Autobiography - De Lamar Johnson Gibbons
Contributor: Hculpepper42 Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND OFFICIAL HISTORY OF DE LAMAR JOHNSON GIBBONS
February 16, 1929: It was the coldest night in Utah's history. At 1:00 AM I suddenly came into the world. Immediately the stock market crashed!
I was a lucky baby to be born into one of the best families in the whole world! Two more loving, kind and patient people than Hyrum and Claudia Gibbons never lived. Mother was loving on all occasions and had infinite patience. She never allowed herself to become angry, even when we children would rollerskate across carpets and linoleum she had just washed. (We really should have been beaten). It was mother's custom to bake 14 loaves of bread every other day to feed the six boys and husband. She would can 15 bushels of peaches each year. It is amazing how much she accomplished yet had time to give loving attention to each of the family. When she darned socks, she did it on the sewing machine--by the bushel basket!
One of my earliest memories was her custom of putting ******* on salvaged beer bottles full of milk to brothers Wayne, Claude, and myself. Then, holding the ******* in our teeth and wagging'the bottles from side to side, we would file into the front room for a nap. The only time I felt punished, were the times when I had been naughty to Wayne - - -this did not happen very often.
A humorous incident happened involving mother when I was still quite small. It was wash day (nearly everyday was). Aunt Carrie, mother's sister who lived next door decided to pull a prank on mother. She took a fur collar from an old coat. The fur was black and had very long hair on it. She took the collar from the coat and attached two narrrow torn strips of white sheet and put two small round black buttons on one end and presto-changeo, she had a fairly authentic looking skunk. This she placed under the clothes line where mother was hanging clothes. When mother came out with her basket of clothes, she nearly stepped on the thing before she saw it. She shrieked and ran into the house. A little later she sent Wayne out with a big stick. The skunk looked completely real to Wayne. He proceeded to savagely pound the poor animal to death. After a thoroughly brutal beating and pummeling, he threw the poor beast up onto the roof of the garage. He proudly reported the deed to mother. When a safe amount of time had elapsed, she sent me out to climb on the garage to be sure it was really dead!
Some years later a similar prank was returned. Father and the older brothers had returned from hunting with many ducks, pheasants, and rabbits. The relatives were all invited to a great feast. (To this day the most delicious meal ever eaten was my mom's fried pheasant). The pheasant was served to the family on one tray--the rabbit on another. After eating several pieces of "pheasant", Aunt Carrie commented, "how very good it is". Then she said, "that is the funniest piece of chicken I have ever seen, it looks like a front leg--but pheasants dont have front legs." She did not speak to Mom or Dad for days after being "tricked".
Mother's cooking genius was at its finest when cooking game which father and big brothers constantly supplied. Don's talent was shooting the heads off pheasants in the fields, (a remarkable fete for any marksman). "That way you do not spoil any meat," he said.
Father was a mighty man. Physically a dynamo. Working incessantly to provide for the needs of the family. He would don a long, sheepskin coat, put an apple in his pocket and drive a team and wagon twenty miules in the middle of winter to haul hay for his dairy herd. In the fall we would do custom threshing. A hard, dusty, dirty job. Each hour her would climb over the running machine with his oil can and fill all the bearing holes with oil. Then he would reach behind the spinning pulleys to turndown the grease cups on other bearings. "No one ever hated threshing more than I - -But I have to make a living and provide for my family - -so I do it. This old separator and engine was to be junked, that is how I was able to afford them. He ran them for many years, then he dicided to madernize. He put rubber tires on the thresher and took the wheels from the old Case tractor and mounted the engine on the bed of the 1932 Chevy truck he used in the summer to haul hay. Each fall, it was give to me to remove the radiator from the tractor engine, disassemble it, and run a stiff wire through each core to clean it. Then I would make new gaskets from tar paper and axle grease,reassdmble it, and mount it back on the engine.
Dad is the nearest man I have ever known to being one I would call wise. I fondly refer to him as "Sage Hyrum".
