppies, Spot and Tip. The puppies ate the bread dough, but were thirsty after eating, so they went to the ditch to get a drink of water. But because they were drunk from the fermented dough, they kept falling over as they tried to drink.
Karen remembers her mother’s carrot and raisin sandwiches. Thalia would cook homemade bread, which Karen described as the driest bread she had ever eaten. Thalia would cut thick slices of the bread, make a sandwich filled with a paste made of grated carrots and raisins, and pack the sandwich for Karen’s lunch. Karen often skipped lunch.
Thalia’s children were constantly climbing on the chairs and reaching over the table. Thalia was frustrated by their behavior. No matter how many times she asked them to stop, the children continued their impolite actions. One day she decided to give the children an object lesson. She climbed on a chair herself to demonstrate how rude the children were being. As she was demonstrating and lecturing the children, a neighbor, Mrs. Lund, walked into the house and witnessed Thalia’s odd antics.
There was a very big tree that the children loved to play in. Eva remembers that when Thalia called her to do some chore, she would run to the tree, climb it, and hide. One day she took a cucumber with her to eat while in the tree. Unaware that her father had cut off a branch, and having the cucumber with her, she mistook the cumber for a branch, and, grabbing it instead of a branch, fell to the ground. Thalia took a look at her, and without saying anything about the fall, said, “Oh, there you are, come with me right now.”
Thalia recounted an incident that she considered an example of the importance of being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. She said, “Right after World War II, we lived at 3250 West 3100 South in Granger, which at that time was a farming area.
“One night, Evan and I and our eldest daughter, Eva, were walking along Parr’s Road at 3450 West Street (one of the few roads where the houses were close together, but only on one side. Parr’s Road is now 3450 West, or the entrance to Westlake Junior High School). We were going home from the bus after attending the late session at the temple. It was a cool summer night, but was late and very dark.
“We had passed most of the homes along the way, when we hard a child cry. Without hesitation, we retraced our steps, passing two or three houses going back. We saw a little girl, about two and a half years old, running across a lighted spot in the road. The light came from a spotlight secured to the porch, and made a bright spot on the road, but just a few feet in diameter.
“The child was running back and forth in the light. When she came to the darkness, she would scream and run back to the other side. We hurried to her. She let us pick her up and carry her up on the porch. We knocked at the door, but no one answered. Then we asked, ‘Is your mommy home?’ ’No.’ ‘Is your daddy home?’ ‘No.’ ‘Is your sister home?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Is she asleep?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You go in and call your sister so she will wake up.’ Then we heard her calling, ‘Baby, wake up.’
“We then managed to get her back into our arms without going into the house, but what to do? The house next door was in darkness, but the second house had a light in the back. Evan knocked at the door.
“The parents were playing cards with their neighbors not more than one hundred feet from where they had put their children to bed.
“This was the only time we rode on the bus at night and it was the only time we walked along Parr’s Road.
“How many times do any of us to go investigate when we hear a child cry, especially when there are houses close by? We knew we had been guided to that street that night by the Lord.”
Evan and Thalia would have done anything they could for someone in need. Thalia always kept a turkey in the freezer to give to some needy family.
Peter remembers that his mother had a tomato patch and also a hen that laid a double yoke egg every day. The pheasants would come into the garden to eat. One day, Pete decided he was going to rid the garden of the pesky pheasants, so he took his gun and laid in wait in the tomato patch. Every so often he would see a pheasant raise its head from eating. Finally he was able to get a clean shot, and “bang,” he shot the pheasant, only to find that it was his mother’s prized double-yoked hen.
When Pete was in the ninth grade, his cousins from Tooele came to visit in Salt Lake. Thalia encouraged Pete to take them to the Superman movie at the local movie theater. Pete begrudgingly did so; but while there a newspaper man came and took their pictures and got their names and addresses. The next Monday, one of Pete’s teachers at school read the news article to the class that quoted Pete as saying he loved Superman and never missed any of the movies. Having that story read in front of his classmates humiliated Pete beyond words.
Thalia was always making plans on paper for structural changes to her home. Eva says that every time she did this, the family would be eating plaster soon after, as walls were torn down. Most of the children have an aversion to tearing out walls because of this.
Thalia must have suffered from poor self esteem. Beverly remembers that as a teenage her mom would want to hold her hand when they were going into a new situation. It took Beverly a while, but she finally realized that the reason Thalia wanted to hold her hand was not for Beverly’s protection, but because her mother needed the security.
Richard and his family remodeled Evan and Thalia’s house. As they were taking the lumber to the house, Thalia said to Glenda, “Don’t do this.” When Glenda asked why, Thalia replied, “We don’t deserve it.” Glenda and Richard remodeled the house anyway. For the last six months of her life, Thalia was pleased with her house and never hesitated to show it to any visitors.
Thalia loved to write. She worked on compiling faith-promoting stories from family members about ancestors and about the family members themselves, especially William and Jane Johnston Black. She and Evan worked together on the script and music for many road shows. After she died, the family found varied partially complete stories among her personal effects.
Thalia also wrote books for her grandchildren and contributed stories for publication in local newspapers. She had stories published in the Relief Society magazine. In 1982 she gave all of her grandchildren a copy of Short Cuts for Young Men & For Young Ladies, a spiral-bound book she wrote, containing useful advice for growing up. An excerpt from the book follows below.
