This is the life story of Rulon Max Huntington. John's uncle and we are blessed that he is still alive. At your leisure read about his life. This is long so I broke them down to four posts - This is part 1 of his autobiography.
By: Rulon Max Huntington
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’m not doing this for me. It is a priesthood request and a flavor of what it was like as a boy.
I was born at home in Midway, Utah, without a doctor but with the help of Maggie Kelly, a neighbor who was a midwife, on September 28, 1918. I was born in the family home at the corner of Stringtown Road and Cemetery Road. This was a two story home made mostly of red brick which was made from clay from the farm and fired and dried in a kiln nearby. The clay, the molds, and the brick were less than 300 yards from the house.
My mother and father were loving and concerned parents. There was little dissension or discord and I grew up feeling safe and loved by them and my siblings. By the time I came along, Ross was in college so my life was involved with Maurine, Roy, Mable, Robert, Relva, and Russell. Everyone worked hard, had plenty to eat, went to church, and lived as most other families around us and observed the ritual of family prayer twice daily plus blessings on our food. We were also taught what it means to be ethical and always do the right thing.
As to specific events in my early years, they are few and I am not sure that they are in order as they happened. I remember that Bob and I were very sick with diphtheria. We were isolated from the rest of the family in what we called the front room. I recall my throat was so sore I could only swallow liquids. I had an extremely bad cough but the things that stick in my mind most is that Dr. Wherritt would come twice a day and give us each a shot in the thigh. It hurt so badly! I hated them. They seemed to help Bob and he got better but my throat was so swollen that it was getting very hard for me to breathe. Dad called Dr. Wherritt in the morning and he came as quickly as his Model T Ford would bring him. He brought with him a can that had menthol and probably some other ingredients and I presume an alcohol base that would burn. I was lying in the metal crib that had been used for most of the family growing up that had sides that would slide up and down. Mom put a bed sheet over the crib and the doctor lit the can with a match and put it under the crib so the vapors would come up and help me to breathe. It didn’t seem to help and the doctor was standing by to do a tracheotomy. My Dad gave me a blessing and from that point on I began to get better.
Another event that took place when I was about two years old is in the fall of the year. I was dressed in a warm coat and cap to go to the barn where Dad was building some stanchions in the cow barn. There was a cow with a new calf and as I approached the barn, I guess the cow felt threatened and she came after me and knocked me over. I cried and Dad came out with a hammer in hand, threw the hammer and hit her in the head and drove her away from me. He picked me up and took me to the house where Mother took me in her arms and held me close. I felt so warm and safe.
I also grew up having a great appreciation for the beauty of the valley and my surroundings. Timpanogas was a main fascination and the Cascade Springs, Snake Creek canyon, and the big grove of aspen from which we would drag loads of wood each summer for our winter fuel. These huge piles of wood had to be chopped or sawed into stove sized pieces, mostly by hand in my younger years. Pine Canyon was another beautiful area. It took you to Guardsman Pass and Brighton or to Park City and Snyderville where as a young man Dad and one of the boys would go in midsummer to help put up meadow hay and the other boys would stay home to milk and irrigate.
Bob and I would often unload a load of hay, peel our clothes off quickly and take a swim in the creek nearby. It was quite cold. Another bit of information that is interesting to me is that Dad was a very progressive man. He put in the poles to support the telephone wires from Charleston Road to Stringtown and our home so we had the first telephone in our area. We also had the first bathroom and interior water taps. Our first automobile was a 1921 Model T Ford which I don’t remember but I learned to drive in a 1927, seven passenger, four door Oldsmobile with “button on” side curtains.
Finally, I come to the most dramatic and vivid memory of my childhood, the death of my little sister, Relva. It was late May and Relva was fifteen months old and a toddler. I was four years old. It was a beautiful summer day and my mother was going out to work in the large vegetable garden plot. The kitchen door was open to keep the house cool but Mother had put a chair on its side, across the door to keep Relva from getting out and asked me to watch her while she was working. Well, I don’t remember much what I was doing, but sometime later, Mother came in and asked me where Relva was and after a thorough search of the house Mother became quite excited and called Dad from the barn and the search continued around the outside of the house. Since the creek ran through the corral and pasture it became a focal point of the search. By this time most of the neighbors were assisting to find the baby.
I am not sure just how long, maybe three hours, and you can only imagine the anguish and emptiness being felt by my parents. By that time Maurine was home to assist and as she was coming to the house from the barn she had to cross the little foot bridge over the irrigation ditch. She had her head down, crying, and through the cracks between the boards, she saw something. She investigated and found little Relva, face down in only four or five inches of water. She evidently had tried to crawl under the bridge and a nail in one of the boards had caught her dress and held her face down. The momentary joy of finally finding her was soon gone as the realization that she could not be revived. Dr. Wherritt had worked on her in the back yard, trying to get the water out of her lungs. When he finally gave up and pronounced her to be dead, my poor mother collapsed in a heap and the doctor became worried about her. Though it has been eighty years, the scene is as clear as the day it happened.
Bob started school at six years old and was not promoted (the teachers fault). Mother started me the next year so Bob and I went clear through grade and high school together and I think the reason she did this was because I was so timid and backward that she thought Bob, because he was more forward and integrated in the school, could help me. He did and I’m very grateful. My first grade teacher was Miss Fillerup, second, Simpson, third, Huber, fourth, Duke, fifth, Coleman, sixth, Probst, seventh, Rex, eighth, Karl Probst. I enjoyed school and usually made good grades. I especially like math and music. I also enjoyed recess to play sports or shoot marbles. Sometimes I would go across the street to great Grandma Betsy Ross (not the flag maker) who was bedridden and about ninety years old. She would ask me to get a small paper sack out of the bureau drawer and she always had some mints in the sack and she would give me one which I always enjoyed.
Another memory is the harassment of Charlie Hamilton who would periodically engage me in taunting and pushing me until I would fight and always he would beat me up and leave me crying.
