Faces in the Crowd: Emily Crozier

August 31, 2017

By Aaron Michell

Emily Crozier has 34 great-grandkids and counting. Or something like that, because the number keeps growing and it’s becoming harder to keep count. But while the number of great-grandkids may change, we know one number that won’t: 1921. 1921, as in the year Emily was born to Clare and Florence Smith on a farmhouse in Dighton, Michigan. Since then, Emily and her late husband Bernard Crozier raised 4 boys: Larry, Dan, Jim, and David, right here in Marion on their centennial farm near the corner of M-66 and M-61. Those 4 boys gave rise to 15 grandkids, and now 34 great-grandkids. So, if we add it all up, that’s 53 kids and counting.

But the number of kids she’s influenced in her years has been exponentially higher. Emily started teaching Sunday school at the age of 16, for the RLDS (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now called the Community of Christ) here in Marion, and continues to occasionally teach up to this very day. So that’s 80 years of teaching bible school. And counting.

And when it comes to counting, Emily is good at that too – she won the 1940 Marion High School Math award for her graduating class. And she won the English award, too. So, she’s very smart. And humble. And kind. And she was nice enough to take a moment to sit down with us and tell us her story – a story of someone who’s much more than just another face in the crowd.
Chapter 1: Music, guitars, and a house on fire.

Emily: [Growing up] we didn’t have TVs of course, then, but we used to have radios. My dad had a radio, and he’d get up in the morning and turn on the radio; it ran with batteries – he had a set of batteries that he’d put in the car overnight to recharge them. I can remember in the mornings, my sister and I would wake up to my dad playing the radio. We didn’t have electricity. The radio ran off the batteries that we’d charge in the car. It was a different life, I guess.

So, when I woke up in the morning that’s what I’d hear – that guitar music coming over the radio. We listened to Lulu Belle. Scotty and Lulu Belle, they were folk singers. They were my favorites. I still have my old Lulu Belle guitar. My dad got me my first guitar when I was 12 years old, that Lulu Belle guitar. He ordered it from Montgomery Ward. And I still have it. It’s kind of a 3-cornered guitar.

Years later, here on the farm, our house burnt down. We lost everything. I think it was 1943. Dan was just a baby. [When the fire started] Bernard was out to the barn, you know, doing the chores. I was getting breakfast and stuff, and I could smell something. Those old houses, they had boards on top of the rafters and just paper covering. What happened was, up in the attic, one of the bricks had shifted out of the chimney and it caught fire. All you could do was get out. I grabbed the boys, Larry and Dan were just little: Dan was just a baby, Larry was three. There was an old building out there where we used to put the cars in, I took them out and put them in the car, and I ran to Bernard. That thing burnt down, that old house burnt right down.

It really burned. Acie Boudrie, the neighbor from across the way, came running over. And the way the house was built, there wasn’t any stone, the house was just built on railroad ties. We didn’t save much. There was a little bedroom that Mom had built on the north side of the house; I was going in there and trying to get all the things I could out – the children’s clothes and stuff, and I kept going back into the room until Acie wouldn’t let me go in anymore. On the backside of the house, Bernard’s mom had built a pantry there – she built it so she could put the tomatoes out to ripen so the windows were there. When the fire got to them, they just melted those windows right down. I can still see it.

This was the 4th of December when the house burned down. We had all the Christmas gifts bought. We always sent orders to Montgomery Ward or Sears, you know, to get things, because we didn’t have anything here close.

The Nederhood family, they used to live up north of town and they had guitars all over, they were a real musical family. And my Uncle Harold worked for the Nederhoods. One day, when he came home from work, he brought me a guitar. I was so glad to get that guitar. I played that guitar all the time. But it was a really nice guitar, and when our house burned, it burned with it. And I’d never been able to get another one. But I’d really like one to strum on, you know. I used to play real good. I started with chords, and I got to where I could pick the songs. It’s been so long, I don’t know if I could do it now. Maybe eventually I could, if I practiced.

Emily continues to look after the Crozier family farm, a family farm since 1874.

Emily continues to look after the Crozier family farm, a family farm since 1874.

Chapter 2: A country school, a dance hall, and a pickle station in Dighton.

