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  • My grandmother had a long history with coffee, not at all remarkable until you factor in her equally long history as a Mormon.

    (Some insider information is necessary here: Mormons are taught to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee, advice that was selectively followed by members in early small settlements The upper echelon of church leaders are referred to as the General Authorities and are afforded great respect and obedience.)

    In the early 1900’s the Mormon congregations were also the town social units, providing dances, plays, dinners, parties and other entertainment. A staple of such gatherings was barley coffee, a suitable substitute for the real thing. Grandmother was noted for her skills at roasting and preparing the barley even though the family’s usual source of coffee was a green MJB can.

    Family lore holds that on one occasion it was learned, at the last minute, that some visiting General Authorities would be attending the town dinner. Fearful that she would run short of barley coffee, Grandmother quietly added some MJB brew to the pot. One of the visitors sought her out to compliment her on the exceptionally fine coffee. She didn’t bat an eye, accepting the praise and telling him it was an old Melvin J. Ballard recipe. (The name of one of the higher Authorities. Note initials; I can't figure out how to bold, color, or underline.)

    Grandmother was not a large woman and her heart gave her problems at several points in her life. Her usual method of dealing with physical setbacks was to have a cup of coffee and work it off. It was a stroke that was the final blow for her. Seeing that she was losing movement and the ability to speak clearly, we started preparations to move her the 30 miles to the hospital when dawn came. The last words I heard her speak, as she somehow managed to grab the front of my mother’s shirt and pull her close, were “Get me a cup of coffee.” We did, and it was her last.
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