The Spelling Bee - Gladys Sylvester Olds

The  following story is based on a true incident in the life of Gladys Sylvester and Charles Andrew Olds*.  Retold by their grandson, Brenton Bauer.

The Spelling Bee

"Hey! Gladys," said the young toe-headed boy to the girl in the swing. "Goin' to the district spelling bee Saturday night?"

"I don't know Andy," responded Gladys. "Auntie Em is strict sometimes."

"I sure hope so. It's for the championship. You know they're going to give us words from the hard list and the big dictionary. I've been practicing and my team is going to win. I would really like you to come. That is if you would like too."

Gladys smiled at Andy. Looking down at the ground she responded, "I'll try."

Andy scooted on down the path. Looking back at Gladys he yelled, "See you then."

Gladys ignored the giggles of the girls in the other glider. With starry eyes she stopped swinging and said, "I'm needed at home now. It's almost milking time." She started walking down the dirt lane toward home on the lower street remembering as she walked the first time she met Andy.

Thomas Olds was bringing his family through Bellevue on his way from Hanksville to live in Toquerville. They stopped at Joe Sylvester's place in Bellevue. Thomas had a wagon load of boys sitting in the back of his buckboard. Andy was sitting on the tailgate eating an apple. His blond hair blowing in the wind, Gladys thought, was exaggerated by oodles of freckles on his face

Pushing Andy off the wagon, Will yelled, "Why don't you kiss the little girls Andy?"

"Go on Kiss 'em!" added George.

"Why don't you!" retorted Andy as he picked himself up and started to climb back into the wagon.

"I don't want to. You do!" Will pushed him off the wagon once again.

"Pick on somebody your own size, Will." bellowed Levi, the oldest brother.

"Andy's got a girl friend." echoed George and Will together.

"No I don't!"

"Then kiss her. What you afraid off? Cooties!"

His brothers kept pushing him out of the wagon and he kept climbing back. He kept looking at that reddish blond haired little girl.

Gladys kept looking at him. Jumping down from the porch she ran to the picket fence. Sticking her head between the boards, looked in amazement. She had never seen a stranger acting bunch of boys in her life and she was fascinated.

The older boys kept prodding, pushing and daring young Andy to go and kiss that little girl by the fence. Finally, he could take no more from his brothers. Taking a deep breath and with a mouthful of apple he quickly ran to the fence. Looking Gladys right in the eyes, he puckered his lips and gave her a big fat juicy kiss on her cheek. Quickly he turned and ran toward the buckboard. He jumped on to the wagon just as his father started to pull away.

Quickly wiping the kiss off her cheek with her skirt Gladys rushed back to the porch and hid behind her big sister Maude. Together they watched the wagon slowly fade away down the dusty road. Needless to say, after that stolen kiss, Gladys always had a soft spot in her heart for Andy.

Saturday came and there were chores to be done. Bread to bake, laundry to wash, clothes to press and iron, and errands to run. Gladys helped Antie Em, her stepmother, and older sisters, Vinnie and Maude with the household tasks.

"Gladys, would you go up to Klieman's store and get a few pounds of sugar and some the other things I have on this list?" asked Auntie Em.

Gladys was always glad for the opportunity to go to the store. Mrs. Klieman would always give her a stick of sugar candy. She loved the chance to see all the things in the cases and on the shelves. There were crystal glasses, household things, bolts of cloth, lace and, of course, toys. Mrs. Klieman always got a few toys in to sell for special occasions like Birthdays and Christmas.

Gladys was fascinated by the new gas pumps that stood in front of the store. Some of the farmers had bought new fangled tractors that ran on gasoline. They would place a container on the ground and insert the end of the hose into the opening. Turning the pump would force gasoline up out of the storage tank into a glass cylinder on the top of the pump to measure the number of gallons they wanted. Then by squeezing the handle the gasoline would flow down the hose into the container or tractor's fuel storage tank.

When she got to the top of the lane she noticed Bishop Bringhurst filling his tractor with gasoline at the store. She hurried a little faster so she could see him fill his tank. After watching for awhile, Gladys followed him into the store after he finished fueling the tractor. As she entered the door she noticed a group of boys coming down the street. Stepping fast so as not to be recognized, she quickly closed the door behind her.

She looked around the store while the clerk attended to Bishop Bringhurst.

When they had finished their business, she handed the list to her. Noticing a new doll on one of the back shelves behind the counter, Gladys asked, "What kind of doll is that? The one with the red curly hair and the lace ruffled hat?"

"That's a Victorian porcelain doll. It came all the way from England, dear," replied Mrs. Klieman.

