BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
“When she looked in the room, she felt the urge to laugh and cry.”
There used to be a farm at about 2700 West and 5600 South. It was known as the Poor Farm. According to the Salt Lake Herald, “The purchase is intended to furnish a self-supporting home for unfortunates who may be thrown upon the public charity.” This was really just a nickname for the Weber County Infirmary, built in 1888. It was a place where people could be medically treated, even though they didn’t have the means to pay. These residents could pay the Infirmary back for their treatment and lodging by working on the farm. Many people were buried there, at what was called the “Poor Farm Cemetery.”
Hans Christian Hansen lived at the Infirmary with his wife, Jane Bringham Hansen, and their eight children, Martha, Ray, Lorin, Edna, Edith, Earl, Thelma, and Neta. Their stories are recorded in the book “Roy, Utah: Our Hometown” by Rose and Ida Dalton. One night after dinner, two neighbor boys came over to be with the Hansen children. Together, they plotted to go on an outing to Ogden for the evening. Ogden, at that time, was a community center. The Golden Spike had already been driven in Promontory, Utah, making transcontinental travel possible in the United States. More train lines connected northern Utah, southern Idaho, the Salt Lake Valley and Ogden. Tourists could come from all over to visit Ogden. The city began with a fur-trader history, so it had a better shopping center than Roy. It was also one of very few cities at the time that had a projector for picture shows. It was Utah’s second largest city. For the older folks, it was a place to break from the monotonous routine of their lives. For the younger folks, it was an exciting opportunity to meet new people (possibly a spouse).
To sell the idea to the parents, these two boys promised to wash the dishes. At that time in history, washing the dishes was not as simple as putting them in a dishwasher. It involved boiling water to use to rinse them, then using sugar, sand, or baking soda as a cleaning liquid, and scrubbing dishes and pans with a bristle brush. The family got ready to go out so the boys kept their end of the deal. After a long night on the town, the family returned home late. Before going to bed, Martha opened the cupboard and found that the boys had stashed the dirty dishes inside, ‘as is’.
One day, Jane heard her daughter Thelma in the other room laughing hysterically while her other daughter, Neta, was crying and sounding a little panicked. When she looked into the room, she felt the urge to laugh and cry. Neta had gotten a sheet of fly paper stuck to her face. In that day, fly paper was a piece of paper dipped in molasses. Most farmers could make their own molasses at home by boiling the sugar cane they grew themselves. A popular crop in this area was also sugar beets, which grew easily in the Utah climate. Molasses was also made out of boiled sugar beet water. Flies would be attracted to land on the sweet paper and immediately be perpetually stuck. This was the sort of flypaper plastered to Neta’s face, and was likely removed after a lot of washing and scraping.
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