- Born: 19 Aug 1909, Lakeside, Navajo, Arizona
- Marriage: Ralph Harvey GARDNER 4 Jun 1927, Holbrook, Navajo, Arizona
- Died: 14 Feb 1990, Lakeside, Navajo, AZ
- Buried: 17 Feb 1990, Lakeside, Navajo, AZ
Obituary from the Newspaper:
Helene Gardner, 80, of Pinetop-Lakeside, a homemaker, died Feb. 14, 1990. She was born in Lakeside. Survivors inclusde four sons, Harvey, Duane, George & Glen; two daughters, Nina & Sherry. Two sisters; two brothers; 44 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren. Services: 2PM Saturday, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Pinetop-Lakeside. Contriboutions to the church missionary fund. Owens Mortuary, Show Low.
HISTORY OF HELENE FISH GARDNER
Recorded & Transcribed by George & Marie Gardner
I was born in Lakeside, Arizona down in the granary that Mama had cleaned out for us to live in. It belonged to Grampa Fish, (John L. Fish) who came into Lakeside as a pioneer and set up a store here. The Granary was down by the creek back of Donald Fish's on Billy Creek. I was born the 19th of Aug. 1909. From here we moved out on a ranch by Jacques's out by Porter Mountain. Allen Burke lived out there also. We used to come into town with him in his horse and buggy. We lived here four or five years and then moved to Show Low. When I was eight I was baptized, in the Show Low creek, by Uncle John Brewer. When I was a little kid in Show Low I remember I used to climb apple trees and take the bird eggs, just to keep, because they were such a pretty color. In Show Low we lived across the creek in a place called the old Uening Ranch, it had an old hotel and post office. I remember I was afraid to go around it because they said one room was haunted. Some fellow was killed in there and they said some of the girls went to bed in there one night and they found a fellow under their bed. We lived in a big old house and Aunt Flossy, (Mama's sister) and Uncle Abe (Flossy's husband) lived in one part of the house and we lived in the rest. We used to walk across the creek to go to school, I can remember taking our lunches. After we left Show Low we moved to our big house in Lakeside across from Lloyd Rhoton's where the Seminary is now. When I was eight years old I began playing the drums in the Fish Orchestra and then when I was thirteen I began playing the piano. The members of the Fish Orchestra were: Mrs. Augusta Larson and Lettie Savage played the piano, Daddy played the violin, I played the drums, Mama played 2nd violin when we first started playing. Then when I began playing the piano, Glen, my brother, played the Tenor Sax. also Bb Alto Sax, then we got eight or ten pieces going. We had Ikie Truscott on the trumpet, Paul Rodriquez, trumpet, Stanley Stevens, Banjo, Bill Burke, Sax, Grant Penrod, piano, and Jim Ross, Trombone; we had a real swinging band. We played twelve years steady at the Swing Center in Eager. Daddy always had a big Chrysler and
We nearly always went to the dances with him. Sometimes some of the horn players would take their own cars.
Two or three times when the snow was so deep we had to stay out all night because we couldn't get in. One night there was a big blizzard, first daddy would get out and clean the windshield then Ralph (my Husband) would get out and both got soaking wet. We finally got stuck in a snow bank and had to stay out all night, we liked to froze to death. This was on the other side of Vernon somewhere on that stretch.
Each of us would usually get $10.00 for playing, $10.00 for the car and $10.00 for each of us. Today, when we play, we usually don't get anything but we never charge more than $10.00 a piece.
Some of the places we had played for dances are: Flagstaff, Winslow, Joe City, Holbrook, Snowflake, Taylor, White River, For Apache, Mesa, Casa Grande, Lehi, San Manuel, Reserve, New Mexico, Pinedale, Linden, Concho, Vernon, Sanders and Luna New Mexico, Gallup New Mexico. I used to think I was real smart, thought they couldn't get along without me, now I find out the can real easy.
I guess we had more fun playing in Vernon than anywhere because everyone liked to dance and they would have a big banquet and feed us. We'd eat, dance, and eat some more. Everyone treated you so darn good. Sometimes they'd give me $10.00, and sometimes 100lbs of beans or a sack of spuds.
We really had big dances at the Blue Moon. Everyone danced there. It was located where the Maxwell house is now in Show Low. Joe West built it. They used to roller skate there in the day and danced at night. They had big crowds there and I made pretty big money there, it has since burned down.
