BIOGRAPHY OF MELBA FOX FELT
Compiled by Russ Felt
Edited by Dayleen Felt
Contributions from Renie, Dick and Russ Felt
Melba Fox was born July 26, 1898 to Isaac and
Lucy Hartley Fox. She was born in Lehi,
Utah. Melba lived most of her life in
she lived in the home that she and Charles Ray Felt built , at 513
West Main Street.
Isaac Fox was married three times. He married Christiana Martin Gaddi and they had Christie, Isaac Jr., John, and Clyde. She died in the childbirth of Clyde. Isaac then married Elizabeth Zimmerman and they had Elizabeth (Libbie). Elizabeth also died in childbirth. Isaac then married Lucy Hartley and they had Harold Maxfield, Melba, Rulon Joseph, and Norine. The children by the three wives could not have been closer as a family. They loved one another and remained close and loyal throughout their lives.
Melba in the 1920s
Isaac and his family lived in three homes in Lehi. Two of the homes were in the center of Lehi City. One was on Main Street, west of the current Porter’s Place restaurant. The second home was also along Main Street, perhaps across the street south of the current Morris Clark home at Third West. The third home was at 531 West Main Street. That home was said to be the first home built outside the Fort Wall in Lehi. Norine Fox lived her life in that home. Isaac moved his family there prior to the birth of Norine in 1904. He owned farm property adjacent to the home and in other places in West Lehi.
It is not known in which house Melba was born. It would have been in one of the two first homes mentioned. Melba would have been five or six years of age when they moved to the home purchased from Thomas Karren.
family was poor by any monetary standard, but Norine Fox said they did not know
they were poor. They had plenty to eat
and made their own clothes. There was
little need for cash because they provided for their own needs. The old granary behind the home had a cellar
underneath that kept produce fresh throughout the year. A substantial garden provided their
and the farm produced beef and pork.
The boys in
the family slept upstairs, accessing those quarters by a steep stairwell that
is still in the home. The girls slept
downstairs. There also was
a root cellar in the southeast corner of Aunt Norine’s lot and still another
under a straw-roofed shed near the blacksmith shop.
There was an outhouse behind the home near the orchard by the granary. Chamber pots were utilized in the coldest part of the year. One can envision the dashes to the outhouse that could accommodate two people at once, “a two holer.” The first “privy” was out by the chicken coops. Later the WPA built modern outhouses and the new one was nearer the house.
took place in a metal tub in the kitchen or bedroom. Water was heated on the coal stove. The home was heated by using pot-bellied stoves and a coal stove
was used to cook meals. Russ Felt has
one of the pot-bellied stoves from that house.
On very cold evenings, a bricks were warmed in the oven, wrapped in
towels, and placed in the beds to warm them.
Washing of clothing was done with a washtub and scrub board. Pioneer methods were also used. An example was
which that was boiled to produce
shampoo. Rita Felt tried the
shampoo by boiling Sage Brush, and it did produce a
shampoo--after a fashion. Natural
herbs and roots were also utilized, and some had medicinal value. The sego lily root was used. I .W .
Fox, Melba’s grandfather, understood medicinal herbs and was sought after by
those needing a cure. Mustard plasters
were commonly used for chest colds.
By our standards this was a Spartan way of living, but Melba and her brothers and sisters were happy and well cared for in all aspects of their lives.
Melba was the protector of Rulon. Once
Rulon had transgressed and wanted to avoid being disciplined. Lucy, his mother, called and called for him
and received no answer and Melba was missing with him. Frantic moments followed as Isaac
and Lucy and others searched
and searched for the runaway children.
After a long time someone looked under a bed and there were Melba
and Rulon huddled together and fast asleep.
Discipline was still administered by grateful parents.
was a large tree, with a rope
strategically tied to a limb, that would permit the children
to swing from the roof of the coal shed out away from the building and back to
it. Unfortunately, there was a swill
barrel underneath the route of the swing.
barrel contained any and everything, which eventually the pigs would enjoy and the
contents were not savory in the least.