My high school experiences were quite normal and happy my first three years. I loved the Glee Club and enjoyed all of my classes. I didn’t date at all. I came up through the Aaronic Priesthood and all the church activities and started to sing solo at church and other activities when I was thirteen years old. Eventually I sang at funerals, doing solos, duets with Marge Provost or Roy Huffaker and about ten years in the male quartet with Roy Huffaker, Karl Probst and Reed Kohler. Back to high school. My senior year was very eventful. My classes were quite heavy. I took agriculture from Mr. Hatch, English from Nell Madsen, physical education, and physics from Mr. Clark, government from Mr. Clegg and speech from Eva Wilson. It was in this speech class where my life changed. It was where Vonda came into my life. She was the most vivacious, outgoing and energetic person that I had ever known. At the dances she and Vernon Winterton would go around the dance floor with such speed and precision that everyone watched them, including me, with much envy that I couldn’t do that with her. She was voted the most popular girl in the school and I was one of the most backward and bashful boys in the valley. She never lacked for a date and I never had a date.
We rode in buses that had no heat. There was much talk about girls and light hearted banter about just about anything. It was a time of growing from childhood into adulthood, a time of learning about responsibility after depending on our parents for fifteen years or more, a time of discovery and learning, of testing our wings and our theories and discovering how wise and knowledgeable our parents were and how much there was to learn.
Vonda was much more mature than was I and participated in almost every activity that was presented. She started in the band when in the eighth grade, playing the snare drum. There were four girls her same age and they called themselves the “dumb drummers”. The band, under the direction of Delmar Dixon, became a well trained, highly skilled group of musicians and also a marching band that were given superior rating in almost every competition that they entered.
Vonda also excelled in tap and interpretive dancing and won the state competition in those categories. She, because of her smallness, along with another girl, was chosen by Miss Hodgson to be in an adagio. This presentation was with six very muscular senior boys. They would swing and throw these girls up in the air and across the stage for the other boys to catch. Vonda and the other girl had a very abbreviated gold sequined costume on and for that day and age it was quite a spectacular sight. In fact, Vonda’s Dad was upset about her costume and scolded her to never do that again.
She was in many of the school plays and, as you know, she could be either funny or dramatic. She took state in her humorous reading competition, was a cheerleader for three years, and was asked almost weekly to give readings at civic and church functions.
Wasatch High School had an awards program called the Block W for special achievements. You would earn your W first and then a pearl on each point of the W for recognition of each achievement. I had my W and three pearls but Vonda had made her W plus nine pearls. For each pearl when the five points were full they gave you a ruby so she had four rubies and one pearl. The W was a lapel pin. My W and two pearls came for music and 1 pearl for football.
The principal, William Bond, was always thinking of ways to keep the youth involved in activities such as dancing on weekends so they would not be so apt to drink, smoke, etc. He made a bet of a five pound box of candy if Vonda could get a date with the three most bashful boys in school - Dee Mecham, a junior, and Robert Hewett, and me. This was at the beginning of her junior year and by October 5th she had dated the other two and I was taking a class in speech in the school auditorium. I was sitting in class early on October 5th, 1936, studying, when Vonda came in and sat down beside me and turned on the charm, telling me she had a date that night that she really didn’t want to go on. She asked me what I thought she should do and I said I didn’t know but she could just tell him or she could get another date. That was all she needed and said, “But what if no one asked me,” and then waited for me to ask her, which I did. With a big smile on her face, she picked up my hand and patted me on the back of my hand as she held it up in the air to show Mr. Bond, whose office door overlooked the auditorium, to show him she had completed her conquest.
You can imagine how my self esteem went up as we continued to date and meet in the school hallway. I knew that many of the boys envied me. In the next two years we dated as often as I could get the car or go with someone else. It was a time of great joy and getting to know each other and our families. Vonda went with other boys quite often. I never really dated another girl but felt I had no right to ask her to go steady. As is normal, we had some disagreements but enjoyed immensely going with other couples, Leo and Alice, Dave and Edna, Wilburn and Verna, etc.
In the times of dating I was so naive and unschooled in how to treat a date that I’ve always been surprised that Vonda would continue to go with me. I had grown up in a family that was not very demonstrative. Even though we knew we were loved, it was difficult for me to say, “I love you”. It became a bit of contention with her because she was so uninhibited with her feelings.
Our first date was on October 5, 1935, and I graduated in May of 1936. By the late fall of 1937 I had decided that I would like to get married so I asked my mother to go to Salt Lake City to find an engagement ring as we looked to try to find a ring that would fit my finances. I had been able to save up close to $45.00 over the summer but at this time I had not asked her to marry me. We found a combination engagement and wedding ring for $18.00 so I decided to buy her a cedar chest also, which we also found for $18.00. This was either just before or just after Thanksgiving but Vonda was working in Charleston in Scrappy’s Café and was living with her sister, Elva and Verdell Ritchie who owned the café. She worked ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week for $1.00 a day.
Since she was not at home, I asked her father if I could leave the cedar chest at their home so I could surprise her for Christmas. He agreed so on Christmas Eve I picked up Leo and Alice, Dave and Edna and drove to Charleston to pick up Vonda who was still working at the café and we were going to a dance. Vonda took me out to the car and gave me a brightly wrapped package which I opened and found a Helbros wrist watch, curved to fit the wrist. I began to well up with tears. I had never had anything so nice in my life and I knew that it must have cost her at least one month’s salary, which it did. I kissed her and thanked her the best way I could and I knew she was expecting something in return.
We went back inside and the other couples had exchanged gifts. We started to go up to the power plant so Vonda could get ready for the dance. As we were going up the prairie road Vonda joked that everyone had a gift but her. We were in the front seat, the other couples in the back, so I reached in my coat pocket and took out the engagement ring box and handed it to her and turned the interior light on so she could see. She got this mouth opened surprised look and as the tears came she said, “Stop this car you crazy fool and put this on my finger!” I did that and kissed her again and as we looked around, all four people in the back seat were up looking at us.