I played in a few bars in my life too, in Pinetop. I used to really make good money there. Just about got a divorce playing for those bar dances however. Everyone was drunk and falling all over the piano stool and Ralph told me to either get out or get myself a new husband, so l quit. They'd give me $10.00 for playing and then they would feed the kitty, which would make thirty-five or forty dollars. The dentist's and doctors would be so drunk that they would throw in 15 or 20 dollars just for one song. So you can see why I hated to quit but I had to. I made big money and didn't have to play so hard.
Ralph would just sit around while everyone was drinking and dancing. The men would call him chicken and he would get so disgusted that he'd go out and sit in the car till the dance was out.
I finally taught Ralph to play the drums. This was in 1952 when Ralph was 50 years old. We had to have a drummer for this dance that was already scheduled. No one was around to play so Ralph had to learn how. I'd sit him here and practice him for two or three hours. He said I'd turn around and give him a dirty look every time he made a mistake but I don't remember doing lit.
They used to have an old pavilion out on the Lake (in Lakeside) that belonged to my dad and Mr. Rhoton. It was way out over the Lake on big beams. They called it the open air, only it really wasn't, because it was screened half way up and had a roof. Anyway we used to have big dances there. Of course in those days there wasn't much to do but dance so everyone danced.
In the winter they would put canvas over the screens and a big oil drum in the middle of the house to keep warm, then we would go ahead and dance. We would keep it loaded up with fire and would dance winter and summer. It was a real good place to dance and we had big crowds, we had better times then, than they do now.
It seems like I was always working in one saw mill or another, waiting on the crew, cooking, scrubbing board floors or helping cook for the saw mill crew. I did most of my cooking at the old sawmill up above Pinetop. We used to cook for 40 or 50 men all the time.
We had a lot of fights in the old cook shack. I remember one time Dan McNeil and Wally Calvin had a real doozy of a fight. Wally Calvin came in an sat down, then when Dan McNeil came in he came over and slapped Wally off his seat, then they had a real ring-tailed fight, knocked the whole table over, food and all. Dan told Wally to get out of his place and Wally said that no one had any certain place to sit. Dan said "well that was his place and he'd better get out." Wally just kept on eating so Dan knocked him off his chair and this made the whole gang mad, so everyone got into the fight and we really had a ring-tailed fight, all the food was upset, benches were turned over and we really had quite a time.
We had both single and married men to feed. All the saw mill men, the men who worked in the log woods, even the brush pilers ate at the cook shack.
When I wasn't very big I used to pack slabs for a dollar day out at Vernon. There were four of us kids, Roy Johnson, Glen, Blanch, & myself. They paid $4.00 a day for all four of us to stack slabs.
When I was a girl Blanch (Johnson, later Brown) and I used to like to play baseball with the boys while the other girls would just sit around.
Frank Hansen would say, "good hell, do we have to play with those damn girls again"? "Can't we play a game with out them?" George Hansen and Erwin Hansen would say, "Oh we can't play a game without Helene and Blanch". So Frank would get back and pitch like nothing, he'd pitch just as hard as he could and try to hit us anywhere he could, just to get rid of us. We'd always manage to get to play though.
Sometimes we'd get to be about as good as players as they were and they didn't like that either. We could knock the ball about as far as they could.
We played basketball some but I didn't like it as well as baseball. We used to play basketball at McNary and they had a little tiny girl, I weighed about 150lbs then, I was pretty husky, everyone was afraid of me. This little old girl was their forward and she would try to get the ball and she couldn't because I always had it. The boys and everyone would whistle at her, "get that ball." She then spit all over me and said "I can't get around that damn, big fat, sow." She was wearing those big black satin bloomers with spit running all down them. I grabbed her pants, wound her up by the seat and threw her just as far as I could throw her, outside of the line. Mrs. Larson and all the other schoolteachers were all happy about it; they started yelling, "goody, goody," but Mr. Larson went by and told Mrs. Larson to shut her mouth and then said, "replace her, put somebody else in". I don't know. I liked basketball but not as well as baseball. I didn't have as much fun with it; it wasn't as much competition.
I really got a thrill out of baseball. We got so we couldn't play with the girls, because we got used to hitting the swift balls the boys threw. The girls would throw them to slow.