One of the “swingers” lost grip and ended up in the swill barrel. Most probably it was Rulon or Harold and the
other children would have enjoyed seeing either or both of the mischievous
brothers dunked in the barrel. Another
tree directly behind the house provided shade for soap-making activities.
up in a loving and nurturing home. The
family was completely active in the Church.
Her father, Isaac, served three missions, two in the Sandwich Islands
one to Skull Valley , and was almost
called on a fourth mission but released from that call when it was
determined he had already served three missions. On the second mission to the Sandwich Islands Isaac’s family was
paid $15.00 per month by the Church.
The payment was to enable him to leave without having to sell his dairy
cows. Lucy Hartley Fox must have been a
very strong person to care for her family in the absence of her husband. The characteristics and values that Lucy
Hartley Fox possessed were learned by her children and were a pattern for their
her life, Melba developed rheumatic fever and that led to a heart murmur that
presented problems throughout her life.
She also developed a reaction to her own body bacteria that led to
bronchial problems and
the rest of her life. The maladies did
not prevent her from being productive and active in all her pursuits.
Melba attended Lehi Schools and completed eight years. Finishing the eighth grade and then leaving school was typical of many children of the time.
Melba loved music. She learned to love music from her musically talented father. She performed with singing groups in Lehi. She purchased a player piano (now in possession of Russ Felt). It cost $800, a princely sum for those days and was constructed in such a way that it could be made electric. She loved John Philip Sousa’s band music and treasured the visit to Salt Lake City to see him and his band in concert.
As a girl, during a flu epidemic that took many lives, she spent some days singing at graveside services at the Lehi Cemetery.
her friends and many of the community enjoyed the Clarence Holmstead “beach” on
the shores of Utah Lake. They wrapped
blankets around trees
their swimming suits to swim in the lake.
Renie Kopinsky has Melba’s swimsuit in her possession.
barnstormer landed his biplane at Saratoga resort. Melba paid $5 for a flight over Utah Lake. She was frightened to death at the
experience. It probably was the reason
she would never fly anywhere.
Russ and Rita Felt were stationed in United
States Air Force
and invited Melba and Charlie to visit them.
Melba’s reply was “when they build a bridge!”
McClellan, Tabernacle Organist, was invited to maintain and
and the music
lessons ended. They could not afford to
pay for lessons. Her playing was more
than simple chording; she could read music but her playing was often “by
ear.” She did accompany many people.
Melba and coworker at the Post Office
Melba began working at the Lehi Post Office. That building was on Main Street just west of the old Earnest Webb jewelry store. Melba worked there many years as a clerk. It was during this employment that she met Charles Ray Felt. He was visiting and staying with his Aunt Nina Herron in her home just across the street from Melba’s. That introduction led to a courtship largely done by mail since Charles was employed in Deep Creek, Utah. Charles did not keep the letters from Melba but she kept his letters. One of them is as follows:
July 30, 1925
Received your welcome letter a few days ago so am answering it this evening so it will leave on tomorrows mail. Would have written sooner, but I hurt my arm in a wrestling match the 24th. We had some celebration that day. I played football for Gold Hill and wrestled a great big husky from Ely Nevada. I wasn’t keen about it however, but they kept after me til I consented. I’d rather been under the shade trees at Saratoga listening to the Ukelele. I would have given you another 50c to hear you. Are you gong to camp there during your vacation? I would like to join you if I could get away. But it is hard to get away from this berg during August.
has been awful hot here lately, but is much cooler today. Won’t be long til winter comes again. Don’t you dread it? But it is just like summer down in California. Don’t you imagine you would like it that
I see Max (Herron) occasionalely. He seems to be getting along all right. I am to make this letter short as my arm hurts a little. You can tell by the writing. Hoping to hear soon. You had better write soon or Lehi will hear an awful fight between you and I.