I hadn’t asked Vonda if she would accept it and no one else but me and my parents knew that I had planned to do this. The other couples were totally surprised. Now that is about as unromantic as anything could be. It’s a wonder to me that she decided to go on with me. One other thing. She was out on a date the night before with Jack Carlson.
We continued up to the plant north of Heber City for her to get ready to go to the dance. We walked in the door and she saw the cedar chest and started to cry again and said, “Oh, thank you Dad.” He said, “If you don’t like it I’ll put it out in the chicken coop.” She walked over to it and saw a pillow top with a love verse on it and knew it came from me. Then she cried again. Well, we finally went to the dance in Heber and enjoyed the rest of the evening. It was truly a night to remember.
Christmas day we had dinner at both families and had an opportunity to do some serious talking and both felt that it would not be in our best interest to have a long engagement. We needed a short time to do all the planning, get our temple recommends, organize a reception and get our patriarchal blessings. It really was a whirlwind two and a half weeks to January 10th, 1938. Vonda had to quit her job and I had to try and get money for everything. In the previous September I had worked two days helping Bill Farrell do his threshing. He still owed me $10.00 which I had to beg him for so I could pay for the marriage license and I had to take my Dad to sign with me because the law at that time was that you were not an adult until you were 21. I was only 19. Just prior to this Vonda said it was necessary to ask her father, Papa Bill, for her hand in marriage. We went that night to visit her parents and Bill was on shift at the power plant. I walked across the highway and knowing that he was a real joker and would put me off for as long as he could, because he knew why I was there. I simply walked in and said, ABill, Vonda and I have decided to get married and wondered if it is alright with you.@ He looked at me with a sly grin and said, “Hell no, it’s not alright. I’ve got enough to feed!” Knowing him, I knew he was kidding. Vonda got a lot of her wit from him and a lot of her wisdom from both her mother and father. She said many times that she had so much affection for her parents that she would never do anything to make them ashamed of her. That’s just one of the things that made me love her so much.
That Christmas Eve was so very memorable. I don’t think I slept much that night. Christmas morning Russell and I were up early and I remember very little about “our” Christmas except all the stockings filled with fruit, nuts, and candy and then it was time to go out and milk and do all the feeding and cleaning.
We came back into the house where it was nice and warm and the smell of breakfast filled our nostrils - bacon, eggs, toast, and melted cheese and fried potatoes. I was hungry and Russ had gone into the dining room checking for presents. I had an opportunity to sit and visit with Mom and Dad and tell them about what happened that night. Before I finished they seemed to be very pensive and had slightly misted eyes. I waited for them to speak and finally Dad looked at me in a most kindly and loving manner and said, “I’m so happy for you and Vonda. Please don’t let down the bars”. In other words, please keep your chastity. I knew what he meant and I was grateful. Mother also said she was happy in a more reserved attitude. It would take a little more time for her to get used to losing her bashful little boy. Dad loved a good funny story so he and Vonda got along just fine.
About 10:00 A.M. I cleaned up and went up to Vonda’s home. They always had a special and unusual Christmas. Presents were piled high. Papa Bill and Esther were both just like kids themselves and made everyone feel special. I only have one word to describe the atmosphere at her home on Christmas, hilariously marvelous. It was always a riot. Elva and Verdell Ritchie, Avis and Owen Farley, Faris and Pauline and all of their children made them a Christmas to remember.
After a sumptuous dinner and things had settled down we left to go to my house and have an opportunity to talk and do some planning. Because of my lack of letting Vonda know my true feelings and intensions, we had not had a chance to discuss any of the plans for our future, like where we were going to live, a job, wedding plans, etc. On the way home as we talked, Vonda said something to the effect that she didn’t believe in long engagements and I concurred whole-heartedly. We laughingly agreed that we had nothing of this world’s goods or wealth but we had lots of faith and hope to compensate, strong bodies and a good dose of determination was all we needed.
When we arrived home about 2:00 PM, Mother, Dad, and Russell were there but also Mable, my sister, and her boyfriend, Karl Wilde, who came up from Provo. We exchanged season’s greetings with them and of course the talk turned to our engagement. Mable, in her outspoken way, said, ABut he is just a boy.@ Everyone laughed, but it was agreed by all that we should get married very soon. Mable called Vonda into the kitchen and of course I followed and she said to Vonda, AIf you hurt this boy I will never forgive you.@ Vonda gave me a squeeze and said, AI promise.@ Mable laughed, knowing she didn=t have to worry.
We tentatively set January 10th, 1938, as our wedding date, which gave us just two weeks to get everything ready. That=s not much time to prepare but we felt we could do it. My Dad suggested we needed to get our patriarchal blessings so he called Patriarch Henry T. Coleman and made an appointment for us on the next Sunday afternoon. It was never a question that we would be married in the Temple. We each had to have our interview with the Bishop to get our recommends. My Bishop was Nephi Probst, with whom I met and one of the things I asked him is, ADo you think I should go on a mission before we get married?@ He paused for a few seconds and said, AThere are many ways to do missionary work and I don=t have a doubt that you and Vonda can and will fulfill a greater mission together than you can accomplish alone.@ We were so grateful for this advice and in his confidence in us, so I got my recommend. Vonda=s Bishop was Fred G. Carlile of Heber 2nd Ward and she also got her recommend. Getting temple clothing in those days was quite a problem and it all had to be hand ironed.
My recollection about the days of the week are all past my memory so the timing is not as important to try and get all the facts and one of these is that Dad and Mom agreed we could stay with them for the time being and work for our board and room. Vonda would continue to work for Elva. The old home in Stringtown was a large two story home so it was not crowded. I didn=t have enough money to buy the marriage license, which I recall was $3.00. The previous September I had worked two full days for Bill Farrell, helping him thresh his grain, for which he owed me $10.00 and had not paid. I went to his house to tell him I needed the money so I could buy our marriage license. Fortunately, he was able to pay me but I still had a problem. I needed my father’s signature to get the license. In 1938 you were not an adult until you were 21 years old. I was only 19 years old. I was just a bit embarrassed but I had no choice and it was only temporary embarrassment. My father ordained me to the Melchizadek priesthood and made me an Elder.