The boys couldn't skate, couldn't swim, play ball, or do anything without us two. We followed them around like a couple of kittens.
We thought we were pretty good swimmers too. We swam down here in the little lake most generally. Sometimes we'd take boat rides, play guitars, banjos out on the lake and then go swimming in the middle of the big lake, but when we really wanted to swim went to the little lake, because they had a scaffold on it. We'd dive there. Blanch and I was scared but we didn't want anyone to know it, we'd jump and dive just as high as the next one. We would practically split our self's open by doing belly flops. We swam the little dam to the big dam seven times without ever stopping, just hitting the dam with our finger and then swimming to the next. We had to float a little bit to rest but we never did stop, we almost lived in the lake
Swimming. We used to like to do that, which is about the only recreation they had then besides picnicking, and boat riding.
In the winter when the ice froze over we'd ice skate. We had a lot of fun ice skating then, but it doesn't freeze over now like it did then. Anna Jackson used to beat me out on ice skating though. I was always a little jealous because I thought I was better than her in most things and when she could out skate me, I didn't like it. She could skate like a whiz; I was never good on skates like she was.
They've had some bad accidents in the lake; they lost Roy Johnson in the lake ice-skating. He got his skates on Christmas day and drowned the same day. There was a warm spring that made the ice thin, most everyone knew where it was, but it never did freeze over there and that's what he hit. Every other place on the lake they had run log trucks over. He was going at such a speed that it shot him way under the ice, they found his cap the next day and he was a long ways from where he went under. He was a real fast skater. Frank Shinn was duck hunting when he drowned. The Lee boy (Marion Lee) was duck hunting also; he went swimming for the ducks that he killed. Earl Amos just drowned from swimming. He got a cramp. Ed Mooder was fishing and fell from the boat and drowned. Last winter two boys were duck hunting and they tried to go out after the ones they had killed on the ice. The ice kept breaking and it took them both. They stayed alive quite awhile even in the ice water but they finally went under before anyone could get out there to help them.
We use to go to church and Sunday School on what they used to call the old bowery, when I was just a little girl, all lit was, was a wood floor and pine needles and boughs over the top for shelter and keep the sun off.
Then we went to Aunt Belle Hanson's schoolhouse; they had a school and everything.
I just started the 2nd year high when your Dad and I got married. I never did get my 8th grade diploma though because I couldn't get arithmetic. Mr. Larson said he couldn't hold me back because I was the best in English and spelling of the class but I didn't know anything about arithmetic so he never did give me my diploma but let me go on to 1st year high.
We used to run the hotel, the old Rhoton house, I had an old school teacher, she was just a young girl, just out of school, she let me go for 2 years just for cleaning her room, not making me do my arithmetic, so, I got by. I never did catch up and never did learn what I should have learned. This teacher really did foul me up by letting me get by, I thought I was really cutting a rug then though. She stayed two years and
Ran me around like a little suckling calf waiting on her hand and foot and she wouldn't make me do my work, letting me get by without it.
I never did have too many piano lessons, Mrs. Foster was my first teacher, and then Zak Farr then Mrs. Larson gave me a few lessons.
Mrs. Augusta Larson used to play it over for me once then I'd just play it by ear. I got by that way for years. She didn't know for a long time that I couldn't read the notes. Sometimes I'd get my fingering mixed up and then she'd whack me with the ruler I didn't know a thing about the music. I was just playing by ear, I always got the music right though just by watching and listening to her.
I got married when I was 17 going on 18; I married Ralph Harvey Gardner. He came up to the cook shack to see his sister Ida, she was working at the shack. I was kidding him that I had a date with Bill Brown. Bill was trying to get me to go with him and I told him I had a date with Ralph. I really didn't but I was trying to keep from going with him. So after Bill left, Ralph said, "well come on lets go to the show" and I said "Oh I was just trying to get rid of Bill" Ralph said "Well you might as well come and go then", so I went.
After that Ralph quit his job at Winslow, working on the Santa Fe, and came up here and went to work for my dad. He would get real jealous if I'd even look at any other men. I started going with him steady and then married him. He had to borrow money, from his brother Joe, in order to buy my wedding ring and get gas to go to Holbrook so we could get married. That same day we bought a new car. A new 1927 Chevy. We thought we had a real good car, it would do all of sixty miles an hour. When I first started going with Ralph he had an old model "T" and we thought we were really hitting the rug and then we got this Chevy. We went to Holbrook in our new car and were married in the courthouse there.