C. R. F
Two inferences can be drawn from the letter. Charlie did not demonstrate affection publicly. He was very reserved about that. “Hoping to hear soon” and “You had better write soon or Lehi will hear an awful fight between you and I” are really saying how much he cared for her. Also, the reference to California and weather seems to be on his mind.
They moved to California after marrying where
he worked alongside his father. That
experience was not a good one for Melba.
There are several letters from Charlie to Melba in possession of Russ
Felt. Their wedding announcement in possession of Russ Felt is as follows:
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Fox
Announce the marriage of
Mr. Charles R. Felt
Tuesday: the sixteenth day of August
Nineteen hundred and twenty-seven
In the Salt Lake Temple
visited Melba in Lehi as often as he could get away from ranching in Deep Creek
Utah ). One of his many letters informs that he is
reading the Book of Mormon in his cabin in Gravel where he was
homesteading. The reading
Melba’s desire to be married in the Temple. Charles was taught and Baptized
by Arnold Brems in Lehi. He was working
toward holding the Melch ez id ik
Priesthood so that he could take her to the Salt Lake Temple.
Charlie moved to Los Angeles where Charlie was close to his parents and worked
with his father at the Adohr Creamery.
Melba was expecting their first child, Renie, and returned to Lehi to
have her baby. Three months later Melba and
Renie returned to Los Angeles by train.
These were not happy times for Melba.
She was homesick. She had a
fussy baby. And Charlie would engage in
card games with his parents and his brother Clarence. Apparently she convinced Charlie to return to Lehi, Utah. Charlie engaged in a number of enterprises
in Lehi from the Chicken
to Carpent er work and home
construction before he went to work at Tooele Ordinance Depot.
Charlie lived with Lucy Hartley Fox when they returned from California. Just to the east of the house they built a
small red brick home where they spent the rest of their lives. That home was built prior to World War
II. Melba made the small home very
comfortable. The upstairs was never
finished because Charlie refused to go into debt for anything. Renie lived with Aunt Norine because there
were only two bedrooms in the home
, Dick and Russ shared one bedroom. The home was built extremely well because
that was how Charlie did things.
Melba was protective of her children. When Dick was a young boy, she took him shopping in American Fork at Chipman’s Department Store to buy him a hat. Dick had a lump on the top left of his head, which incidentally, has remained throughout his life. The salesman said to Melba, “My, what a cute little boy, but isn’t his head an odd shape!” That offended Melba and she was upset and never shopped in American Fork again.
Melba in her ever present apron
Melba was an excellent cook. She performed magic with the coal stove. A favorite was fresh bread baked in the oven. She really didn’t mind when someone cut the crust of the fresh loaf of bread and liberally drowned it with butter. The smell and the taste were incredible. Meatloaf was another favorite. When funds were low Melba made milk toast. Maybe funds weren’t low but milk toast was wonderful. Virtually anything she cooked was a favorite. The spouses of her children have forever had their cooking compared to Melba. She even knew how to prepare a pre-game meal for her sons.
Renie, Dick and Russ
Melba bore three children. Renie (Norene) was born September 7, 1928, Richard George (Dick) was born Mar 4, 1933 and Russell Ray (Russ) was born August 6, 1940. She loved her children and they were first in her life. Melba also suffered a miscarriage after she slipped and fell while canning fruit in her home. That child would have been number three. When Melba passed away and her clothing and other personal items were being examined, it was clear that she sacrificed everything for her children. There were two dresses in her closet for many years, one for Sunday and one for the rest of the week. It was a financial struggle to keep the three children on missions. Russ was made aware later of two loans from the bank to keep him in Australia. Melba never complained about the sacrifices she made for her family. She did what she did because she loved them. Of her clothing, Melba often said she wore one dress while she washed the other.
There was always a sensitivity regarding the feelings of her children. One humorous story was a questionnaire that Russ had to fill out for a class at BYU. There were a series of questions to be asked of parents. One question was, “Were you planned for?” and Melba would not answer that question. Finally, Russ went to Aunt Norine who started to laugh at the question. Aunt Norine said, “Let’s put it this way, you were originally diagnosed as a tumor.” Melba did not want to hurt Russ’s feelings but Aunt Norine wasn’t worried about that. Russ concluded he had not been planned for.
