EVANSTON — Reminiscing about a time when Front Street’s only traffic was created by the shift change at the Wyoming State Hospital or on the weekend when families from Hilliard came in for groceries, Mary Mae Coggins Eastman said she has watched from her front porch as Evanston has developed around her.
When Mary and her husband Arvel James Eastman moved into their home 66 years ago, across from where McDonald’s is now located, the neighborhood was much different. At the time, the highway above their house had not even been built.
Mary was born on April 4, 1924, to Loyma “Bish” and Mae Mary Coggins of Evanston. The couple had one adopted son who was seven years older than Mary Mae. When she was born, her parents were so happy. They had waited for a very long time for the tiny baby girl.
“I had a happy, happy childhood,” Mary remembers of her days spent in the family’s camp house, out on County Road.
She was very close to both of her parents. At times, Mary wished for a sibling to have around.
“I always envied my friends who had brothers and sisters that they fought with,” she said.
Some of her fondest days as a girl were spent along the river having picnics with her family. She said her heart broke when her mother passed away, just a week after Mary’s 15th birthday — “just when I needed her real bad,” Mary said.
She told the story of meeting her husband.
“I was about 13, riding my bike down ... County Road and I hit some gravel and the bike turned over and I fell off and skinned both knees,” she said. “He was there and helped me up and I was very embarrassed … and that was the start.”
The two remained friends and during her junior year of high school Arvel took Mary to her prom at Evanston High School.
Following Arvel’s return from WWII, they married at the courthouse, on Dec. 5, 1946.
“After we got married, we took a greyhound bus to Salt Lake City for a little honeymoon,” Mary said.
She is the mother of four children: Mae Vonne Adams, Mary Ellen Miller, Arvel “Bud” Eastman and Russell Delbert Eastman. Scattered throughout Wyoming and Utah are 12 grandchildren, 20 or more great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandkids.
Mary spoke of her late husband Arvel, who’s been missed dearly since his passing in 1980.
“We had a good marriage and he was a good man and a good father — a very good father.”
Mary said she and her husband worked hard to make ends meet.
“There were times when Christmas was sparse,” said Mary of the times when work was hard to find. She worked at a restaurant that once stood on Front Street, where the Wonderful Inn is now, called the New Paris. She had that job on and off from age 15 until 42, when she went to work in the country store at the State Hospital.
Mary is a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and the local Red Hat Society. A fan of westerns and frontier stories, she is currently working her way through a book called “Spirit Knife” by Donald Porter.
She said her all-time favorite author is Louis L’Amour. To keep her company, she has a dog named Mitzi and two cats, Minx and Willy.
For nearly a century, Mary Mae Coggins Eastman has lived in Evanston. Sixty-six of those years have been spent in her home on Front Street. Mary is forever connected to Evanston and that precious home.
“There were hard times when we struggled to make the payments,” Mary said, “so I never want to leave it. This is my home, I want to stay here for the rest of my life.”