The Life of Fern Stoddard Part V: Engagement to Frank Woodbury August 1952

This post will, perhaps, be of most interest to descendants, relatives and friends of Fern Stoddard Woodbury and Frank Woodbury, but beyond the immense value and biographical insight and detail that it provides regarding their lives, it also demonstrates the value of creating and preserving family letters, the value of daily journals, and the insight that can be gained by considering the records created by friends, family and others in the social network of an ancestor’s life. Not only do Maude Dee Porter’s journals provide a rich context and background for Frank and Fern’s letters, but Frank and Fern’s letters also provide insight into various aspects of life in the 1950s: Life in Bancroft, Idaho, what it was like to work for Westinghouse in Salt Lake City, and more.

I have always taken an interest in the love story of my grandparents since they were so loving and dear to each other throughout their lives. Their story also reminds me in some ways of the love stories of my parents, siblings and other family members and it is a pleasure to see the experiences they had in their courtship and engagement leading up to their marriage. Another reason, perhaps, that this topic has been so fun for me to explore is because the documents available to us give us such a clear picture of what it was like.

On 2 August 1952, Frank Woodbury proposed to Fern Stoddard. She accepted the engagement on 13 August 1952.

Maude Dee Porter, Fern’s benefactor, friend, confidante, companion and third mother, recorded of the evening: “In the eve, I went to Joan’s for dinner. Frank came during my absence. After I got home we had music. I retired up stairs and was presently called down to “guess what they had decided.” They were both radiantly happy to announce their engagement. I was happy too. Thinking of my own dear love – and missing him so!” [1]

The next day, 14 August, Maude recorded “Fern and I have so much to talk about and to plan for. We went over Ferns cedar chest & arranged her linens, etc… Downtown at 530. To Emporium (hose & garments for Fern) … Frank came in the eve. & I was again called to see something which was a diamond! Fern & Frank went to Farmington & to Salt Lake to tell news to families. They came back late Frank left still later (Date set for Sept 12th) & then Fern & I talked together until 340 a.m. She is so happy. I am thinking of Dick.”

The next day, Maude wrote “ I took Fern to Ermas to show her diamond. Erma not too pleased to have Ferns wedding to be before her own (set for Sept 30th) Picked up Fern at 1030… Fern & I had lunch & I took her to the 125 bus to go home to see her mother Bless her! She means so much to me.” [2]

Fern’s letter that evening corroborates some of the details from the day: [3]

In response, Frank wrote:[4]

Frank got the car and rushed back immediately to his love. Maude reports that on 18 August, “Came home at 830 & about 15 minutes later Fern & Frank arrived. He has a new (used) Ford. He brot Fern down from Bancroft. Such a radiant, happy couple you seldom see. We had a happy eve together. Frank left at 11.” [5]

From earlier that day, we find that Frank wrote the following letters:[6]

And later that evening, he wrote:

The code Frank gave refers to the corresponding numbers for each letter in the alphabet – ( I LOVE YOU). It seems that after coming down for dinner with Maude, Fern returned to Bancroft and Frank drove back and forth. A few days later, Fern responded:[7]

(living individuals redacted)

On the same day, Fern called Maude to let her know that the wedding date had been changed to October 10 with plans for a reception in Salt Lake (a disappointment to Maude who had already made reservations for the Eccles hall for the original date, but who was understanding).[8]

The ensuing days were a whirlwind of activity for Fern as recorded in Maude’s journal:

August 21, 1952…Home at noon & we got lunch. Fern & I down town directly after. Fern to the bank & I to the office. To Wolfers (night gown for Fern) Nyes (a dress & slips for Fern) to photographers & got our pictures they are pretty good. To Andersons & looked at silver. Fern chose 2 patterns to be sent up to choose from. Also looked for a wedding ring for Frank. All these things most thrilling to the bride to be & I get some of the thrill reflected. I tell many times about the early courting days of Dick & myself. Friday, August 22, 1952 Joan took Fern & me down to the 10 oclock bus for Salt Lake. Arrived 1130 am. Looked at silver at Z.C.M.I. Went to Bishop (Apostle) Richards office & had a nice visit. Told him of Ferns going to Pittsburg. Fern & I had lunch together at the hotel. Spent the p.m. shopping for Ferns trousseau. Looked at wedding dresses at Z.C.M.I. but made no decision Looked for a ring for Frank no decision. To the Hotel at 4. Dorothy and Margaret came & took us out to their home. We made plans for a party for Fern. Frank came for us at 6 & we went to his home for dinner. Mr & Mrs. Woodbury Frank, Fern & I had a nice sociable visit together. Frank brot Fern & me home at midnight. Fern & I had a long visit after he left. She is adorable and very much in love.

