Friday, February 19, 2010

Primary Presidents

As far as we know, in 33 years of Aurora Branch history, only four women served as Primary president: Myrtle Greer, Iris Dombrow, Louise Erekson, and Lenoir Deans.

Myrtle Greer served the longest by far, starting a small Primary class in her home on May 12, 1932, although she was not originally designated as president. At that time members by and large worked under the direction of the full-time missionaries, and so it was that Elder Jesse Walker conducted that first Primary meeting with Elder Elsworth D. Romney assisting. Elder Elsworth D. Romney and Elder Jesse Walker, 1932

On October 21, 1932, a second class was started at the home of Myrtle McCraney, who lived on the east side of Aurora at 940 Liberty Street. By 1936 classes had been combined and were meeting at McCraney’s with eight children, three of whom were members. Louise Greer, Helen Marie McCraney, and Jimmie Greer, the first three children in the Aurora Branch Primary, 1932

Unfortunately, there is a gap in the record from 1937 until 1949. Then Iris Dombrow was called to be the Primary president. By this time 16 children were enrolled and they were meeting at the Erekson home at 1515 Hoyt. Being president didn’t mean that was all Iris did; she also taught the older boys and girls in a combined Home and Trail Builders class. The Primary grew quickly and soon had an enrollment of 23 children with a four classes and a fully organized presidency, all of whom taught classes.

About 1953 Iris Dombrow was called as stake Primary president. Each year members of the Primary General Board would travel from Salt Lake City to hold conferences with all of the Primary officers and teacher in the various stakes. When Salt Lake visitors came to Chicago, they sometimes went out for dinner, as shown above, ca. 1956: (l to r), Earl and Naomi W. Randall (She wrote “I Am a Child of God”); Iris and Ray Dombrow; Bob and Louise Erekson; Arta Hale and her husband (She was 1st counselor in the General Primary presidency).

Louise Erekson (shown here ca. 1959) had been serving as a counselor to Iris in the Aurora Branch Primary and was called as president in 1953. On October 29, she combined the opening of the Primary year with a birthday party for her son Tommy, age 6, and “only children interested in Primary were invited.” That year the Primary children collected $19.27 in birthday pennies to send to the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Louise was soon called to be stake Primary secretary (and later a counselor) to Iris Dombrow, and Aurora again needed a Primary president.

On September 26, 1954, Lenoir Deans was set apart with Myrtle Greer and Evelyn Kettley as her counselors.

Lenoir Hatfield Deans was born in Chicago and grew up as a member of the Logan Square Ward. She and her husband Ronnie started attending the branch when they moved to a house built for them by Bob Erekson on Route 59, about seven miles east of Aurora. Under her direction the Primary presented a Sunday evening program in April, held a picnic in June, and marched in a round-the-block parade to celebrate Pioneer Day in July. In August they presented another Sunday evening program and held an end-of-the-year picnic.

On August 5, 1956, Myrtle Greer was set apart as Primary president again and she held that position for the next nine years, until the Aurora Branch became the Fox Valley Ward in June 1965.

These were years of phenomenal growth and transition in Aurora. It was exciting to have so many children in Primary, but it also meant calling an army of teachers and training them in monthly in-service lessons taught by Mary Jane Greer [Dalley] around the dining room table in the Greer home.

Also in the 1950s the Primary organization, as directed from Salt Lake, changed dramatically with new names for the classes, new lesson books, and visual aid kits. The Aurora Branch kept pace as best it could.

By 1961 the roster of officers and teachers looked like this: Myrtle Greer, president with Gladys Sullivan and Lucy Doty as counselors and Phyllis Mindar secretary. Mary Jane Greer was the chorister and in-service trainer. Teenage girls taught the three youngest classes: Moonbeams (age 3), Bethine Mindar; Sunbeams (4), Julia Woolcott; Stars (age 5) Rose Marie Resch. Marlene Kettley taught the Rainbows (age 6); Pat Phillips, the Co-Pilots (age 7); and Rosalee Spahr, the Top-Pilots (age 8). There were still not quite enough older boys and girls to fill three classes each—boys and girls ages 9, 10, and 11 being separated. Still the boys had Blazers (age 9-10) taught by Ed Kettley and Viola Cook, and Guide Patrol (age 11), taught by Irma Swords. The girls’ classes were Gaynotes with Janie Arnes and Merrihands with Beverly Reynolds.

The printed program for a Primary presentation on April 29, 1962, lists the names of 52 children. The Primary had come a long way—many thanks to the devoted presidents and teachers.

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