One bit of wisdom I remember: He was having me drive the horses during fall harvest. On this occasion he explained, "Old Bill her is the best horse I have ever owned. I was able to afford to buy him because his front legs are crooked. He is extremely strong." (Dad had the biggest hay rack I have ever seen. It was built on an old fire engine chassis. Yes, the gorses had to be strong, very strong). "He is very willing and will work his heart out for me. But De, you have to give him a light rein. Just tell him what you want him to do and he will kill himself trying to do it. If you jerk him around, you will confuse him and spoil him--he will not work out of love - -But will become a senseless old drudge. Now old Flip over here is undependable, balky, he run away, kick, bite and is plain mean. You must keep a tight rein on him and watch him every second. And you know De, people are alot like horses. This is the way I do with people, I get alot further if I use gentleness here and firmness there."
Indeed, he was the archtype; iron hand in a velvet glove. No one ever said "no" to him. Yet, his manner was that of great gentleness. In the forty some years I was priviledged to know him, I saw him angry only one time... Yep, it was at the horse Flip. He gave that nag a sparking across the nose with a 2 X 4 board. He handled the board as though it were a willow. (The horse knew he deserved the punishment and had it coming).
On one occasion, the cows got into a corn field owned by Vaughn Fuhriman. Mr. Fuhriman was was furious. He wanted Dad to fight him. He put his fists up and danced around and said, "Come on I want to teach you a few things." Dad gently laughed and chided him. "You don't want to do something foolish you would be embarrassed about tomorrow. My cows have been in your corn and I have done some damage. I can see that, and I am willing to pay you damages." All the time Fuhriman was dancing on his toes and shadow boxing - -becoming encreasingly angry that he could not provoke Dad. (Darn lucky for Fuhriman Dad did not fight. Many times I have seen Dad hit a railroad tie with one blow of an axe and shatter it into kindling wood. .He had been a lumberjack in his youth.)
Inspite of his great physical power, Dad was very loving and tender hearted. He always cried when one of the children left home for military service, missions, school, or marriage. He was the most noble man I ever knew.
After reaching adulthood it occurred to me that the expression of anger must have been an unspoken, unwritten law in the Gibbons family. It has since been my observation that there was no such law. We just never learned to be angry; we had no example. Certinly anger was never expressed against others.
Interest in civic service came very early in my life. I could see the need in watering of the neighborhood flowers. I apointed mhyself neighborhood flower sprinkler. My career was nearly cut short when Aunt Carrie threatened to cut off my sprinkler with Uncle Lloyal's tin snips!
As a small boy I enjoyed playing with toy trucks. Claude, Wayne and I used our sand pile (and a sack of cement in the garage), to make cement roads through the back yard for our trucks. Mother thought it good that we played so quietly and harmoniously. We also played in the irrigation ditch out dack every Tuesday when the water ran. We would run through the block and put,our toy boats in the ditch; then run along watching them go under brideges and through culvers.
When still small, I had to have an abscessed tooth drained. The dentist drilled a hole down throught the tooth to let the infection out. I took the painful procedure without a whimper - -though it really did hurt. Afterwards, my parents took me to Woolworths to buy a toy for a 'reward'. The only toy I cared for was a small wooden boat with a windup spring outboard motor. Dad and Mom really deliberated if they could afford such an expensive toy. The boat was 25 cents and the motor 25 cents. (Dad would make $500 to $800 a season threshing - -about what I make a day or two). I proudly played with the little boat for a long time and kept the little motor long after it was worn out and broken. When finishing the attic in the house I reached my hand back under the floor to my secret hiding place. There was the little motor just as I had left it. I carefully replaced it and went on with my work.
When the ditch was not running, we three little ones rode tricycles and rollerskated. For a few seasons, we would roll down the small hill in front of the house ina large barrel Dad brought from the farm. In the winter we would sled down the same hill.
A family named Anderson moved next, door while I was small. They had a very big dog. I was also a very mean dog. It would bite anyone coming near their house. I was afraid to leave our house because of the dog. The paper boys would not deliver papers to the Andersons because the dog would alwasys bite them. One, day, they tied the dog to a tree behind their house. They tied him with a strong chain. My noble big brother Wayne did not like the dog either. Feeling safe with the dog chained, he took the spray the older boys sprayed their chicken and pigeon roosts with and as the huge beast would would lunge and snarl at him, he would gleefully spray it in the dog's face. The spray was Black Leaf 50, a highly poisonous nicotine preparation. If the dog could have gotten loose, he would surely have killed Wayne. The dog would gnash his knife-like teeth at Wayne and he would give him another shot in the snout. Well, the next day, Mr. Anderson "took the dog out in the country because he was ill". So help me, I felt like Wayne was St. George slaying the dragon. I dared tell no one. I was so proud of him and so grateful, his bravery had made the neighborhood safe for little kids - -I still am. I do not believe he is aware today that he killed the dog..should I tell him?