Emily: When I first started school out there in Dighton, it was just an old wood school. They tore that down and built a cobblestone school. And I was one of the first ones to go to school in that new building, the Beebe Creek School. It’s just 3 miles outside of Dighton. And Dighton used to be a pretty good size town. I remember Mrs. Gibson, she used to have the old dry goods store there. She ran that store all by herself. The railroad used to run through there, and they had a pickle station there. A lot of people raised cucumbers: my dad had an acre of cucumbers. You know who picked ‘em? (Emily) Now we’d pick ‘em and they had to be a certain length, you know. And we’d pick them in a basket, and we’d take them to the elevator there and they’d ship ‘em out on railroad cars.

I was 8 when I first went to school at the Beebe Creek School. My first teacher’s name was Dorothy Thomas. There were 15 kids in the country school, we went from kindergarten through the 8th grade.

My dad, Clare Smith, played the violin. He was a good fiddle player. And my mother, Florence, sang; my mother had a beautiful voice. What they did – they had what they’d call a pickle station, I remember ‘cause I picked a half acre – in the summer time, these companies would open [the station] up – they had one in Dighton, one in Tustin; probably wherever they had an elevator. And they’d square dance there. They had nice floors in there. There was a dance hall over there in Dighton. They had barn dances there. It was big enough they’d have the whole neighborhood come in. They’d set up all the chairs and stuff. It was a different life. Everybody learned to dance.

Growing up on the Dighton farm, we had horses and cows and pigs. And chickens. I had 2 brothers and 1 sister. They were 8 and 9 years younger than I was, so I had lots of babysitting. My dad was real good with the animals, and my mother was too.
My dad had 12 cows. But we didn’t milk them all at once. My dad didn’t milk, but my mother did. I remember, we had this black and white cow, and the only one who could milk her was my mother. If someone else set a stool down to milk on her, they’d get kicked. But that cow would stand right there and let my mother milk her. Isn’t that funny?

Chapter 3: Singing a Marion tune in the 1930s and 40s.

Emily: I went to the high school up here in Marion. It was the old, old high school. The upper grades were always upstairs. They had all the grades there. I started in 1937. When I graduated, they gave honors for different things. I got the Math award and I got the English award. It really surprised me, because I didn’t know I was getting anything.

Grandpa and Grandma Robinson used to live 2 blocks south of where the elementary school is. I used to go up to her place and sing, she used to have a little choir. My grandpa, Charlie Robinson, used to work at the elevator and shovel off these car loads of coal up there off the railroad. It was hard to get anybody to work in that, covered in coal, you know. He’d shovel off a car load a day. He was strong. He’d get done and he’d come to the door, and grandma would meet him right there. She’d have him strip off his clothes and the first thing she did was dunk his head and wash his hair. My grandma (Martha Mae Robinson) was a good lady.

And, of course, things were so much different then. I think the first time I sang was at school. The first time I sang out by myself was when I was a freshman in high school. Our music teacher was Ms. Nelson, and she told me one time – you should go to Nashville and sing. Because I know you can get honors there. Well, I didn’t go to Nashville.

At school, they’d ask me to sing for different things. The first place I sang was at the Welch country school across the road (formerly at the corner of 17 mile and M-66). They just had a lot of different events going on over there. Wava Boonstra, she was a teacher and she lived east of town – she had me sing for different things. The first song I sang was called Whispering Hope; I sang for the McNaughton’s 50th anniversary and they asked me to sing over at the Welch school. That was the first time I sang in front of a group all by myself – I sang a lot with Wava Boonstra.

Chapter 4: Entertainment at the Bowl, the Theatre, and the Opera House

We used to go to the Sun Theatre. It was right there east of the bank. We used to have seats where that [Marion] bowl was. They used to have all kinds of entertainment there in the summer and stuff. Earl Jones, I remember, he played the violin. He’d be there just a fiddlin’ away. We took the kids to the Sun Theatre – we’d plan on going when they’d have Roy Rogers and Lulu Belle and Scotty. It was kind of fun. We’d have people there who’d act on stage too.