Because we were so busy the time seemed to fly by in a hurry. As I recall, January 10th, 1938, came on a Monday and we asked Vonda to stay at our home so we could ride together to the temple. We needed to be at the temple by 7:00 AM so we had to leave about 5:00 AM. We were driving a 1937 Chevrolet that had no heater or windshield warmer and the moisture from our breath coated all the inside windows with a coat of ice from the bitter cold outside. A small bag of salt was used to rub the inside of the windshield to keep a small hole to see the road and we had lap robes to keep us warm. We also put a piece of cardboard in front of the radiator to keep the water in the car warm. The roads were only two lanes and covered with snow and quite steep at the summit so travel was very slow but we did arrive on time. Vonda=s family came down later. At the temple we showed our recommends and were greeted by special workers who made us feel that they and our parents would help us to feel at ease and comfortable. There was much preliminary work to be done and I think we went into the 9:00 session. We each made our individual covenants and learned much about the Father=s expectations of how we should live and the blessings of obedience. There was too much to absorb in only one session. We needed to go back again and again but at a later time. At the end of the session we were taken into the Celestial room and it truly felt Celestial. Here we could meditate and feel the Spirit of our Savior and know that he was very near.
Shortly, we were taken into the large sealing room. Our families and a few friends were seated around the room. The altar was in the center of the room and the mirrors on opposite walls. Looking into the mirrors seems to go on forever, a significant representation of eternal marriage. We had asked for Elder Nicholas G. Smith to marry us and he was there and recounted about the endowment and gave much good advice to us and our families. He then asked us to kneel at the altar while he performed the ceremony. We each said our AI do=s@ and he asked if I had a wedding ring for the ring ceremony and I said I had left it home in a drawer. You can imagine the ripple of laughter and disappointment that went through the crowd. Fortunately, Vonda had a good sense of humor and after he pronounced us man and wife, he said, AYou may kiss the bride.@ We leaned across the altar and enjoyed an extended kiss as Yvonne Cummings Watson gave an extended sigh. It was a mixture of tears of joy and laughter. It was a beautiful ceremony and we are always grateful to Nicholas G. Smith for his loving and gracious mood that he left with all of us.
Mom and Dad and Vonda and I had been invited to eat dinner with Ross and Mel who lived in Salt Lake on third south and third east, as I remember. Vonda=s family got together at Avis=s place. We had made a decision to stay in a hotel but we had no car to go home the next morning and I am not sure how we solved that now but we did somehow.
Bishop Nephi Probst had previously asked Vonda to teach the small children in Sunday school and she did a fabulous job as we all knew that she would. We stayed with Dad and Mom where I worked for them for our board and room and Vonda worked for Elva at Scrappy=s. I was also riding a horse every morning one mile up to Grandpa Ross in Midway to help him milk the cows and feed the livestock, etc. Grandpa lived all alone in a fairly large home and he agreed that he could live in a couple of rooms and we could have the rest of the house, including the kitchen.
The snow was going fast and the days were warm and Vonda=s Mom, Esther, Avis and Pauline, Vonda and I took on the task of cleaning, painting and papering the whole house. Grandpa had lived alone for several years and was not a housekeeper in any sense of the word and there were bed bugs and much stuff that had to be burned. We had to fumigate and all in all it took the four of us three full ten hour days to prepare the house. Grandpa was happy to be in a clean, fresh environment. There was no bathroom, only an outhouse. Vonda and I were happy to finally be by ourselves. She wanted to try her hand at cooking and housekeeping by herself and she did a remarkable job. Just a couple of cooking blunders early on. She made some baking powder biscuits. My sister Maurine was coming to lunch. She bit into one of the biscuits and broke a tooth. Needless to say, we had a hilarious good laugh and both families wouldn=t let her forget it for a long time. Vonda was an immaculate housekeeper and while Grandpa Ross would go to Guy Coleman=s store and play cards, she would clean his place, for which he was grateful.
The years following the great depression there was a government sponsored make work project called W.P.A, Work Project Administration, and they were putting the first sidewalks in Midway. Through the help of Guy Coleman I went to work with W.P.A. as of April 1st, 1938. We badly needed some transportation so Vonda=s Dad took us to Provo where we purchased a 1929 Model A Ford coupe for $100.00. We paid $10.00 down and agreed to pay $30.00 per month for three months. Our agreement was guaranteed by her Dad. How proud we were as we drove up the canyon in our new car. Gasoline was about $.18 a gallon. I continued to help Dad in the mornings, evenings, Saturday and Sunday which gave us most of our food and Vonda continued to work part time so we were doing quite well. We were completely involved in church on Sunday and in M.I.A. on Tuesday nights. We were also called to entertain at many church and community programs, one more reason that we needed a car.
The summer went by rather quickly and interestingly, I was helping build the sidewalks of Midway and helping Dad as much as I could. Vonda kept up the house, cooked the meals, worked part time and became the hairdresser and stylist for our womenfolk in the neighborhood. She also took over paying the bills. We were each learning our part in living as man and wife. I think Vonda was much more mature than I was.
Vonda=s sister, Avis, and her husband, Owen Farley, lived in Salt Lake City and he worked as a baker and cake decorator for New England Bakeries. He had secured a job for Faris as a clean up worker and Pauline as a retail sales person in the front of the bakery. It was located on 9th south and Main and they had worked there most of the summer. About September 15, Owen told us that the first of October another job for clean up would be available and if I wanted it he could get it for me. The salary was $25.00 per week. Since my W.P.A. job was only temporary and was somewhat of a stigma, being on government assistance, we decided to move to Salt Lake and take the job.