While still a sandbox engineer, one of us younger children put sand in the gas tank of our car the "Starlights"; I still pleaded innocence. I do not believe that I did it - -though at the time I was suspect. Anyway, it plugged the gas line and whenever we wished to go somewhere, Reed would ride on the fender with a gallon jug of gasoline to which was attached a rubber hose running into the car's carbureator. I was so proud - -no one else had such a fine auto.
It was bout his time I used to write Santa Claus letters on small pieces of crdboard and 'mail' them behind the piano - -everyone thought it was kind of dumb --but it got results - -a dump truck. The family must have suspected I was not quite right - -then and there. I also collected chewing gum cards printed with the pictues of indians. I was very proud of the cards and wished to display them without the fear of losing them. While the folks attended a funeral, I nailded the cards in rows to the living room floor - -with shingle nails. On my parents arrival home they laughed at the incident and left the cards in place for several days. Mother said, "I guess it is my fault, I told him he could put his cards on the floor".
The greatest humiliation of my life came soon after I started primary. I was to be in a program in which I wore a white rabbit suit with all the other little rabbits. Somehow I missed some of the rehearsals and for the final performance I was always out of step. When the others jumped, I turned around, when the others turned around, I squatted and jumped. The audience roared. Next to Waynes killing Anderson's dog, getting out of that damned rabbit suit was the happiest day of my childhood.
Primary was certainly cruel and unusual punishment. I was the only kid in my primary class. Mrs. Whatcott was my teacher and every Wednesday I had to endure the trailbuilder lesson alone in a room with an odd little lady with a hearing aid! Boy Scouts were not much better--a bunch of unruly, howling, undisciplined brats running around the basement of the church--I wanted nothing to do with them.
Aunt Carrie and Uncle Lloyal had but one child, Russell. Russell was much older than I and had a model A Ford. When the circus would come to town, Uncle Lloyal would connect the circus to the city electricity and hook them onto the city water. (Lloyal was Logan City Watermaster). For this he would get several complimentary tickets to the circus. Two he would give to Russell and his date. Then he and Aunt Carrie would take me as their little boy to the circus. God bless them, how I loved it.
Uncle Lloyal had a small machine shop in his attic. He also had a high stool. I loved to watch him work. He would put me on the high stool beside him--safely out of the way. He was a very skillful mechanic. He kept my spring wound toy train running and made a tricycle into a bicycle by putting one of the small wheels in the middle of the frame. Claude and I would fight to see whose turn it was to ride it to school. Kids would come from all over town to try riding the thing. I really loved my Uncle Lloyal.
My first real grief came when Uncle Lloyal died in an accident while building the Logan Airport. For a few years, I slept in Aunt Carrie's house (Next door west of our house), so Aunt Carrie would not have to be alone at night.
At age five, a ling love affair began for me. All of the older kids in the neighborhood were
building model airplanes. I guess I fussed until a kit was bought for me. I would watch what the big kids did then I would go and do the same thing on my plane. The big kids ridiculed the xxxx workmanship, etc. but I built it. I finished mine. The brothers never did get theirs done. For many years, some where in the house I had a piece of cardboard on which I was cutting and glueing the small strips of wood. At one time 84 planes graced my attic hangar; I still have to make one now and then.
One time, an airplane came to town. It was supposed to have been the one Admiral Byrd flew over the South Pole! Dad and Reed dicided to take a ride. After a considerable fuss - -they decided to take me along. Oh glorious day!
Summer was the time to set up lemonade stands on the front porch. Fall was the time to crack and set the walnuts - -using a brick on the front sidewalk to crack the nuts - -and get brown stained fingers. Saturday afternoon was to take Wayne and Claude to the movie. Wayne still insists there are flying carpets ("rugs"), he saw them in the show.
