Temple Sawdust

By Gertrude M. Richards

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    “Rosie!” called Mama. “It is time for you and Heman to take Papa his dinner.”

    We needed no second call, for this was one errand we delighted in doing. Mama filled a plate with hot food, covered it with a soup dish to keep in the warmth, wrapped it carefully in a large napkin, and placed it in a basket. Then she handed the basket to us with final instructions: “Carry it carefully, don’t play on the way, and hurry home after Papa has eaten.”

    It was ten blocks from our home on East Third South to Salt Lake Temple Block where Papa worked as a stonecutter. But it didn’t seem that long to us as we talked of the fun we’d have while Papa ate his dinner. It was interesting to watch the huge granite blocks being brought in from the canyon quarry by ox-drawn wagons. While the wagons were unloaded, the oxen stood patiently switching at flies with their tails. After the rough blocks were cut and smoothed to the required shape and size, they were tilted and placed in rows like dominoes, leaving the sharp edges protruding like saw teeth. We enjoyed running back and forth on top of these stone dominoes in our bare feet. Shoes were saved for Sunday and for school.

    Sometimes we would watch as skilled workmen cut sun, moon, and star designs into certain stones. Each held a small iron chisel in his left hand and a hard wooden mallet in his right, tapping gently so as not to chip out too much rock and spoil the pattern.

    Today Papa had a special surprise for us. He said, “The men who are making the circular staircase (there was one in each corner of the building) say you may go up as far as it is completed, but you must be very quiet, because this is the Lord’s house.”

    I took Heman’s hand, and together we climbed the huge stone steps—up, up, up until we were out of breath. It was easier going down. Then Papa took us into the carpenter shop where wood for the building was sawed. On the floor was a heap of clean sawdust and Papa told us that the foreman said it would be all right for us to take some home so Mama could show us how to make a pincushion. “Someday it will be a fine thing,” Papa said, “to have a pincushion made with temple sawdust.”

    Eagerly we filled the basket with fragrant sawdust and hurried home. But Mama had no time right then to help with a pincushion. She was trying to finish the washing and ironing for Sister Young, who lived next door, and the baby was cross. I rocked the baby to sleep, then helped Mama prepare supper.

    In the evening, after the dishes were washed and put away, Mama found a piece of strong, durable brown cloth on which she drew a large fig leaf. She showed me how to embroider green lines for veins and outline the edge with a blanket stitch. A matching piece for the back was sewed to the front, leaving a hole near the top to pour in the temple sawdust until the leaf would hold no more. Then we sewed the hole shut so none of the precious sawdust would be lost. When the pincushion was finished I proudly showed it to Papa for his approval, then placed it on top of Mama’s dresser with my other special treasures.

    Sometime later Mama was called to Idaho to help with a new grandchild, leaving me to do the cooking and housekeeping. Heman helped Papa with outside chores, while our little sisters Aggie and Birdie played together under the trees. One morning I noticed how faded and worn Birdie’s hand-me-down dresses were and asked Papa for a quarter to buy material to make her a new dress. At McMaster’s Store I bought a piece of lovely pink gingham. Laying it on the floor, and using pins from the temple-sawdust cushion, I pinned one of Birdie’s old dresses to the cloth for a pattern, then cut around it carefully, and sewed the pieces together. Birdie looked as sweet as a rosebud when Papa came from work that evening.

    When I was older I found work in a dressmaking shop, and learned how to make nice clothes for myself and for Mama and my little sisters too. Soon after this Jody, my childhood sweetheart, asked me to marry him. Looking closely at the temple-sawdust pincushion one day, I knew I wanted to be married in the temple. But after nearly forty years in building, the temple still was not completed, so Jody’s father solved the problem by giving us railroad tickets to Logan. On a beautiful June day we were married in the Logan Temple for time and all eternity.

    The pincushion made from temple sawdust traveled with us to our home in Salt Lake City. It went with us wherever we lived. And it has been a reminder to each of our eight children that the temple is a sacred and important place. Papa was right. It has, indeed, been “a fine thing to have a pincushion made with temple sawdust.”