Hazel, who I was told to never called “Hazel,” though most of the girls did, was the adult leader of our group of young women, ages 12-16. We were a small group of only 12-15, but she gave us her all and I adored her.
One December, Hazel planned a trip for our group to Salt Lake City. It was an opportunity to open our Idaho-city eyes a bit wider and to treat us to experiences we would not otherwise have had. Some I have not had since. I don’t remember the exact timeline of events but I recall the wonder as she took us from one discovery to another.
Such as the observation deck on the 26th floor of the Church Office Building in the center of downtown. It was my first experience in an elevator that went above three or four floors. Our stomachs felt the slight drop when the elevator settled and we wanted to ride it again just for the sensation. We tried to muffle our chatter and giggles as we walked among halls where solemn and revered men and women walked everyday. But on the observation floor, Hazel let us gaze without restraint. This view of the world below: the buildings that stretched, but didn’t reach our height (this occurred a few decades ago), the orderly lines of streets that ran outward in straight, inviting paths, the historic sites, the shopping malls, and the tiny moving specks that were people, gave us a sense of the all-seeing perspective of Providence.
We moved from one scene to another, and Hazel pointed out places we would be going, then checked her watch and hustled us toward the elevators before we were ready to let go. Below we became aware that we had joined the tiny specks scurrying about, seeking purpose for our movement.
Our next stop was the state Capital Building. I have always enjoyed going inside that magnificent building. History, Law, and Governance echo from its marble halls. It was my first time to gaze on larger-than-life statues, sweeping staircases, and the soaring painted dome overhead. The scale of everything reduced us but left us awestruck. Everything Hazel chose for us seemed to be selected to expand our views.
After exploring the levels and recesses, in hushed whispers, we were told to wait for a moment just inside one of the doors. I don’t remember why, but my two friends, Connie and Lori, and I “discovered” a chair on wheels. And my clearest memory of that visit is pushing each other in that chair to roll across marble floors before retreating behind pillars with our hands clamped over our mouths. What can I say? We were young and the grandeur had to be tempered by silliness.
That trip was also the first time I was shown “gravity hill,” which is no longer a possibility. But the illusion of rolling uphill when the car was in neutral stays with me.
I think we might have also gone to the DUP Museum on the hill. My memories of my times there have blended, but I think I remember Lori being intrigued with making jewelry out of hair. And Connie and I being “grossed out.”
Our next stop was the McCune Mansion. I can still remember the small room off the entry painted with the four seasons represented in each of the ceiling’s corners, the sunny drawing room, the rich wood of the main hall and dining rooms and the curved door to the oval-shaped room on the second floor. My best impression though was the third floor where we entered the gilded ballroom. Our imaginations were enchanted as we awkwardly danced across the wooden floors, watching our images reflected back from the mirrors that lined the walls. Hazel took us to see where young girls could watch for the carriage of their sweetheart to pull up two stories below beneath the portico. We imagined food being brought up in the dumbwaiter and were amazed that a house would have an elevator that delivered guests to the ballroom.
From there we went down the hill and parked in front of the old Hansen Planetarium on S. State Street. It was our first star show. In the dark, spacious room, with stars swirling around the overhead dome, we were transported. Again, through Hazel’s orchestration, we encountered ideas beyond what our limited experience had provided. We moved past being tiny specks to where our world was so insignificant that it didn’t even provide light in the vast universe. And yet, each of us, moving through the stars while gripping the arms of our chairs, had the ability to ponder these ideas that were beyond our comprehension.
Next stop: the mall for Christmas shopping and to find our suppers. And that’s when Connie, Lori and I, fed by new ideas, created our own adventure. We were allowed to shop freely, with one instruction, to meet at the visitor center on Temple Square at a certain time so we could get to the last stop for the night. I’m not sure how much time Hazel gave us for this time of independence, but we soon had all the shopping done that we needed (I still remember the large poster board of Tweety Bird that I chose for one of my friends, not considering the issue of transporting it around).
After that, the three of us stopped to consider where we wanted to eat. We had thoroughly explored the mall across the street from Temple Square as well as the ZCMI one. And we had an hour left. Then one of us suggested, “How about the Spaghetti Factory at Trolley Square?”
Remember, we were inexperienced girls from Idaho, momentarily without supervision, in the “big city.” We avoided meeting anyone we knew, and without asking permission, determined to go. Our first obstacle was getting to Trolley Square. Lori, the most travelled of the three of us, had ridden a bus once and assured us that there was nothing to it. We exited the mall where buses lined up. After a few short inquiries, Lori hustled us onto a bus and promised that it was the right one. In fear that we’d made a horrible mistake, we rode through the streets that were fading in the gathering dusk. I gripped my packages possessively, including the large flat sack with the poster. Thankfully Lori was right.
Trolley Square was an adventure waiting to be met. However, we were concerned about time, and went directly to the Old Spaghetti Factory where we indulged in the best meal we had ever had. We imagined ourselves cosmopolitan women at large in the city. We slurped our noodles, talked about our truancy from Hazel’s watch-care, and individually visited the stylish bathroom. And then we headed to catch the bus back–only to discover we didn’t know how.
There were buses coming and going at stops on either side of the street, but we didn’t have a clue about schedules. It began to rain as we raced back and forth at the cross light, and still none of the buses was the one we needed. Our packages began to get wet, and we tried to shield them with our coats, but my large one didn’t fit. We ducked inside a well-lit dry-cleaners to discuss our options. And that was where we determined to call a taxi.
None of us had ever ridden in a taxi—not even Lori. We became wide-eyed and flirtatious when other drivers pulled up along side. Our momentary set-back of not knowing how buses worked, was forgotten. We were learning to negotiate what we wanted by ourselves. We had left the safe parameters of adult supervision and fared rather well. When the driver deposited us outside Temple Square, we generously told him to “keep the change.” It was probably the odd cents left from a dollar. Then we rushed to our designated meeting place to find nobody had missed us. We didn’t say a word.
For our last adventure, Hazel had saved a treat. We were driven to the Promised Valley Playhouse to see “The Music Man.” It was my first live show, my first time to see that musical, and from then on it was a favorite. For me it represented all the trip had offered, new ideas, grand buildings, adventure, and a soul ready for it all.
Plus, Hazel’s youngest son, the handsome Kim, was in the play. We had seats down front and could pick him out on the train scene.
We arrived back in Pocatello hours later, sleepy, but filled. Hazel had given us a day to remember, but mostly a day that taught us to see life on a grand scale and inspired us to be ready to accept it and embrace it.
And when we finally, repentantly, told Hazel about our side-trip to Trolley Square, she had laughed with delight and given us a large hug.