Melba tried to pay her tithing and she had great faith. Once she was worried how she could send Russ his monthly missionary check. She prayed about it, and on the day before the money was to be sent, a dividend check from the Utah Poultry Association came. It was thought dividends had ceased a number of years before. This was the needed amount for the monthly missionary check, plus tithing. The missionary cost per month in Australia was $110.
also served others. “Butch” was a
little neighbor boy whose parents drank heavily. He was often left unattended and hungry. Melba would bring him into the house to feed
him. She bought or gave him clothes to
wear. He was in her care. When his mother realized what was happening
she forbade Butch from eating at our table.
Melba would then sit him on a chair and have him put his plate on
another chair, so he would not be sitting at the table.
. “ On one occasion Melba referred the situation to Social
Services. The father of Butch said to Melba that
someone had turned them into Social Services for neglect. Melba looked him in the eye and said she was
the one who did that because the boy needed help. That incident started a change for the better in that
family. Melba also enjoyed baking cakes
for neighbors or newlyweds in the area.
followed closely the athletic achievements of her children. She was proud of
Renie, the Lehi Rodeo Queen. She was a
rabid BYU fan when Dick played.
She wrote “poison pen” letters to Hack Millerthe Sports
Editor, with the Salt Lake Tribune when he raked
BYU Football. She would even cancel
subscriptions to the paper if the criticisms were excessive. Melba, however, could not bear to see an
athletic event because it made her nervous.
Renie once entered the kitchen unexpectedly and saw her mother seated at
the table writing something. When Renie
asked her what she was doing, she jumped up and the papers flew--something like
opening the hen house door and having the chickens flutter all over. It was one her poison pen letters, and she
made Renie swear to never tell what she was doing. Dick did regret that his mother and dad did not get to see him
play very often but it just made Melba too nervous to go to his games.
When Dick was playing football at BYU, Melba worried for fear it might sidetrack him from going on a mission. The Bishop asked her to have Dick come and see him, and her heart skipped a few beats. She got word to Dick at his apartment in Provo and held her breath some more. She “rejoiced mightily” when he accepted the call and she was sure her prayers had been answered. She was also concerned when Russ was called on his mission but she again prayed for help. She was extremely happy when he accepted and she acknowledged the Lord’s hand in both cases. Missions were one of her deepest desires for her boys.
Melba and her sister, Norine, went on a bus tour to Nauvoo. Melba enjoyed that trip but Aunt Norine couldn’t understand why once in a while she wouldn’t go into restaurants at lunchtime. After she returned home, her family learned that she didn’t have enough money for lunch and she didn’t want anyone to know. Another trip she took was with her son-in-law, Michael Kopinsky, and his children, to pick up Renie from a business trip. That trip was most enjoyable for her despite traveling in a heavy snowstorm. She thoroughly enjoyed Fisherman’s Wharf and going through a wax museum. She loved staying in the motels there and a night spent at Lake Tahoe. She hadn’t had many chances to travel, and the two experiences were special to her.
Melba had a sense of humor and loved a good joke. A favorite was that “Renie was a horseman and all the horseman-new-ur (manure).” She also said she had three boys, but dressed the oldest one in skirts!
Melba never used coarse language. Her worst was “Dag nab it” which she usually aimed at Charlie for not keeping time properly while playing the violin. “Dag nab it” could be heard if there was a mistake made in the kitchen or if Charlie untied her apron strings as she stood at the kitchen sink. Once she used the word “hellfry.” Realizing her daughter Renie had heard, she quickly stomped on the floor pretending to kill a “Hellfert” bug. Another favorite expression was, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
playedaccompanied Charlie. “Alice
Blue Gown” and other selections were favorites. He loved to have her accompany him. In our mind’s eye, Melba at the piano by the west
wall in the living room and Charlie with his violin between the piano and the
front door. The music was often
the time corrections. She even purchased a metronome to help him
keep time. Melba also enjoyed singing,
especially at Aunt Norine’s house, with those
two and Uncle Rulon and Uncle Harold
singing. In the early years that quartet
frequently entertained themselves because all four enjoyed that. But one can imagine two altos and two tenors
singing in a quartet.