That night everyone was out trying to cheveree us. Daddy had given us a two room house and we had it moved downtown so everyone was up to the saw mill trying to find us and we had taken some old bed rolls to the house up there and didn't even know anyone was looking for us. They said they hunted all over the country but they never did find us.
In our family Duane plays the piano by ear like I do, he doesn't know too much about music. George and Sherry are the only ones that know anything about reading music, George is a music teacher, he majored in music, can play swing or band and Sherry she can read anything she's pretty good at reading music, she taught herself a lot.
Then Harvey he played for a long time on the trombone but he gave it up, he could have been real good, but he just skipped it and let it go. Nina & Pearl could both play a little by ear but they wouldn't do anything about it.
One day Dad wanted George to go help him do some work but he was still in bed and Dad didn't want to wake him. So I said I'll get him out of bed without asking him, and Ralph said, "Well how in the world can you do that. He was up late last night. I said "Well I can pretty easy, just leave it up to me." I went into the piano, lifted up the lid and began to play 12th street rag and here came George pulling up his pants and picking up his horn with his other hand. I got him out of bed real easy.
George would be over to school playing football, with the lake in between us, music could carry if I happened to have the lid up and the door open. I'd start to play and he'd leave the football game. He came home just a running and he'd get that horn and play until I got tired of playing then he'd go over to Anna Jackson's and get her to play. He used to run her to death. Anna was the first one that gave George his big start in music. He never had a music lesson in his life that he paid for, but he'd go over to pester Anna. He went up to Flagstaff to the music festival and got a superior the very first time he played. Anna always helped him; she always took him in.
When I was in Mesa, when Glen was born, I got the "Milk Leg". They had to tie the main blood vein in my leg, so the blood clot wouldn't get up into my chest. We lived down there two or three years, until the doctor would let me come back, my doctors were Dr. Kent and Dr. Philmore.
Sherry Ann got run over by a car while we lived there. Mama owned a furniture store and Sherry would go over there because they would give her nickels. She ran across the road one day to get some money and some car hit her, I didn't know anything about it because they took her to the hospital, they called us from there. She had a broken leg.
Nina stayed with Sherry in Mesa until her leg healed and the rest of us moved back to Lakeside.
Daddy built us a house down there, we had moved back to Lakeside but Nina and Sherry were still there. They had come up to Grant Penrod's wedding dance and the house burned down that night. A bunch of kids set it on fire. All our furniture and papers, deeds to this place all burned. Everything went up that was real valuable, pictures and things we can't replace. Everything went up.
Ralph and I had eight children, Pearl the oldest, Nina, Harvey, Duane, George, Ida May, Sherry and Glen.
We now have nineteen grand kids, no great grandchildren but from the looks of some of the grand kids, it won't be to far off.
Some additions by Marie Gardner
A few things were told to me after this was written that I would like to add.
In addition to the places she has listed that she has played, she has also played at Eager, Page and Las Vegas.
Some of the other people who have played in the original Fish Orchestra are: Les Fellton, Trombone, Ross Fish, drums Harvey Gardner, trombone and Samone played saxophone and bass.
She said after these dances, the house would be so cold they would have to build a fire and heat their flat irons on them and then take them to bed with them to keep warm.
One story I would like to have put in this history is this: Ralph and Helene went to Whiteriver by truck, when Pearl was a baby. Helene was eighteen at the time. The sawmill had burned down in Lakeside, and the trip to Whiteriver was for pipe to rebuild it. The truck broke down on the way home. It wasn't much of a road they were on, just a well-worn cow trail. Ralph worked on the truck, but to no avail. It was getting late in the day so they decided to walk back. They walked and walked through the canyon, and soon it turned pitch black outside. They kept hearing a baby's cry in the distance, and Ralph kept telling Helene it was just a burro. After nightfall they could see two eyes following behind them.
Helene, breast-feeding Pearl as they walked along the way, was no easy chore on that old road. Of course Ralph couldn't help because of the fact he didn't have the element to keep Pearl satisfied. Pearl being cold and having wet diapers helped very little. Nearing the Cooley Ranch. At the Milk ranch they caught a ride into Lakeside. What had been following in the dark? A Lion. Why had Ralph insisted Helene nurse all those miles? So the lion wouldn't attack at the baby's crying.