We went to look for an apartment with Vonda=s parents. Most of the ones that we could afford were dirty and had bedbugs. Esther could tell by the smell and she would simply say, ANo, not this one.@ We finally settled on a one room apartment. My brother and his wife had leased a large two story home in the avenues area. It had five bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs. Each bedroom was leased to a young couple and shared the bathroom. Ross and his family lived in the downstairs. Our rent was $18.00 per month. We had purchased a davinette, a sofa that the back would lay down to make a bed, a small wood table and two wood chairs. Orange crates with curtains served as kitchen cabinets, a small gas stove was our only way to cook and that was the way we lived. We had a specific time to bathe and much conversation in the hallway.
I went to work from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM. We had to clean all the trays, bread tins, utensils, work benches, and machinery and also keep the floor clean. Another job was to help load the distributing truck and unload the empty trays off the truck. The bakers and all the help were very congenial and I enjoyed very much working there. Very often Vonda would catch a ride to town and we could go to a double header movie for $.10 each, an all afternoon entertainment.
I had made a call to the office of Spencer J. Cornwall, director of the Tabernacle Choir for a tryout. He called me back at Ross=s telephone because we didn=t have a phone, and asked me to come to his office the next day at 3:00 PM. Needless to say, I was very nervous when I went in but he greeted me warmly and questioned me about my voice training, of which I had none except my high school teacher. He then sat down at his piano and asked me to go through a few scales, making me sing to the highest notes I could reach. He arose from the piano and faced me, paused a few moments then said, ABrother Huntington, there are no vacancies in the choir at the moment but I would like you to come to my office twice a week to let me help you practice.@ He also said I should get records of Richard Crook, a very famous tenor of that day. He said my voice was as near like his as he had heard and that I should copy as near as possible his voice, interpretation and inflection, which I did. By this time it was at the end of January and we were in a routine and making progress in acquiring a few household items.
One day at work Vonda called me and said that Dad would like to talk to me. Could I please take fifteen minutes to talk to him and I said I would. This was somewhere in the middle of February and when Dad came I found a quiet corner and a couple of chairs and Dad began by saying that he was just unable to keep up with all the work on the farm and that none of the other boys was interested in running it. He had gone to Vonda first I suppose to see if she wanted to live on a farm before asking me. He also asked me if I had any interest in buying it and that none of the other boys had the slightest interest in it. Of course, it took me by surprise and I didn=t know how to answer him so after some pause I told him that I was definitely interested but I would need some time to talk to Vonda and that we had no money and doubted that we could borrow a large amount of money to pay for it. He then said that he could borrow the money from Federal Land Bank and all we had to do is guarantee to make the monthly payments. The purchase price was $10,000 which included livestock and machinery.
We decided it would be a good opportunity and Vonda was excited to have a home to call our own and decorate to her taste and to keep neat and clean and also to have some space and privacy. There were approximately 30 head of cattle, 5 horses, 3 pigs and 20 chickens, 49 acres of land and140 acres of hill ground, west of the cemetery.
In early February we traded in the Model A Ford and purchased a 1938 Plymouth sedan. We moved in on March 1st, 1939. My folks had bought a home on Main Street in Midway, a home that had been built for my mother=s grandmother, which they were remodeling. The folks had left enough furniture and dishes for us to live and they were staying with us most of the time until their house was finished and Russell was also living there and helping me with the chores and milking. The weather was warming and the corral was starting to thaw. It was time to start hauling out and spreading the manure and Vonda was out there helping me while Russell was in school.
The next few months were busy, plowing, harrowing, planting and preparing for irrigation and always the milking twice a day by hand. I was called as a counselor in the Sunday School and was asked to sing in a quartet of Karl Probst, Reed Kohler, and Roy Huffaker and we practiced sometimes three times a week and performed all over northern Utah at the Salt Lake Country Club to the Bushnell Amputee Hospital in Brigham City and most often our wives were with us. Very often Vonda was also a participant on these programs and I sang at funerals, funerals, funerals.
I applied in the summer to the school board to drive the school bus even though school started in early September but I couldn=t get my chauffeurs license until my birthday on September 28th. I had to be 21 years old. Frank Clayburn drove for me during that time. I started out at $30.00 per month but it helped us greatly. I drove a 36 passenger 1937 International bus with seats that ran lengthwise along each side and a straddle seat down the middle. I have to confess I ground a few gears before I learned to shift. The other drivers were Bert Carlson, Charleston, John Young, Wallsburg, Otis Sweat, Center Creek, Jim Orgill, Daniels Creek, Chase Crook, Lake Creek, Wilson Young, north of Heber, Morgan Keller, Hailstone, and Laurence Luke, north Midway.
One of the things Vonda and I did in the summer of 1939 was to go back to the temple weekly and we were able to get 7 or 8 couples who hadn=t been back since they were married to go with us. As we were going into the dressing room a temple worker came up to us and said that they needed a couple of sturdy men to do some baptisms for the dead and he picked Ren Provost and Darwin Schear, a job which they did each week for several months.
The next two or three years were very eventful. We had become very close to Faris and Pauline as they would come up from Salt Lake with their family almost every weekend to be with Papa Bill and Esther and we would go up to the power plant to visit with them. In May of 1940 my sister, Mable, was expecting her first baby. She lived in Provo and was quite ill from albumin poisoning. She called us to let us know she was going in on May 27 to deliver her child and was somewhat apprehensive because of the albumin. This was before antibiotics were used. We told her we would get Roy Huffaker and be down to the Utah Valley Hospital as soon as we could to give her a blessing after doing the milking. Roy and Iona, Vonda and I arrived at the hospital at about 6:00 PM and she was already in delivery. We sat and waited and briefly talked to Karl Wilde, Mable=s husband. About 6:45 Karl came back sobbing and said the doctor couldn=t save her but was able to save the baby boy. She was 25 years old. My mother and father came in just as we were informed and it was an unbelievably sad moment for all of us. Karl was so broken up that he had to leave and be by himself and decide what to do about the baby.
The next five days were very difficult for all of us. Karl, Mom and Dad planned the funeral for May 31st, Vonda=s birthday, a sad occasion.
