LIVINGSTON, Gladys "Virginia"
LIFE HISTORY, Gladys “Virginia” Livingston
Memories told to Chris Sanders, wife of Richard Sanders, Virginia’s son
Virginia’s maternal grandmother was named Eleanor Burt and maternal grandfather was William Burt. Eleanor died leaving 6 children: Louisa, Charles, Eleanor, Thomas, Erastus, and William. William being only 3-4 months old, when his mother died. Her grandfather remarried a widow who had several children and then they had 3 children together. Their marriage later ended in divorce.
Virginia was born, February 2, 1911 to Archibald Livingston and Eleanor Burt Livingston. Her parents had six children, of which five survived. Virginia was the youngest of the five children. Virginia=s oldest sibling, a sister Elizabeth, was 13 years old when Virginia was born. Her older brother was named Archibald, but called Arch or Archie, was second oldest, next came twin girls, Margaret and Marjorie (always called Marge). The twins (non-identical) were 8 years old when Virginia was born. She moved many times, 5-6 times, in early childhood. The first home Virginia’s remembers was on the south side of main street in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Virginia’s mother, Eleanor (named after her mother), had to work hard to support her family. The lack of work ethic on the part of Archibald Sr. put a great strain on the family and Eleanor’s and Archibald’s marriage ended in permanent separation. Even though her father lived about 4 blocks away Virginia only remembers seeing her father about four times in her life before she turned 11 years old and moved to California with her family. Eleanor would take in boarders in different rooms of the house. That is why they moved so many times in Virginia’s early childhood; her mother always looking for a large house with extra rooms that could be rented out. One of Virginia’s earliest memories is that of being pushed in a baby buggy to look at a house her mother was considering renting. There was a piece of wood in the window holding it open, she reached out to play with the piece of wood and pulled out the wood and the window fell, barely missing her arm. She does not remember whether they rented that house or not. Although Eleanor worked many hours, she was a devoted mother. She made all of the children’s clothes, which Virginia remembers were beautiful and detailed. She would sit up all night when necessary nursing and caring for one of her sick children.
Virginia remembers that her mother dearly loved music and wanted a piano very much. Her mother, Eleanor, saved and saved for years to buy a piano. Her mother remembers that her step-mother had a piano and her children were given piano lessons and Eleanor was not given lessons even though she dearly wanted them. So she was very motivated to buy a piano and let her children have the opportunity of piano lessons. Eleanor, after years of saving, finally purchased a piano. She was anxious for her children to have piano lessons so she traded providing dinner to a teacher, Miss Coot, for music lessons. Virginia was a small child who liked to color and to decorate things. She remembers deciding to decorate the piano. She spit on an indelible pen and wrote on the white keys of the piano. She remembers her mother chasing her up the stairs and being very upset, but she does not remember being spanked. The keys were able to be cleaned with alcohol and all was well. Virginia recalls her mother composing a small tune which Virginia thought was a lovely melody and feels that her mother had a talent which was never able to be developed.
When Virginia was young the family lived on 300 South and 200 East in Salt Lake City. She remembers often visiting Aunt Lou (Louisa) on 3300 So. and 700 East. Most often they would take the bus and street car to visit her. The tracks stopped about one mile from her house. Virginia=s brother Arch and Uncle Erastus (who was called Ras) both had cars. Her memories also include the whole family dressing up in Sunday best and driving to Provo to visit her Uncle Tom (Eleanor’s brother). She said it seemed to take all day; they would pack a lunch and stop and picnic on the way.
Some of her earliest memories include the times from 1920 (she was 9); they lived in Salt Lake City. The electrical lines only went out a few blocks from downtown Salt Lake City. Her family had electricity, but her Aunt Lou did not. She remembers no one having a refrigeratorBeveryone had an Aice box@ to keep food cool, and ice was delivered to the house once a week. Virginia remembers it getting very hot in the summertime in Salt Lake.
Margaret, one of Virginia’s older sisters, was not happy at home and decided to go to California. Virginia remembers that Margaret took the train to San Francisco to stay with their aunt. Margaret was about 19 at the time she moved, Virginia about 11. Later in August of 1922 her mother, Elizabeth, Archie, Marge and Virginia moved to California. When the family moved to CA in 1922 they decided to go by way of San Francisco so they could visit with Margaret. There were no paved roads; most were dirt some overgrown with weeds. There was nowhere to stop and stay for the nightCno hotels or road houses, etc. They had to pitch a tent and camp alongside the dirt road. For a while she remembers not really having any road, but following the railroad tracks because they knew that the tracks would lead them in the right direction. After visiting with Margaret they proceeded on to southern CA, where they first lived in Boyle Heights and then moved to Glassel Park, where Arch bought a bakery. Later when there was more money available they built a house a few blocks away from the bakery on the back of an existing house lot. Eventually, Arch built a much bigger house in front of the smaller house. Arch married Gladys Olson when he was 26 years old. After Arch married, Virginia, who was then about 15, moved with her mother to Avenue 32, several miles from downtown Los Angeles. Virginia has memories of riding the street car from Avenue 32 to downtown Los Angeles. The street cars were powered by electricity. Virginia needed to help support herself and mother so went to work at Theme Hosiery when she was 16 years old. Her job there was to sew up the back of the silk hose. All the sheer stockings for women at that time were made of silk and were stitched together with a little seam in the back. When women wore the stockings, you could see the seam running up the back of their legs. Her mother, Eleanor, was working with Archy at his bakery. Virginia liked to get out and have funCshe especially remembers going to dances during this time. She remembers one bad earthquake in CA happening when she was getting ready for a dance.
