Little Dicky, Part 1
Contributor: GreatLakes0928 Created: 3 years ago Updated: 3 years ago
Stories from the early childhood of Richard LaMont Wilson as related by his sister, Alice Wilson Clegg and recorded by his daughter, Mary Elva Wilson Yang.
I've told my kids stories about my dad as I knew him: a silly gentle giant of a father. But I want to share stories from his childhood, so I called my Aunt Alice last night.
Alice's earliest memory of Richard was meeting him when he came home from the hospital. Alice was almost three years old when Dicky was born. He came premature and had to stay in the hospital longer than usual because he had difficulty breathing. He received a name and blessing from his father at the hospital. They named him Richard LaMont after A. LaMont Nielson, bishop of their Rosecrest Ward.
His mother Elva sat on the edge of her bed holding the new baby. He was wrapped up in layers of blankets when toddler Alice approached. Elva peeled back some of the layers like she was unwrapping a present for Alice. At the first look, Alice remembers feeling total love for her little brother and declared, "Ohhhh, he's mine!" Elva liked to remind Alice in later years when there was an argument between the two siblings, "Well, he's yours, Alice."
The Wilson family lived at 2401 East 3000 South in Salt Lake City, up on the east bench of the Wasatch Mountains. They bought the house in 1949, and at the time of Dicky's birth, it was still a one bedroom, one bathroom house. There was an unfinished basement where big sister Arlene slept when she was home, and a "doghouse" where the older brothers slept despite it having no furnace. The doghouse was a large shed as big as the house itself, but an entirely separate structure. It was only six steps outside the back door. Besides acting as the boys' bedroom, Grandpa used the doghouse for storage. Alice and Dicky shared their parents' bedroom. Alice slept in a little crib and Dicky slept in a bassinet at the foot of Grandma's bed.
The year after Dick's birth, the family added an extension to the west of the house. Alice remembers pounding nails into the stairway as a three or four year old. The addition was a split level three steps down and a had another stairway up to a second story. The addition had three more bedrooms, a bathroom, and an office for Dick's father Jim, with it's own entrance. But Alice and Dicky's favorite part of the addition was a big hallway closet where they spent hours playing together. It was about 5 feet wide and 6 feet deep and built behind the stairs, so they had to shimmy up to the top shelf and stoop under the sloped ceiling. But it was their own clubhouse. Likely no one else in the family was small enough to climb into the space.
Another favorite spot for the two youngest Wilsons was the landing on the stairs up to the second story bedrooms. A large window was cut into one wall, and on the other wall, Elva hung the elaborate posters she made for Relief Society lessons. One poster was a beautiful rose with petals. Another was a huge blue poster with cursive lettering written in glue and glitter. Everyday, Alice and Richard came downstairs from their bedrooms, these glittery cursive words greeted them:
"Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up."
Alice couldn't help but memorize these words taken from 1 Corinthians. They definitely had an effect on young minds.
Alice and Dicky played with cars, games and dolls on the landing. Clean clothes landed there too, when Grandma gave them laundry to put away and they didn't take it all the way up to their bedrooms.
The kids played outside year-round. Before Jim built the duplexes, their property was one acre at the top of a dead-end street. The previous owners had been landscape architects and the yard reflected that. Mature trees and large shrubs surrounded the home. A row of lilacs separated their property from the adjacent grade school.
When Dicky was younger than five years old, Grandpa Donalvin Roundy, Elva's father, stayed with their family for several weeks. Elva's sister Vilate had been caring for Donalvin who had dementia, but she needed a reprieve at one point, so he went to the Wilson's home. His dementia affected his mind so that he behaved like a little child. Elva let her father out in the chain-link fenced yard and wired the gate shut, but Grandpa Roundy would try to climb the fence. Elva would say, "Dad, come back from there."
"Well, I have to get my cows," he called back. Grandpa was always trying to round up his cows. Sometimes he'd come back when Elva reasoned with him.
"Now, Donalvin, we can't go there. It's not our property. The neighbors aren't home and we don't want to trespass." He respected others enough that this argument usually convinced him to come down from the fence, but sometimes Elva would enlist Dicky's help. "Go bring Grandpa back on the lawn, Dicky." At which request, the little boy would happily consent.
"Grandpa, whatcha doin?"
"I'm rounding up my cows."
"Oh, let me help!" And Dicky would proceed to hoop and holler at the imaginary cows with all the energy of a little boy, "Haw, haw! Get over here!" running around the yard until the job was done. Maybe he thought it was a great game herding cattle, but he also saved Grandpa Roundy from getting caught up in the bushes. Elva told this story herself many times and the memory made her laugh every time.