One funny incident about Karl and Mable is that when they were married we planned a party at our house for them and Vonda was to furnish the wedding cake. She spent all afternoon doing a two layer round cake in two nine inch pans, and when they came out of the oven they were as flat as when they went in. We all had a big laugh and much comment about a flat wedding cake. When we tasted it she had used salt instead of sugar and we couldn=t eat it.
Another incident that happened a year earlier while my Dad and Mom were still living with us is that my Dad=s stepmother (he called her and treated her like his own mother) who was old and could not live alone, was living with us. She had kidney disease and we knew she couldn=t live very long. She was going into semi-coma condition and Vonda was sitting at the side of the bed keeping her lips moist. It was mid-morning and I came into the bedroom but Vonda gestured me not to talk and I understood but I walked over to Vonda and teasingly and gently tugged on a lock of her hair. She swatted at me and laughed. Grandma evidently saw this and beckoned Vonda to come closer and said quietly, AHe=s just like his Grandpa. If he bothers you just jump straddle of his neck and piddle down his back.@ It took Vonda by surprise and she looked at Grandma quizzically and Grandma just smiled and settled down into the bed. Those were the last words that she spoke. She passed on in the early afternoon. We all loved her very much.
Grandma was to be buried by Grandpa in the Salt Lake City cemetery. They had lived their whole lives in the northwest area of Salt Lake City on Oakley Avenue so the funeral was to be held in her home ward. I had been asked to sing, AYou are a Wonderful Mother,@ and I must insert here that Grandma, whose name was Agnes Rosetta, had two sisters, Gussie Rasmussen and Lessie Freeman, who were at the funeral. Alas, as I started to sing, I heard Aunt Lessie singing softly with me. I kept on singing and Vonda who was sitting by her, patted her on the knee to get her to stop but she sang the complete song with me. When she finished she settled back in her seat and whispered to Vonda, AAgnes had asked me to sing at her funeral and I promised her that I would and now it is done.@ Quite an experience.
In 1941 Dad and Mom had decided to spend their winters in Mesa, Arizona, working in the temple and where it was warm. They had made arrangements to live in the home of Sister Westover and had been packing their car for several days. They left to go through Needles, California, because the roads south of Kanab were so steep and winding. They left on Saturday, Dec. 6th. On Sunday, the 7th I went to the barn to do my chores and milking. I turned on my radio in the cow barn and heard the news of the Pearl Harbor assault and the day following the declaration of war against Japan.
Something that just came to mind is in 1939 we went to Salt Lake City and traded in our 1933 Plymouth for a brand new 1939 Chevrolet pick up truck with six ply tires and four speed transmission. The total price was $750.00 with a $100.00 trade in for a net $650.00 and no sales tax. Gasoline was about $.22 per gallon.
Now, back to the war. The government had set up a selective service system to draft all young eligible men into the services and this caused us a lot of concern because of the uncertainty if I would have to go in the service. What would happen to the farm, to Vonda, and life together? As I recall, my social security number came up in August 1940 and I had to go to Fort Douglas in Salt Lake for a physical examination. A group of us from the county left early in the morning and arrived about 7:00 AM. After checking in we were ushered into the examination room where we had to completely undress and then get in line. I must say here that I had seen nude boys in the high school dressing rooms but this was shocking. Approximately 200 men and boys, all standing in line or walking around in the nude was a sight I didn=t wish to see again. I was shuffled from one station to another, taking blood, checking feet and legs, heart, teeth and always asking questions. It was when they checked my heart that I was pulled out of line and taken to a specialist who made me hop on one leg twenty times and then the other twenty times, often listening to my heart very carefully. He called in another doctor to confirm his diagnosis which he did, and they said that the mitral valve in my heart was not closing completely and that I should get dressed. I would be classed as a 4F, not fit for military service. I had some mixed emotions. I felt a little bit unpatriotic at that time. Vonda was happy because our future was not as uncertain but was also worried about my heart condition. ATwo explanations,@ the inquiry into my heart condition came as a result of a question they asked, had I ever had any rheumatic fever. My answer was, AI think so@, and as a result of this diagnosis my life insurance was up-rated by about 20% for the next 35 years or so.
Through the previous years it had been a constant source of disappointment that we were not blessed to have children and when we would go to church or anywhere and people would show off their babies, Vonda would think they were doing it just to make her feel bad. One day we met Ray Wooten, a friend who was working for Utah Juvenile Services, and he asked us if we would be interested in being foster parents for youths who had been in trouble with the law. He said he felt that being on the farm could keep them busy and out of mischief. It took us a few days to decide and finally told him we would. He took us to Salt Lake City to 21st South and 2nd East to the place called Fishers Boys Home and as we entered into the large foyer we saw a chain link fence with boys from 9 to 15 years old with their fingers clinging through the fence calling, ATake me Mister, please take me.@ It just about broke our hearts.
We finally settled on a clean cut boy with dark hair and fair complexion. His name was Johnny Cutler. He was 11 years old and had run away from home several times but as we drove home we were able to establish a relationship with him and to give him the general rules so he knew where he stood and outlined some of his duties and expectations.
He seemed to be quite happy in the intervening days and we were able to buy him some new clothes for which he was happy. He learned his duties quickly and went to church with us. Everyone, even the school kids seemed to like and enjoy him. We felt that everything was going good, as did the State. We took him in November and it was now almost the first of August and we were extremely busy all summer. It was time to harvest the crop of peas, about 3 2 acres, plus the cows to milk night and morning, irrigation, and all of the attendant chores that the farm entails. I was working at the pea vinery and Vonda was working at the cannery in Heber City. I arose about 4:30 AM to get the milking done and be to work at the vinery at 6:00 AM. The new truck was at home. In those days we always left the car and never worried. I also got Johnny up to finish up the chores. At 10:00 AM we had a breakdown at the vinery so I took the time to run home to check on things and when I got there the truck was gone. I called Vonda and asked if she had taken it. She had not. She had gone with other women to work. Johnny was no where to be found so I knew that he must have taken it. I asked Vonda to get someone to work for her and I would do the same and I would call the Sheriff. I did and Deputy Bert Lindsay answered and said he would be right over so I asked him to pick up Vonda and bring her with him. I found out that Johnny had taken my wallet with about six dollars in it and also the gasoline coupon book. Gas was rationed because of the war so I knew he would stop at the only gas station in Midway. When the sheriff came I told him of the situation so we stopped and Mrs. Epperson told us he had been there to get gas so we headed for Salt Lake City.
