A Life to RememberOct 04, 2016 01:52PM ● By Alisha Soeken
Barbara Andersen with her second grade class in 1950 at Bonnyview Elementary School. Barbara Andersen/resident
By Alisha Soeken | [email protected]
Long time Murray resident and author Barbara Jean Erickson Andersen directs the love of family—past and present—onto paper where their voices can be heard.
“From the time I was 10 years old I have written diaries, autobiographies and journals. Writing gives me a sense of accomplishment,” Andersen said.
Andersen’s writing accomplishments were many. She wrote a book about her great-great grandmother who crossed the plains as a Mormon pioneer, a history of her husband who served as a foot soldier in World War II and, at age 81, completed her own 400-page autobiography.
“My story is about the miracle and growth of families. Through it, I hope to pass to future generations an understanding of our heritage and illuminate patterns of respectfulness, working together, living uprightly and caring for one another,” Andersen said.
Andersen’s life has been an example of those characteristics. Born in 1925 when gasoline was twelve cents per gallon, Calvin Coolidge was president and the Charleston was the newest dance craze, Andersen grew up in the loving home of Orlando and Regina Erickson.
The Erickson family knew hardship. They lived through the Great Depression in Aguilar, Colo., a place known for its flash floods and being a hideout for the Chicago Capone gang.
“We lived in fear of robbery. Daddy carried a moneybag home at night and so he had a permit from the county sheriff to carry a gun. ‘Shoot first and ask questions later’ Daddy was informed,” Andersen said.
Those fears were warranted when one evening Andersen’s mother spotted a figure crouched in the bushes in front of her bedroom window.
“‘Leave the bedroom,’ Mom whispered to us. ‘There’s someone out there.’ Daddy got his gun and went after the guy...The man ran off and Daddy reported the incident to the sheriff. The police figured it was one of the mafia’s hit men hired to take someone down for a fee, usually a measly five dollars,” Andersen said.
Despite fear, floods and The Depression Andersen’s mother supplied hope.
“We never knew how hard those days really were. Mom protected my brother and me and showed us the bright side of the world. Perhaps out of necessity she made it a habit to see the positive and find something good in everyone,” Andersen said.
At age nine the family moved from Colorado to Murray. Andersen emulated her mother’s qualities gaining her many friends and opportunities. Andersen was pictured in Life Magazine when Murray High School received an AAA rating at the annual Posture Parade, she was elected as vice president of her sophomore class, was assistant editor of the school newspaper, The Murray GoRound and was president of the Girls League her senior year.
But it wasn’t just her mother’s social skills that benefited Andersen; it was her value of education.
“Education was important in our home. Mom made the acquisition of knowledge an exciting happening. We became excited about learning because she was,” Andersen said.
As a result Andersen had a career in education for more than 40 years. In 1947, she received her elementary school teacher’s diploma and accepted a position at Bonnyview Elementary School on the west side of Murray.
“Teaching at Bonnyview was an eye-opener for me. I had grown up with a higher socio-economic family and it was shocking to me to see the contrasts. My students came to school dirty, without socks or galoshes. In the winter they walked to school barefooted in the snow to keep their shoes dry. Many didn’t have underwear or proper coats, and they were cold. When they got to school their feet were blue and I rubbed them to get them warm,” Andersen said.
Andersen visited the homes of her students, supplied lunch money to kids, invited parents to spend the day in her classroom and filled her students with love.
“I wanted the children to expect that I would grow to love them, so I let them know it. I said in this classroom you are my family and sometime I will tell you I love you. At first they snickered when I called them love names, but they soaked up the affection,” Andersen said.
That love grew and later enveloped the lives of her husband, children and grandchildren. And through her writing she found a way to ensure her love of family and life was known even after her passing. The final statement in her autobiography reads,
“When my voice can no longer be heard, read my words and know this, that I love loved life deeply and well.”