A Coffee Cup Raised in a Toast to Mormons By Bill Hall, Newspaper Correspondent My mother always had a soft spot for Mormons as a race. I never fully understood that because my mother was a wicked woman in the Mormon sense that she always had a pot of coffee going on the stove. The Mormons are death on coffee (and probably vice versa). But even though they would not share a cup with her, my mother was keen on them. I knew part of the reason. We had no better neighbors than the Mormons who lived on one of the farms adjoining ours.

Those were small Boise valley farms where families had to pitch in together, forming teams to gang-harvest each other's crops. The Mormon neighbors pulled their weight and then some. I also remember the time my mother was down sick and the Mormon neighbor was the first one through the door with a healing bowl of chicken soup. I know that's supposed to be Jewish medicine, but they didn't patent it and the Mormon neighbor couldn't bring coffee. So she brought chicken soup. It's a small thing, but something my mother never forgot.

I now learn there was more to the warmth between my family and Mormonism than that, My older sister, Lois, has just sent me the story she has written on a major event in our family history-the migration of my parents, along with Lois, from North Dakota to Idaho early in the Depression.

She was a small child at the time bur interviewed our mother for the details before Morn died. Many families around here have such stories. The Depression and Dust Bowl blew thousands of Midwesterners in this direction to settle these greener states nearer the Pacific. I knew that three members of my family hitchhiked to Idaho. Thanks to my sister, I now know a good deal more than that.

The report on the journey reveals that the open road was dangerous during that time. People were hungry, desperate and capable of robbery. There were plain old highwaymen out there on the roadways of America. My parents had $30 to their name and $20 of those dollars were sewn into the waist of my father's trousers. But $30 was considerable money then. So they had enough to buy food at Depression prices and enough to sleep at night in 50-cent tourist cabins, sometimes with bathtubs. The most touching part of their story is that, poor as they were, they tipped waitresses. It was only a nickel here and a dime there. But as long as they were able, they wouldn't take their hardship out on a waitress. She had to eat, too.

They went through a series of short rides and some walking. Then, in Nebraska, a trucker came along. He was going all the way to Ogden, Utah. They needed a ride and he needed a little help. He had been hit on the head the day before and robbed of most of his money. He had a blinding headache and had not had any sleep for a long time. He wanted my father to drive while he slept. The trucker had just enough money squirreled away in the truck that the robber missed to buy gas for the rest of the trip, but not enough for a room-or for food. However, he said that was all right. He could get by without eating until they made it to Ogden.

My mother pulled out the small store of bread, bologna and apples she had and made him a meal. He refused at first. He knew how poor they were. But my mother wouldn't take no for an answer. She also gave him some aspirin. And away they all went. Farther down the road, as the sun rose, my father pulled the truck into a cafe and bought breakfast for everyone. Again the trucker tried to refuse, but my parents made him eat. When they arrived in Ogden, he dropped them by the home of a woman he said would welcome them as guests for the night.

The friendly woman took them into her home, saying she was glad to have the company. She served them a feast for dinner and a big breakfast the next morning. As they were leaving, my parents tried to pay her something. She refused, explaining why: "After what you did for the bishop, every Saint in Ogden will be praying for you." She explained to my puzzled parents about Mormons - Latter-Day Saints - and that a bishop was sort of like a preacher. Then away my family went to Idaho, where we never again escaped the good fortune of rubbing shoulders with Mormon neighbors.

That's why my mother was so keen on them, even if they didn't drink coffee.