When I was in high school a crowd of us (boys and girls) were hiking in MiddleCanyon (a large canyon East of Tooele).
The sun was shining and there was just a hint of a breeze. We walked, we ran, we sang. We climbed over a snow slide that had come down earlier in the spring, bringing huge boulders and trees with it. Our lungs were bursting with fresh canyon air. We wanted to let go, to do something different. We wanted adventure.
Then one of the boys said, “My dad is one of the bosses at the smelter. If we hike over this mountain to Bingham and call him, he will make arrangements for us to ride back over the mountain on the tramway in one of the ore buckets to the smelter (which was on the Tooele side). Then we can catch the shift train back to town. That was the adventure we were looking for.
However, as we neared the top of the canyon, we came to a house with curtains at the windows and children playing in the yard. A short distance from the house we also saw the opening of a tunnel going back into the mountain. The railroad tracks going into the tunnel were shiny, so we knew that they were being used. While we were looking at them, a man rode out of the tunnel on a cart of the type used by section hands to travel along railroads when they were repairing the tracks. At that time, the carts were hand powered by means of a lever attached to the wheels in such a way that when the lever was pushed back and forth, the wheels moved in either direction.
The man spoke to us as he passed on his way to the house. Then one of the boys said, “That tunnel goes to Bingham.” Someone else said, “Come on, let’s go for a ride.” We all climbed on the cart and started back into the tunnel. We shouldn’t have done it, but we did.
As we rolled along the railroad tracks into the mountain, we watched the light at the end of the tunnel get smaller and smaller until we were in complete blackness.
I was scared, but I didn’t say I wanted to go back. I didn’t want to be called “chicken.” Finally, one of the boys said, “Let’s go back.” Then we all said, “Let’s go back.”
However, by then we were so far into the tunnel we couldn’t even see a glimmer of light. It was so dark we couldn’t tell which way we were going. We could feel little drizzles of water dripping from the ceiling of the tunnel, and when one of the boys finally found a match and lit it, we could see fungus hanging all around us. It smelled damp and moldy.
He lit one match after another, holding his hand over the flame to keep the dripping water from putting it out. The other boys fumbled with the gear, trying to move it so the cart would go in the opposite direction.
Finally, the boy with the matches announced, “I only have one match left. That’s all.” However, it was enough. The boys found the lever that changed the direction we were going and we started back to the Tooele side. We traveled very slowly at first while one of the boys held out his hand to touch the fungus as we passed it, to be sure we were traveling back to the Tooele side, instead of going farther toward Bingham. The girls huddled silently together in the middle of the cart.
After a few minutes, we could again see a faint glimmer of light from the end of the tunnel on the Tooele side. The light kept getting larger until we finally came out into the sunlight again, and faced the man who owned the cart. He wasn’t angry, but was concerned. He said, “There is another cart coming through from the other side. I put a call through to try and stop him, but he had already left. It’s a wonder you didn’t run into each other in the tunnel.”
By then, it was too late to hike over the mountain and catch the shift train, so walked back down the canyon to our homes.
Borrowing a man’s cart without permission, and going into an unknown tunnel was a poor imitation of real adventure. So is scaling rocky cliffs where one slip would injure or kill a person, or driving a car down the highway at break-neck speed, or diving into unknown waters.
Our worth is determined by the kind of adventure we choose.
In 1986, Thalia went to the hospital with a ruptured appendix. While there, the doctors discovered that she had an untreated, longstanding hernia, as well. Her medical problems were too much for her body to overcome. As she was passing, the children were witnesses of the love between Thalia and Evan. Minutes before she died, Evan stood by her side and held Thalia’s hand. When Richard, concerned for his father’s well-being, asked if Evan would prefer to sit, rather than stand, Evan responded by saying, “Mom would stand by me if I were in her place, and I will stand by her.” A tear formed in the corner of Thalia’s eye. A few minutes later she left this world, February 22, 1986. She was buried at RedwoodMemorialEstatesCemetery on February 25, 1986.[i]
[i] Vital Records, Cemetery, and Obituary Sources: Birth Certificate: No Name on Certificate, but listed as Thalia Baird in Affidavit to Amend Record, Birth Certificate, State Certificate Number 169 on page 1 and 12 21 100 on page 2, (May 25, 1912 for initial record, Amendment on September 6, 1974 by Thalia Baird and Glenda Black), Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records & Statistics, Salt Lake City, Utah. Marriage License: Tooele County Marriage Licenses, No License Number, Tooele County Clerk’s Office, Tooele, Utah. Copy also available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Microfilm Roll No. 482503. Death Certificate: Thalia Baird Black, Death Certificate, Local File Number 18-669, State File Number 145 86 001621, Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Salt Lake City, Utah. Grave Location and Cemetery Directions: Grave and headstone are located in the Redwood Memorial Estates Cemetery, 6500 South Redwood Road, West Jordan, Utah 84123. The grave is located southwest of the cemetery office and just to the south of first road south of the cemetery office in roughly the northeast corner area of that section. See <www.memorialutah.com> for more information regarding Redwood Memorial Estates Cemetery. Obituary: Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 23, 1986, (136th Year, No. 290) p. B15. Note: The obituary in the Deseret News incorrectly states the date of death as February 20, 1986. The correct date was February 22, 1986, as shown on the death certificate. The Salt Lake Tribune may also have an obituary.