On 25 August Fern and Frank both wrote letters to each other.[9]

Frank’s morse code reads, I LOVE YOU. Fern’s letter from the same day reads:

In the next few days, Maude recorded:[10]  “Tuesday, August 26, 1952 Fern & I started out to do a lot of things at 930 a.m. To Topper Bakery & ordered a wedding cake… A talk with Bill Loos he was very nice to Fern. Ordered Ferns silver (Stradvari pattern) at Andersons Got gifts for bridesmaids at Nyes & looked at suits, dresses, robes. To Wolfers & looked at suits & to Pennys for patterns. Looked at wedding dresses at Samuels. Nothing doing… Wednesday, August 27, 1952 Tom (Barker) called for Fern & me & we went to Salt Lake… To Hotel Utah. Checked luggage. No room available. To Z.C.M.I. shopping. Looked at suits, dresses & wedding gowns no purchase. To Makoffs no purchase…Took taxi to Anerbachs. Spent some time with Fern fitting suits. Finally decided no one to be delivered. In luggage dept. Fern bought a suit case as a gift for Frank. Looked at dresses none suitable… Fern & I walked up to the Hotel, calling at the Paris (wedding dress 0) on the way… I talked the clerk into giving us a room, so we stayed (Fern & I). Frank came & he & Fern went to a session at the Temple & after that held rather a lengthy session together… Thursday, August 28, 1952 Fern & I ready to go down for breakfast at 9. Dorothy phoned (also Frank) & we made arrangements for Dorothy to meet us. Fern & I went to Mrs. Clawsons & to Miriams (wedding dress) got nothing… To Boston Store. Hudson Bay, Kieth OBriens & Ermas Shop on our fruitless quest for a wedding dress…To Cordalls just to look see… We went down to Brittans just before closing time & found the wedding dress. Fern & I quietly at home.”

During this same time, Frank’s love letters continued: [11]

The next day, Frank wrote:

Next week, I will share some more!


[1] Annie Maude Dee Porter, Dee, Annie Taylor and Annie Maude Dee Porter Diaries, “1952 Annie Maude Dee Porter Diary,” August 13-14, p. 119, https://cdm.weber.edu/digital/collection/ANN/id/9528 , accessed February 2021.

[2] Annie Maude Dee Porter, Dee, Annie Taylor and Annie Maude Dee Porter Diaries, “1952 Annie Maude Dee Porter Diary,” August 15-16, p. 120, https://cdm.weber.edu/digital/collection/ANN/id/9529 , accessed February 2021.

[3] Fern Stoddard, letter to Frank Woodbury, 15 August 1952, Bancroft, Idaho, Frank and Fern Woodbury Family Archives.

[4] Frank Woodbury, letter to Fern Stoddard, 16 August 1952, Salt Lake City, Utah, Frank and Fern Woodbury Family Archives.

[5] Annie Maude Dee Porter, Dee, Annie Taylor and Annie Maude Dee Porter Diaries, “1952 Annie Maude Dee Porter Diary,” August 17-18, p. 121, https://cdm.weber.edu/digital/collection/ANN/id/9530, accessed February 2021.

[6] Frank Woodbury, two letters to Fern Stoddard, 18 August 1952, Salt Lake City, Utah, Frank and Fern Woodbury Family Archives.

[7] Fern Stoddard, letter to Frank Woodbury, 20 August 1952, Bancroft, Idaho, Frank and Fern Woodbury Family Archives.

[8] Annie Maude Dee Porter, Dee, Annie Taylor and Annie Maude Dee Porter Diaries, “1952 Annie Maude Dee Porter Diary,” August 19-20, p. 122, https://cdm.weber.edu/digital/collection/ANN/id/9531, accessed February 2021.

[9] Frank Woodbury, letter to Fern Stoddard, 25 August 1952, Salt Lake City, Utah, Frank and Fern Woodbury Family Archives; and,

Fern Stoddard, letter to Frank Woodbury, 25 August 1952, Ogden, Utah, Frank and Fern Woodbury Family Archives.

[10] Annie Maude Dee Porter, Dee, Annie Taylor and Annie Maude Dee Porter Diaries, “1952 Annie Maude Dee Porter Diary,” August 26-28, p. 125-126, https://cdm.weber.edu/digital/collection/ANN/id/9534, accessed February 2021.

[11] Frank Woodbury, letter to Fern Stoddard, 27 August 1952, Salt Lake City, Utah, Frank and Fern Woodbury Family Archives; and,

Frank Woodbury, letter to Fern Stoddard, 28 August 1952, Salt Lake City, Utah, Frank and Fern Woodbury Family Archives.

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