At one of the many dances Helene Played for, Milo Wiltbank wrote a poem about Helene.
Mother of a flock of children.
Wife, grandmother, friend,
Walking life's road undaunted,
Willing to give or to lend.
Her's is a life of service
Answering Life's Duty's full call
Serving with Love and
Giving to Life her all.
Sharing with others her music
Driving out sorrow and tears
Bringing Laughter and Sunshine
To others down through the years.
Meeting Life with laughter
As the years unfold,
Mellowing, aging, ripening,
But never growing old.
In 1958 Ralph and Helene moved to Page to help Harvey build an ice plant. Helene helped Ralph deliver the ice, helped load the trucks and also pulled the ice and sacked it. She could out-work anyone in the ice plant, put out more ice than anyone else working in the plant. Many a night they would get up at 2:am in the morning to pull ice to take out the next morning.
After Ralph died Helene stayed on in Page for a couple of years working in the ice plant in the summer and living in Lakeside in the winter.
She is now living in Lakeside and is continuing to play for dances every chance she gets.
In 1974 she mad a record, with her at the piano, Floyd Weil playing the bass and Gordon Linden playing the drums. Four hundred have been sold at the time of this writing and another 200 have been ordered because so many people have said they didn't get one.
July 1975, she now has 36 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.
Under the hands of Patriarch John Hatch
October 20, 1929
Beloved sister, Helene Gardner, I place my hands upon your head with pleasure to seal and to pronounce upon yhou a patriarchal blessing, and the words of this blessing no one knoweth, for it is in the authority of the Holy Melchzedek Priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world. Lift up your head and rejoice, beloved sister, for your prayers have been heard and the time has now arrived for you to receive this blessing which blessing shall be a great source of comfort and consolation to you. Your guardian angel will watch over you, and when dangers confront you he will shield and protect you. Be humble and prayerful and your life shall be precious, and the adversary shall not have power to bring you down. And when deathly sichkness and scourages are in the land, you shall be protected and shall be enabled to accomplish your lifes mission, which mission was assigned you in the Eternal world before you tabnernacled here in the flesh. For your spirit was held in reserve to come forth is this the gospels dispensation when all the powers of the gospel of the Son of God should be committed unto the children of men. And you having been born of goodly parents, oh, listen unto their council and their advice and continue humble and prayerful, for great shall be your reward and eternal shall be your glory, and marvelous shall be your days here upon the earth. You truly shall become an honored mother in Israel, and to fill high callings and station in the church and kingdom of God if you will free your mind of the worldly things and put yourself solely in the hands of God your mind shall become excedingly bright and your understanding shall be inspired and you shall never be perplexed for the spirit of God shall inspire your heart in all your trials, and you shall never lack for the blessings that shall be for your good, for the guardian angel of your presence shall be your constant guide and companion, and if you will listen attentively to the whisperings of that still, small voice, you shall never grow weary in well doing, and the difficulties that arrise shall vanish evern as the dew is vanished, and your mind shall be as calm as a summers morning. Your lineage in through Ephraim, the choicest of God's seed upon the earth. It will require a constant labor, dear sister on your part to obtain these great and grand and glorious promises, and oftimes you will think that the sacrifices that will be required at your hands shall be hard, but remember the words of this blessing, for every sacrifice that you shall make you shall be rewarded a hundred fold, and as you'll be called to high callings and station if you will magnify those callings there shall be but few that shall surpass you, for you you shall stand among the very elect, and none shall be able to deceive you. Your name is recorded in the Lambs Book of Life, and it shall never be stained, blotted or given to another, and your feet shall yet stand in the Holy Temple of God to officiate therin, both for the living and for the dead. These blessings I seal upon your head and seal you up against the powers of the adversary to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection to receive a crown of glory, immortality and eternal life, to reign as a queen in the mansion that is prepared for you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Amen
James W. Luis, scribe.
Helene married Ralph Harvey GARDNER, son of Fay Ivan GARDNER and Eliza Meadlock LEWIS, on 4 Jun 1927 in Holbrook, Navajo, Arizona. (Ralph Harvey GARDNER was born on 27 Oct 1902 in Woodruff, Navajo, AZ, died on 27 Jan 1969 in Page, Coconino, AZ and was buried on 29 Jan 1969 in Lakeside, Navajo, AZ.)