In a birthday card addressed to Russ on his mission in Australia, Melba demonstrates her love for her children. She also had a wonderful way of expressing and reducing it to writing.
Thank you so much for the wonderful birthday card and the letter you wrote with it.
Russell – what you wrote makes everything we may have done, worth while – all the times I’ve waited up for you and even the time I had to get you from the girls’ slumber party at Joan’s (Evans) place- It made everything a pleasure, believe me- I mean this from the bottom of my heart- Parents couldn’t ask for a better son than you.
Let us know if and when the package reaches you. I hope it gets there on time.
Your card came the day before my birthday – Just right- I had a nice day and ate a piece of cake for you.
I’m getting in shape to dance – have taken off 30 lbs – starving, no less.
I’ll write a letter tomorrow. Did the money ($5) get to you?
We love you and are so proud of you.
All our love
Melba never went to bed when her children were away from
in the recliner in the living room waiting. One wonders how many times plans were
changed from negative to positive because Melba was sitting there waiting, with
no way to get by her and no desire to disappoint her. Packages were always sent to her
missionaries. The package had homemade cookies that
traveled to Australia by ship and were powder
by the time they arrived months later, but the green powder was good
anyway. Melba always found the good in
her children, no matter what. The $5 was
probably a stretch
do financially. The plural
closing, “All our love” reflected that Charlie would write but didn’t like to
do that, and so he left it to Melba.
B Blessing invited her to do Genealogy
work. It was always a concern to her
that she needed to do more of that work.
She asked her children to complete that task for her.
Rulon and Melba
Each day Uncle Rulon Fox would finish milking his cows
and would bring
two-gallon container of fresh milk to the house. The visit between the two was perhaps more meaningful than the
H owever, Melba would skim off the
cream into a jar
Melba’s employment at the Post Office provided the
financial means for Norine to go to university. Aunt Norine Fox often expressed her love for Melba
they were friends. Melba was happy to
support Norine at BYU and Aunt Norine appreciated that support.
Melba was deathly afraid of lightening. When there was a thunderstorm she would hide her eyes or get in bed. She would have gotten in the closet if possible. She would also lock all the doors in the house as though that would keep the storm out. She would also pull the blinds down and close the curtains. Often her mother was with her with the same fears. She would be frantic if Charlie left the house during a storm and especially if he had the children with him.
Melba contributed to the chicken business owned and run by Uncle Rulon Fox and Charlie. She would case eggs and take them to the Utah Poultry Association for marketing. She made trips to Midvale to the hatchery to take eggs to hatch and to get new-born chicks. The road over the Point of the Mountain was just two lanes and, in bad weather or high wind, frightened her. She and her mother would make that trip.
Renie recounts that her mother tended her boys, even when her health wasn’t good. She would sit Gary in the high chair or stand him in his playpen, turn on the television set, and hand him a spoon and a Mother’s Oats box, and he would drum to the music. That accounts for his love of percussion instruments throughout his life. If he missed a beat she would correct him.
Melba saw to it that her children had music lessons. One of her scare tactics to promote practicing was to cut a “switch” from a tree. It was a bluff and she seldom used it. She gave up when it came to Russ and did not insist he continue with piano lessons. Her children now wish she had used that switch.
Later in her life, she went into the Post Office and made the mistake of suggesting to the employee how things used to be done. The reply was that “times had changed since Washington’s day,” and that hurt her feelings.
Melba loved Russ’s bear hugs despite her efforts to get free.
She often baked two cakes and sent one to her mother next door. Dick asked for a piece of his grandmother’s cake and promptly told grandmother her cakes were better than his mother’s cakes. He didn’t know the truth for a long time.