The old road went through Park City and just east of the city was a state road crew to whom we asked if they had seen the truck and the boy and they said yes. He had slowed down to pass them and then tried to speed up without shifting. It bucked and chugged a couple of times and then took off. What they noticed most was that he was barely tall enough to see through the steering wheel. We stopped at Pop Jenks Café and I called the Salt Lake police to be out at the mouth of Parleys Canyon and catch him before he got into the city. We were relieved and thought everything would be alright but when we got to the station I asked the desk clerk about the truck. He said he knew nothing about it and had no information. I was very unhappy but there was nothing I could do so I left and we decided to drive around and see if we could spot it. We drove for several hours and it was time to go back home to milk the cows. It was about 4:30 PM and we went back to the station to file a formal complaint against Johnny and the truck was parked in a spot that said APolice Parking Only@. I ran into the station and said, AI see you found the truck.@ His eyebrows raised and he said, ANo.@ I said it is out in front and he looked and was completely surprised. He called the Captain and we all went out but found that it was locked and we couldn=t find the keys. I called a locksmith who came and made new keys. We had no money with us and we had to borrow money from Mr. Lindsey to pay him and we were able to go home.
A few days later we learned that Johnny was riding on a city bus at night when Owen Farley, who was a policeman, took the same bus to go to work. He spotted Johnny and took him into custody. We had become so fond of him that we called the State and asked if he could come back to us but they said he could not. His actions were too serious and that he would have to be incarcerated in the juvenile detention center in Ogden. He remained there until he was 17 years old. They taught him the shoemaker’s trade but the war was prominent in all of our lives and he felt he wanted to join the Navy. This he did and was sent to Farragut, Idaho for his basic training after which he was allowed to come to his home in Salt Lake City. He called us on Saturday evening and asked if he could come up with his girl friend and have Sunday dinner with us. He always enjoyed the roast beef, brown gravy and mashed potatoes. We, of course, were excited and set the time but they didn=t ever come. We found out the next day that both of them had been killed the night before in an automobile accident. We were devastated.
Now to go back four years to when Johnny left, we took another boy from the state. His name was Raymond Loveseth. I could probably write a whole book about the next five years but suffice it to say that we also took a 14 year old girl from Utah County who at 15 went home to visit her father and got pregnant from a married man. A boy, whose name was Jimmy Hart, whom we later met in Overton and he remembered us. Another situation arose wherein our neighbor, Frank Clayburn, died and his wife decided she wanted to move to Salt Lake City. She took two daughters with her and left the farm with Jay and two teenage boys, Don and Grant, who were still in high school. They were in our home more than they were in with Jay and Helen.
This was all while the war was going on and through all this were the obligations of singing at funerals, church, school and community programs and Vonda giving her humorous readings. A group of us in the ward started a weekly study program with Elmer Kohler as our teacher. There were 20 to 25 of us and we had been going for about five months when we received word from the stake president that we should meet under MIA supervision or stop because we had no priesthood governing authority. Most of us were hurt but we acceded to their authority and could see the danger of continuing it.
In the spring of 1944 we received a call from my brother, Bob, in Seattle, asking us if we would be willing to take Larry, his son, six years old, from Jean Beckstead in Fresno. Bob was now married to Jane Stewart and it seems that neither of them wanted him and his mother, Jean, had sent him to his dad and didn=t want him either. After some discussion and much prayer we called to tell him we would take him. Vonda called Dorothy Eggleston, her very close friend, and whose husband was in the army, and asked her if she would go with her to pick up Larry and she agreed. They caught the train in SLC and Bob would pick them up at the station in Seattle. While they were there, Larry had a sick spell and it kept Vonda and Dorothy there an extra week. They arrived home sometime in late May. We were in for another new experience.
Another thing that happened in that time period is that the school superintendent, Lula Clegg, gave us an opportunity to go to Lima, Ohio to bring home a new school bus from the Superior plant. We invited Faris and Pauline to go with us and they accepted. We went on the Trailways bus and when you get Vonda, Faris, and Pauline together, they had most of the people on the bus involved in conversation and merriment. We picked up the bus and started home. We put heavy cardboard across the seats to sleep and bought groceries to eat.
As we came through western Kansas we learned of V.E. or V.J. day. (I can=t remember which.) As we came through Aurora, Colorado an eastern suburb of Denver, on a Saturday, about noon, I was driving and their seemed to be dozens of service men at every stop light and it seemed like the city buses were full. Faris, who was sitting up front with me, just opened the door and invited people to get in. They all had money or tokens or passes but he said, ANo charge.@ Everyone was laughing and Faris announced that they would have to let us know where they wanted to get off. We were full and they were standing in the isles. We got all kinds of thanks as we dropped them off in Denver. I am sure that it was illegal but once it started, there was no stopping it. It was a fun trip.
Back at home there was quite a lot of catching up to do and also Larry was still having problems adjusting. We told him and tried to show him that we loved him as our own but he would do some of the dumbest things and create conflict. He had everything he needed and more than most. He even had his own riding horse. He was always a good student and had a very pleasant singing voice. He always told us, AYou are not my parents and I don=t have to do as you say.@ Things would go well for sometime months and then conflict again but things seemed to always settle down.
The war was just over and goods became more plentiful so we went to Provo to a Jeep dealer and purchased a brand new Jeep that had a mower attachment and also a plow which we used on the farm. It was a lot of fun also.
