As recalled by Leon Chamberlain

It was probably around 1920 that the saga of the Christmas tree took place in my grandmother Chamberlain household. Mary Caroline Nordstrom Chamberlain was a widow with two young children, Matilda (8), and Archie (5). Grandmother worked at Deseret Mortuary helping prepare the bodies of the deceased for burial. As Christmas time approached it was the desire of my grandmother to have a tree for Christmas. At that time it was not uncommon to decorate the tree on Christmas Eve. There was a Christmas tree lot near the mortuary and my grandmother ordered and paid for a tree to be delivered the morning of Christmas Eve.

As Christmas Eve morning turned to Christmas Eve afternoon, and no tree had arrived, my grandmother became concerned. In the late afternoon, she took the trolley uptown to the tree lot, but when she arrived, the lot—surrounded by a high, locked fence—was closed.

At best my grandmother was around 5 feet tall and it would have been impossible for her to climb the fence. As she stood there contemplating her dilemma, a young boy walked by. She approached him and offered him a dime to jump the fence and throw a tree over to her. He agreed, and grandma now had a tree but no way to get it home. Undaunted, she drug the tree to the nearest bus stop, loaded the tree on to the bus and rode toward’s home. I can see her in my mind’s eye, dragging that tree the final distance to her home on Navajo Street. Because of the resourcefulness and tenacity of my grandmother Chamberlain, Matilda and Archie were not denied a tree for Christmas.


Mary Caroline Nordstrom Chamberlain with children Matilda and Archie.


My grandmother Chamberlain was known for her perseverance and hard work. She was widowed at a young age when her husband suddenly died while chopping wood in the yard. She raised chickens, sold eggs, planted a large garden and canned much of the produce for and her family. She told fortunes and was famous in the neighborhood as the best therapist there was. Thanks Grandma Chamberlain.


The home on 742 Navajo Street as it was about 1918.
Mary Caroline Chamberlain stands in front with daughter Matilda.
A sign for “Fresh Eggs” hangs on the front.


Leon Chamberlain with his Grandmother Chamberlain, about 1943.

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