"Oh! It's beautiful. May I hold it?" asked Gladys politely.

"Yes." replied the store clerk as she took the beautiful doll from the shelf and gently handed it to Gladys.

Gladys felt the real satin dress and handmade lace collar, the small slender hands, and the smooth silky face. "Oh what a beautiful doll. How much is it?" she reluctantly asked.

"Ten dollars."

Gladys gulped and carefully handed the doll back. She always admired beautiful things. Someday she would have a beautiful doll of her own just like that one.

"Gladys, your things are ready." said the store clerk.

Picking them up from the counter, Gladys started to open the door when Mrs. Klieman called, "Gladys! You forgot your candy stick."

After taking the candy, Gladys started to open the door. She noticed Andrew standing with a couple of friends by the gas pumps. She quickly closed the door and watched the boys through one of the small windows.

"We're going to win the district spelling contest tonight, ain't we, Andy?" asked Slack.

"You betcha! I know most of the words in the eighth grade speller and in that big dictionary in the library. And you guys have been studying too."

"Vera and her friends are pretty good spellers. They've been practicing all week, too. They said they would beat the pants off us without really trying."

Then Andy interjected, "You know, guys, I can figure them words out as long as they don't have an 's' that sounds like a 'z' in them,"

"Come on Andy. You sure like to joke around a lot. You're the best speller in Toquerville," added Dodge.

"Yea! Andy, you're the best speller I know," responded Slack.

"Thanks guys for the vote of confidence. See you tonight at the spelling bee."

The boys seemed to vanish, that is all except Andy. While getting a drink of water from the water hydrant he noticed Gladys' reflection in the store window. Swallowing the water, he turned and gave her a quick wink. Before she could respond, he walked on down the street yelling, "Hey Slack! Wait for me."

People were already seated as Gladys quietly entered the crowded recreation hall. She looked for her good friend Bell, who promised to save her a seat. Not seeing her, she took a seat on one of the back benches.

The Spelling Bee had already started. There were two rows of benches on the stage. One for each team. Andy was at the end of the row. Next to him were his friends, Slack and Dodge. Across from them were the opposing team headed by Vera and her friends.

The audience was made up of interested town folks and of course the trustees of the Toquerville District School. They would often visit the school and tell the students stories and give advice about what was the best thing for them to do with their lives. That they needed to get a good education while they were young and had the chance. Of course the students always listened and at times tried to followed their suggestions.

All the women would sit in the back of the hall and visit with each other. It seems that the only other time they got together was for church functions on Sunday, at quilting bees, and at Relief Society on Tuesday morning. Any excuse for getting together was special for them.

Gladys had a hard time hearing the contestants in the Spelling Bee. She noticed Bell and several other girls sitting a few rows ahead of her, so she move forward to be by them.

The tension increased as Slack and Dodge both misspelled their words. It was now Vera's turn. The spelling master said, "Spell scissors"

Vera Forsythe began slowly, "Scissors" she repeated the word. Then started to spell: "S-c-i-z-o-r-s."

"Incorrect," said a judge. Everyone laughed. She quickly took her seat.

Andrew stepped up to the podium and looked the judge square in the eyes. Andy could feel the hair on the back of his neck start to stand straight up. The tension grew. All eyes focused on him. Everyone stopped talking.

Bishop Bringhurst cleared his throat and then said, " Andrew, spell superstitious."

Andy looked around the room, took a deep breath and started to spell superstitious. "Superstitious. S-u-p-e-r-s-t-," he paused a moment. Looking into the audience he spotted Gladys. He winked at her then quickly continued, "i-t-i-o-u-s ."

With excitement in his voice, Bishop Bringhurst shouted, "Correct!" The crowd burst into loud cheers. Andy's team won.

The crowd cheered and cheered. They patted Andy and his team members on their backs. Andy made his way through the crowd to where Gladys was sitting. Gladys was so excited that she jumped up and exclaimed, "Oh! Andy!" She quickly gave him a surprise kiss on the cheek. The girls around her giggled.

Andy turned red, then asked her, "May I walk you home, Gladys?" As they made their way to the back of the recreation hall, Andy took hold of Gladys' hand and they walked out the door together.

*Gladys Sylvester, daughter of Joseph Sylvester and Jane Allie Hanks of Bellevue (now Pintura).
Charles Andrew Olds, son of Thomas Olds and Elisa Jane Hunt of Toquerville.


This history is copyrighted and is offered for personal use and research only.
It is not to be reprinted or used for commercial purposes without written permission.

Copyright 2000 by Brenton Bauer

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