It was at this time, October 1945, that Vonda surprised me by informing me that her period was late and she was not having the usual cramps, etc. We waited a couple more days and then went to the doctor to be tested. In those days, to test for pregnancy, the doctor would take a urine sample and send it to a company in SLC. They would inject some of the urine into a rabbit and wait a period of time and if the rabbit died, the woman was pregnant. It took approximately ten days to get an answer. It was without question the most momentous and happy day in our lives when Dr. Karl Nielson told us, AI think you are really going to have a baby.@ We spread the word far and wide and gave thanks to God for this good fortune. Dr. Nielson computed her due date to be about June 21st.
Nine months seems like an eternity when you are waiting, waiting, waiting and in the beginning Vonda had a lot of morning sickness. It was unpleasant but she always said she was the happiest pregnant woman alive. It was a time for us to buy all of the things that a baby would need and at Christmas time I found a package under the tree with my name on it. I couldn=t figure out what it was but on Christmas when I opened it, I found a package of cloth diapers with a wedding ring pinned to one of the diapers. This is the same ring I wear today.
Vonda by this time was starting to swell. The doctor told her she would have to eat enough for two so she would eat and throw up, and eat and throw up. By the first of March she was beginning to get the waddle. 1945-46 had been a particularly heavy winter and Vonda went out the front of the house. She got off balance and went off the beaten path and found herself in about forty inches of snow. She struggled as much as she dared but couldn=t get back on the path. Fortunately, Jay Clayburn came along and assisted her to get back into the house for which we were both grateful. She continued to get larger but stayed active as possible. By June 15th she was getting very tired of being pregnant and each day was quite a trial. When it was the 21st she couldn=t believe it hadn=t come and she had gained forty pounds and it was hard for her to get around. On the 26th the doctor called about 9:00 A.M. to see if she was ready to deliver. He was going out of town and we told him, no. On Friday, the 28th, we decided to go to Orem for some strawberries to bottle. We called the doctor to see if it was okay and he said the only thing it could do is to start labor and that was the general idea. We got four crates and we got them bottled by the time I had to milk. That night I had an irrigation turn on the Epperson ditch and would take all night. We agreed that I would keep an eye on the house. If the light went on I would come immediately. It didn=t come on.
As the 29th dawned I could leave my irrigation to go and milk and check on Vonda. She was up and awake when I came in and told me that as she was getting up her water broke but as yet she had no pain. I must say here that Dr. Nielson had asked us earlier if we wanted him to take the baby by C section and Elva and Avis sort of ridiculed Vonda by saying women are made to have babies naturally. They didn=t want her to be a boob, just grit your teeth and bear it. They said she needed to experience this as a woman. It was Saturday morning and I came in from doing the chores and I found Vonda going up and down the stairs. Someone had told her to exercise so she decided to do the stairs but even though it was quite unsafe in her condition, she was almost give out and I made her stop. After resting for a half hour, Elva came to visit and had heard that soaking your feet in hot water would help so we filled the bath tub with six inches of hot water and she insisted that she walk in place. She was getting desperate but still smiling, and still no action. Elva had to go home and feed her family. We ate our lunch and Vonda said she was going to lie on the sofa and relax. I also sat and watched her. It was about 12:40 P.M. and she seemed to doze for a while and then at approximately 1:25 she let out a scream and yelled, AI just had a pain!@ I started to call the doctor but she said no. We must wait and see how often they come. The second one came at five minutes later and we called the doctor.
He told us to come as soon as possible but the pains were coming every two to three minutes. We arrived at the front of the old hospital at just before 2:00 P.M when all of the patients for both doctors would be waiting in the foyer. She didn=t want to have a pain in front of them so she waited until the next one was over and jumped out of that truck and literally ran to the front door. I could hardly catch her. I opened the door and she took those stairs like a child. She was met by Zina Duke and put her on a table to see if she was ready to deliver. They said she wouldn=t deliver for some time so they fully prepared her between pains.
The doctor kept checking with the nurses and when his office visits were finished he came up to see her and she had endured those pains every few minutes until her nerves were on end. When he said he was going home to eat and he would be back about 8:00, she went into a panic. She said she wanted something to kill the pain. He patted her on the shoulder and with sympathy reminded her it would only prolong the misery. He finally came back at 9:30 that night and agreed to take the baby. She said she would give him twenty dollars for a whiff of ether.
Soon the delivery room was ready, the doctor was scrubbed and he invited me to come in for the delivery also. Avis and Elva were permitted in the same room. I was sitting to the side of Vonda holding her hand as the doctor began to have her push which she responded to with all her might. Soon I heard a noise like scissors cutting, more work and anxiety by the crew. It just wouldn=t come and I heard the doctor say, AI=m going to have to use the forceps.@ Both Elva and Avis put their hands over their mouths and I saw fear in their eyes. I began to be very concerned and asked God to please let them both be okay. The forceps were inserted and after pulling they slipped and the doctor said, ADamn it.@ Elva, who now was crying said to Vonda, AHoney, it=s okay to scream if you want to.@ The forceps were reset and the doctor put his knee against the bed and started to pull, gently twisting back and forth. He was sweating quite profusely and the nurses had to wipe his forehead. Merle Gardner, a 200 pound nurse was on a stool to the side of Vonda, pushing down on her stomach with all her might as the doctor pulled. Elva didn=t help when she said, ADon=t worry, Honey, I=ll give you one of mine.@
He was finally born at 10:45 PM on June 29th, 1946. The doctor paid particular attention to the baby=s head which was quite badly misshapen and dark but he had a good set of lungs. The doctor handed the baby to Zina Duke to clean him up and he attended to Vonda, who was crying and asking questions of the doctor about the baby. Elva and Avis were both crying and feeling that the baby would be brain damaged because he had a tear behind the ear and one eyebrow was also torn from the forceps. I was bewildered and awed about all that had happened but stayed with Vonda to rejoice or console her.
Several minutes later the baby boy was brought in and laid in Vonda=s arms and Zina explained that he had all his toes and fingers and no apparent deformities except the misshapen head and she assured us that it would eventually be normal. He weighed 9 pounds 5 ounces. Vonda was crying with joy and admiring him and starting to relax.
Last edited by Tuly
on Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Condemn me not because of mine imperfection,... but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been." Mormon 9:31