Melba had a toe removed due to infection. It was during the time she worked at the Post Office. She always had trouble with sore feet, and the result of that surgery gave her balance problems. Her remarkable sense of humor surfaced after a visit to the doctor about her change of life. Thorough physical exams were performed, with some embarrassment for her. She later joked that if she met either doctor involved in the exams and her dress was over her head, the doctors would probably say, “Hello, Mrs. Felt.”
She loved to go to Salt Lake with Aunt Norine Fox but hated getting “all gussied up.” On the way home, she would sit in the back seat of the car and squirm out of the “gussy” before they traveled three blocks.
Charlie gave Melba a dresser and a dresser set—a comb, brush, and hand mirror--that she treasured. Her daughter, Renie Kopinsky, has these items.
Melba loved the smell of coffee but she never drank it. Often she said if she ever left the Church, coffee would be her vice.
Melba developed cancer later in life and was devastated by the knowledge. However, she had great faith in the surgery--providing that her brothers, Rulon and Harold, would administer to her and give her a blessing. She was healed through that blessing and the surgery, and her life was spared.
When her children were small they all knew their mother’s voice and she would stand on the back step of the house and yell for them. She would yell “Re---nie” with a higher pitch on the “nie.” Uncle Rulon said he could hear her calling a mile down the road. She also had the uncanny ability to know when any of her children were getting into the refrigerator and would yell, “What are you into?”
When Dick was born, Melba told Charlie she wanted to name him Richard Franklin Felt (after Franklin Delano Roosevelt). Charlie objected and wouldn’t go to Church for Dick’s blessing. Melba came home and said she had him named the baby “Richard Franklin” and let him think that for a long time. When Charlie grumbled about that or something else, she referred to him as old “grumble gut.”
When Dick went to college, there wasn’t much money even though he worked in the summers. Melba and Charlie borrowed the money to buy him a used 1946 Ford Coupe from Petty Motors and another Rulon Fox, a relative and employee who worked there. It cost $400-500 dollars, but it immediately needed an overhaul. When Dick went on his mission, he sold it to Russ for $15. It didn’t last very long after that.
In one BYU game, Dick scored four touchdowns versus San Jose State University. Melba and Charlie heard the game on the radio. Charlie yelled, “That’s my boy!” after each touchdown. Melba countered with “Well, he’s my boy, too!” Charlie’s retort was, “How do you figure?”
Once, when Dick was playing professional football for the New York Titans, he played a televised game from the Polo grounds in New York. It was a Thanksgiving Day and a 10:00 a.m. game. The game was televised on a delayed basis. He and Dayleen lived in Larchmont, Westchester County. During the game, Dick lost a contact lens and used a replacement lens he had, which came from an optical shop in Provo, Utah. During the game he had intercepted and returned a pass for a touchdown. After the game Dick and Dayleen drove back to their home and telephoned Lehi to wish his parents a happy Thanksgiving and to get them to get him another contact lens. Melba and Charlie just witnessed the interception as the phone rang. Melba about had a heart attack. “What are you doing?” she said. “I just saw you run into the end zone.” She thought Dick had run into the dressing room to call home. There were a lot of laughs over that incident.
Melba loved to worry. Worry was a science for her. She passed that skill on to her children. One time, Melba and Charlie drove to Salt Lake in their old Plymouth car. Dick was small at the time. When it started to get dark and time for them to be home, Dick became extremely worried while he waited at Aunt Norine’s home fearing they had been involved in an accident. They had been delayed that had delayed them returning. The trait of worry has remained with her children.
Charlie had gone to bed and Melba
was sitting in her recliner. She often
slept there in later years because in a sitting position she found relief from
that plagued her. Late in the night,
she got up to turn the television off and go to bed and was gone before she got
to the floor. Melba Fox Felt died
November 26, 1969. Her legacy was her
love of her family and her pride in each member. She loved her brothers and sisters and their families and would
do anything for them.
Charles Ray and Melba Fox Felt