It was while she was working at Theme Hosiery that she met her husband-to-be, Ivan Pihl. Ivan was friends with Burt Olson (brother to Gladys Olson, Arch’s wife). Burt was living in Salt Lake City and came to visit the family in CA and brought Ivan with him and introduced him to Virginia. Ivan and Virginia kept in touch and eventually eloped and married in 1933, she was 22 years old. They were married in Tooele, UT and then went back to live in CA. Ivan had a fetish for buying cars. He loved to trade them and exchange them. Virginia said she could always tell by the sound of the car driving up if he had made another exchange. Virginia was anxious to have children and felt disappointed as a couple of years passed with no expectations. She says that she and Ivan were trying very hard to live righteous lives, praying, attending their church meetings and one night after she said her evening prayer, she had been praying to have a child, she heard a voice telling her that she would have a child. She said that the voice was so distinct that she asked her husband if he had heard someone speaking. He replied that he had not heard anyone speak. Later that year they had a son, Richard Allen, who was born in November 24, 1935. Virginia felt very blessed that her prayers had been answered. They worked very hard but the times were depression times. They lived in a little house on the back of Eleanor’s Avenue 32 lot. The depression became very severe and Ivan had a difficult time finding work. He would pack a lunch every day and work hard at a job as long as it lasted. When he was laid off, he would still pack a lunch every day and go look for work. Problems developed in the marriage. Ivan felt that he did not want to be married or have any more children, and Ivan and Virginia were divorced in 1940, when Richard was 5 years old.
About 1941 Virginia took out her temple endowment, when she was about 30 years old. This blessing has meant a lot to her over the years. She still attends the temple at the time of this writing; she will be 95 in two months.
Virginia continued to work at Theme Hosiery and lived with Richard in a little house in back of Arch’s house for a while. She moved many times during the next five years. Theme Hosiery also closed during this time leaving Virginia without a job and a way to provide for her and her son. Virginia moved to La Canada for a while about 1945. But for economic reasons moved to Montana where they (Eleanor, Virginia and Richard) lived with Marge (Virginia’s older sister) and her family. Richard attended 6th grade in Montana and Virginia started cosmetology school there. After one year away from CA, it was decided that Richard would return and live with his maternal grandmother, Eleanor Burt, in West Covina, CA and that Virginia would stay in Montana for another year and finish cosmetology school. The house in West Covina was way out of town in an orange grove, it was a somewhat lonely life. There Richard attended 7th grade.
When Virginia returned to CA with her credentials, she, her mother and Richard moved back to La Canada and lived with Archie and Gladys. Richard liked living with his cousins and attended grades 8-11 while living there. When Richard was in 12th grade they had to move again because another family member was in need of help and was moving into Archie’s and Glady’s home. Virginia felt that she and Richard should leave to make more room, so they moved into a small apartment in Montrose and Richard commuted to finish his senior year at John Muir High. Virginia worked as a hairdresser for many years, from 1947-1974. Eleanor lived with them until her death; she died while Richard was a senior in high school.
The piano that Eleanor prized so much and had worked so hard to buy was for many years with Arch and Gladys. Later Gladys gave the piano to Virginia who kept it for many years and who took piano lessons when she could as an adult. She eventually gave the piano to a granddaughter, Stacie Winters, whose family learned to play on it. She, however, moved to Hawaii. It was too expensive to ship the heavy piano over, and it was very old and needed more repairs by this time. Stacie gave the piano to Eleanor’s grandson, Jack.
Although Virginia was never able to have any more children, she has grandchildren and great-grandchildren that she treasures. She loved to have her granddaughters over for the weekends. She loved fixing their hair (she was a professional after all) and buying them Acute outfits. She was very involved in their lives as they were growing up. She talks so affectionately of the girls.
She also tended her only grandson for his first couple of years. She says he was a most happy baby and loved singing. She loves having her family around her whenever she can. They are scattered all over the U.S. Sharon in Texas, Susan in Florida, Stacie in Hawaii, Sabrina in No. California, Christie in So. California, Rick in Tooele, Utah and Richard in West Jordan, Utah.
Virginia is currently at Atria, a retirement facility in Sandy, Utah. She will be 95 this year on February 2, 2006. She believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and attends her church faithfully and enjoys going to the River Jordan Temple monthly.