A Schoolmarm All My Life
Joyce Kinkead, editor
Luella Wareing Cannon
[p.207]Although born two years before the official closing of the frontier in America, Luella Wareing Cannon demonstrates in her book, My Cup Runneth O’er, that growing up in Utah in the last decade of the nineteenth century was very different from being a child during the earlier days of settlement. With statehood still eight years away, the efficient organization of the Mormon Church in political, social, and civic arenas had transformed the territory from a desert to something of a utopia.
In 1888, the year of Luella’s birth, the church opened sixteen academies (the equivalent of high schools). When Luella reached academy age, she skipped ahead to become a student at the University of Utah, bypassing high school. Her training to become a teacher is in marked contrast to that of Lou Dalton or Lucinda Boren, women who studied or read only when the chores were done.
Born in Ogden, Utah, Luella moved with her family to Salt Lake City in 1897 so that her father could work at the church department store, Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI). Living in “the city” offered Luella the best in education, social opportunity, and the arts. Before she married into the well-known Cannon family in 1911, she taught school for five years, approaching the task with wit and humor. The following excerpt from her book, written in 1967-68, is notable for the picture it paints of how quickly education advanced in the territory/state. To be sure, there might not be sidewalks where she lived and taught in 1907, but Luella was more of a Gibson Girl than a sunbonnet sister.
[p.208]A DESIRE FULFILLED
As a little girl, I often played school and I was the teacher. That desire to teach remained with me. For two years I taught at the Riverside School on 8th West and 6th South [Salt Lake City]. W. D. Prosser was my principal. The first year I was assistant to Winona Jones, in the first grade. I taught Cannons, Silvers, Germans, and others. Among my first graders were Hartwig and Alfred Rueckert, Raymond and Florence Sudbury, Eleanor Silver, Mark and Mona Petersen, twins. It has been interesting to note the growing up of some of those children through the years. Mark became an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in his countenance I note the same warm smile I saw when he was six years old. After teaching children five days a week, a teacher is privileged to sense and appreciate the vast variety of personalities, and each one has a different appeal. A wise teacher senses the means of reaching each child.
Dryden Coombs was my principal during my second year at the Riverside. Many vivid reminders enter my mind concerning the two years I taught there, which I’ll not relate. I remember well that there were no paved sidewalks, and there was mud; also mosquitoes. The Jordan River, after heavy storms, overflowed its banks and occasionally homes were surrounded by water and children were confined at home for a few days. There were a number of people in need and I gathered clothing and gave it to those who could use it.
For three years I taught third grade at the Wasatch School on South Temple and R Street. Oscar Van Cott was the principal and truly an outstanding educator, with a wonderful personality. The environment was so different. The children came mainly from well-to-do and prominent families. Miss Anderson also taught the third grade. She was a fine person, but older and rather rigid, and so very serious. I often wondered if she had a normally happy childhood. She antagonized two boys, and Mr. Van Cott asked me to take them in my class. One day she knocked on my door, and had with her a boy nine or ten years old. In all seriousness, she asked me what I would think of a boy who would do what he did. I asked, “What did he do?” She said, “Show Miss Wareing what you did.” He thumbed his nose. She said, [p.209]”Now what would you do?” I answered, “I really don’t know.” The boy was ordered to return to his room, then she seemed to feel that I had not felt the seriousness of the boy’s act, and asked me if I realized the meaning of what the boy did. When she told me what she understood it to mean, I was amused to the point that it was very difficult to restrain my desire to laugh. Anyway, she refused to have the boy, and I took him.
Stella Brown, a dear friend, also taught on the same floor with me; also Celia Wardrop. We three usually ate lunch together. We occasionally talked with other teachers and at times they dropped remarks such as, “And now, I’ll go to the grind.” We disliked such attitudes, for we enjoyed the happy privilege of teaching.
When I began my teaching, I had the feeling that it was a noble profession. In elevating children with love and sincere interest, a teacher enjoys a satisfaction and pleasure that can be derived only in dedicated motherhood. My salary to begin with was $40 a month. I think of Dr. John R. Park and his great desire to help people to develop and grow from every standpoint, through education; of his dedication to his work, considering moral and cultural training, and with pay for his work being his last consideration. Humanity was his concern, and in the beginning he only received room and board as his pay. What a vast contrast to the present time! Money seems almost paramount, and innocent children are the victims when strikes occur and they are deprived of time of which they should be rightfully insured. It is shocking, and a danger signal as far as I am concerned.
I am profoundly grateful for my five years of teaching, which was such a great privilege. I gained a greater love and insight into the lives of children; a deep and heartfelt interest which has brought a real joy and pleasure to me. I think I still see from their standpoint how they think. Each one is different and a challenge of interest. Teaching furnishes a wonderful background and foundation for motherhood, and help and inspiration in dealing with situations as they arise with children. Sometimes we talk down to children instead of talking with them on a level of their understanding and interest.