Notes on Bertha Wilcken Pratt
Excerpted from Anson B. Call Jr., A Good, Long Life: The Autobiography of Anson B. Call Jr., 1900–1993, ed. Carol Call King (1994), 270 pages, hardbound.
The Call family lived in the Mormon colony of Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico. Anson’s father, Anson Bowen Call Sr., married four times. The first was to Anson Jr.’s mother Mary Theresa Thompson. The third was to Dora Pratt, daughter of Helaman and Dora Wilcken Pratt. Anson Sr. and Dora had three children together, Florence Leah (who died as a child), Charles Helaman and Waldo Noel, before Dora herself died. Charles and Waldo were raised by Mary Theresa. Dora’s father Helaman was also married to Dora Sr.’s sister Bertha Wilcken, a schoolteacher in Dublan. Anson’s history mention’s Bertha several times:
Three times a week the train from El Paso came to Dublan with mail from the states. The bag of mail for Dublan was taken to the home of Aunt Bertha Pratt, the postmistress. It took her about half an hour to get it ready to hand out to us. The grown-ups in town congregated on Pratt’s back porch, waiting to see if there was something for them. First class mail was always in a separate bundle from the newspapers and magazines. Letters were handed out first. Aunt Bertha raised the window in the southeast corner of her house, took each letter as it came, and called out the name of the person it was addressed to.
It was a pleasant time for people to socialize and find out what was going on in town. When Aunt Bertha called out a name, the person who was there for the family called out, “Here!” and the letter was passed back. If she called the name of a person who wasn’t there, she put that letter at the back of the pile and read the next name. If somebody came a little late, one of the people on the porch said, “You have a letter. She already called it.” But the letter was back at the end of the pile, and the tardy one had to wait until all the others were called before his name was called a second time. The magazines and newspapers were handed out last. If nobody was there to pick up mail for a family, Aunt Bertha put it in a mailbox close to the window. The boxes were just labeled A, B, C, and so on down the alphabet. Mail was filed by the last name of the family so Aunt Bertha could hand it out when somebody came for it later.
We could buy stamps at Aunt Bertha’s post office too. Whenever we had any letters to mail out, we brought them to her. She was always nice to us, and I think many people looked forward to those mail call afternoons on Aunt Bertha Pratt’s back porch.
Prayers for Rain
Several things happened in the colonies during my teenage years that made a strong impression on me. One of the things I would like to mention is in connection with a severe drought we had. There was just no rain. It was decided within the stake to have a special fast and prayer meeting to ask the Lord to bless us with rain.
The time I remember so vividly was a beautiful, clear day in July. As we entered the church house for the meeting, the weather was warm and there were no clouds in the sky at all. Sister Bertha Pratt was asked to give the prayer asking our Heavenly Father to send rain. After her prayer, there was a Testimony Meeting and several people bore their testimonies. Before the meeting was over, it was raining. We went out in the tremendous downpour with water running all over the place. It rained for quite a while. In fact, in some places, we got too much rain and it spoiled part of our hay.
I, along with some of the other boys, thought this was just a freak thing that happened. But a few years later another drought came, and we decided to hold another special Fast and Testimony Meeting to ask for rain. I don’t remember who gave the prayer on this occasion, but nearly the same thing happened. This time it rained within a few days instead of immediately after. A nice gentle rain came and lasted for two or three days and really soaked in well. It did more good than the gully washer we had before when it rained so hard. We had plenty of moisture to mature our crops.
I remember very definitely how impressed I was in my youth that Heavenly Father heard those prayers and answered them.
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