Emily with her grandmother’s handmade quilt and Lulu Belle guitar.  The guitar was given to her by her father when she was 12 years old - he ordered it from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

Emily with her grandmother’s handmade quilt and Lulu Belle guitar. The guitar was given to her by her father when she was 12 years old – he ordered it from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

We’d go to Corwin’s Opera House. I was in a play there one time; I was a maiden. The Senior class, every year they’d put on an operetta – I was the maiden and I waited on the cooks and everybody. Bob Cunningham, Wilmer Reber, Helen Reber, Mildred Beebe, I remember they were in it too. When they’d put on the operetta they’d pick kids in the senior and junior class – it was done through the school, but they’d put on the shows at the Corwin Opera House. I remember we’d always plan on going upstairs there and practicing. My first date with Bernard was at the basketball game at Corwin Opera House. It was good, we had a lot of fun, I was 17 and Bernard was two years ahead of me. He graduated in ’38 and I graduated in ‘40. Some of the kids we knew, they played basketball. They’d play teams from way far away, and they had good players. But I wasn’t a fan of basketball, you know.

Another thing, there weren’t any doctor’s offices in Marion. There was a doctor, but he’d come to your house. There was a doctor that I really liked, Dr. Johnson. He was the one who delivered me. June 5th, 1921. He was a really nice person.
Chapter 5: The Crozier farm, family, and church on M-66.

Emily: On our farm here, we had cows and pigs and sheep. And chickens. One time we had 300 laying hens. We had a chicken coop out here, and then up in the barn, Bernard built another area where we’d keep chickens – we’d get them up to about 5 pounds and then we could sell them. I remember one time, he took 300 of them to Detroit to the farmer’s market.

Another time when he took some chickens down to the farmer’s market, there were people climbing up and over the cab and stealing our chickens. And they’d just take them. Bernard had a cousin and an aunt and uncle down near Detroit – they’d come up every so often and we’d give them 30 dozen eggs to take them down there to sell them at the farmer’s market. And they could sell ‘em you know. People down there were glad to get those country eggs.

One of the things we’d always try to do in the summertime was go to Rose Lake. And all our kids learned to swim over there. We liked to go over there. Over across the road here, there was an area that used to flood. Then, in the wintertime it’d freeze over, and it made a real good skating area. So the kids would always go over there and skate on the ice. And over here north of the barn, we had a lane with fences on both sides, and we’d run the cows down that lane, but the kids used to slide down that lane in the winter. The kids would ice it up and they’d get kids from town to come out and they’d have a sliding party. The girls across the road, the Overholt girls, they’d come over and slide. Beatrice and Nora were the oldest, Dorothy was the same age as Larry. The girls would come over and they’d have sliding parties and things like that. The Salisbury kids from up north of town would come out, there’d be a whole bunch of ‘em come out. They just did things that were available at home.

They played lots of checkers and dominoes. We’d play bridge with cards.

Bernard was a pastor [with the RLDS church] for 20 years. Bernard’s dad, Fred, was one of the founders of the church here. Fred was the treasurer of the group, Fred and Hazel.

The boys would get involved with the kids from the Methodist church. I always thought that was nice. Another thing, all the churches in the area, the pastors all used to meet and get together. I think there were 5 churches that used to meet and get together. I always thought that was good, because the kids would get involved together. And there’s only one God they can worship. I’ve often wondered if people have stopped to think about that.

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4 Responses to Faces in the Crowd: Emily Crozier

  1. Dennise (Dee) Robinson Reply

    October 8, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    “Aunt Emily” as we called her growing up. I love this lady and miss seeing her. She is actually my cousin, her mom and my dad were brother and sister. Uncle Clare was always my favorite uncle. I was so happy when I accidentally came across this article. I haven’t gotten to see Emily since I moved to Oklahoma 20 years ago. It is so good to see pictures of her. I’ve talked to her some but it’s never enough.

  2. Matthew Crozier Reply

    September 2, 2017 at 2:03 am

    Love and miss you little gramma.

  3. Milt Wolschon Reply

    September 1, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I have heard many of the stories but not all. Don’t know how she remembers all the names of the folks. I have trouble with yesterdays names. Great story and I will pass it along to my family

  4. Robin Michell Reply

    August 31, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Emily is one of the sweetest people I know. She taught all my kids baptism classes, not to mention Sunday School. Stopping at her house on Halloween was always a big hit with her homemade smiley face cookies! Us parents always got one too. And ohhhh, her homemade whole wheat bread! She gave me the recipe but it is like a chapter book. She said “you can do it if you try” someday I will try.
    I love you Emily!

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