It came time to start school. I was a smart kid and "didn't have to take kindergarten". I was enrolled in the old Woodruff school. Foi first and second grades I had Miss Simpson. A mild older lady, she cautioned everyone not to lose their books. I got the message very well - -I was afraid to take the books home for fear of losing them!
Three days before starting the third grade, I had an accident. I was riding a bicycle to Grandma's house. My pants leg caught in the chain and I looked down. This caused my wide, brim-straw hat to blow in my face and I missed the culvert with the bike wheel. The wheel dropped into the ditch and I was thrown over the handle bars, coming to land on the cement face first. My front teeth cut through my lower lip and I was semi-conscious for several days - -never completely recovering (I think that is what is the matter with me).
Fourth grade was wonderful. Miss Hickman was intelligent, dedicated, longsuffering, cheerful, helpful, thrifty, clean, brave, and reverent---and beautiful. On her back, neatly folded under her blouse, I could detect angel wings.
At this time I had a near scrape with death. While visiting with friends in the shade of the old Woodruff school house. (That great monument of learning has since been demolished). As we talked, some one on the third floor was adjusting a window and accidently pushed the window pane out. One of the boys I know not whom, gently pulled me aside a few inches, and the glass fairly exploded right where I had been standing. It had to an act of providence. The other boy really had no warning. I can only surmise this was in response to the prayers of my parents on behalf of my safety.
I attended 5th grade in the new Woodruff school. Mrs. Hendricks was my uninspiring teacher.
Starting in the third grade, it was my job after school to go to Uncle Walt's dairy plant and load the empty milk cans in the truck and drive them to the farm 2 miles south of Logan and to help with the milking. Reed and Don started me driving the old Chevy truck in the hayfield when I was only seven years old.
When I was eight years old, I was baptized, but they didn't hold me under the water long enough-Ha.
My sixth grade teacher was Rex Ingersol. He later quit teaching and became a professional boy scout. Just what I always thought he should be.
Next summer I was assigned to work with Uncle Walt on the milk delivery route. How I hated it. Being rather shy, I felt great anxiety asking people for the empty bottles and money. I ran the entire route which lasted from 9:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. My running pleased Uncle Walt. He paid me 50 cents a day which I had to save to buy a bicycle to ride to junior high school that next year.
The next three years I would ride the mile to school in the morning, home at noon for dinner and back right downt he middle of Logan's main street--no hands.
In the ninth grade I had a teacher who had a great influence on me, Merrill Gunnell. He was feared by most students. He inspired me. He taught me that learning, is fun, entertaining, and interesting. That learning difficult subjects were not onerous - -you just had to
systematize your subject. He did install a great love of learning which has continued to this day.
During junior high school, Father bought the Smart farm. He said he had desired it since boyhood when Thomas Smart ran it with 20 hired men and 100 horses. He did not believe he could ever had afforded to buy that farm. Then he got the opportunity to buy it for
$10,000. The first years he had it, he did not irrigate it. The hay grew only in sparse bunches and the barley grew only 3 inches high. Then he began with his team of boys to dig out the sloughed in ditches and to haul manure onto the land. A few years later the crops were indeed bountiful! Working up there he taught me, "You can never plough a straight furrow looking backward". (Meant in' both a practical and philosophical sense). As a teenager, I ploughed and worked the ground on the farm with the Caterpillar tractor that came with the farm. In the fall, I would work with Reed running the combine. I would run the tractor and he would bag the grain. After combining the grain, we would drive around the field and load -ugh- the heavy sacks of grain onto the truck. I liked running the Caterpillar. I also enjoyed mowing hay with the little Ford tracotr. Two summers i harvested the whole hay crop. Cut, raked, baled, and then loaded the bales on the truck and big hayrack. I would ptich them up on the load with a pitch fork and Mr. Hadley would stack them. At night my bones would creek.
When he bought the Smart farm, Father stopped custom threshing. I had only limited experience in threshing since I was considered too young to work around such dangerous machinery. I thoroughly enjoyed pitcheing the bundles of grain into the threshing machine. Most often I was assigned to job of teamster. I really never did like horses, but I would drive the wagons into the fields and bring back the laden racks to be threshed.
I had one bad experience with the horses, the bloomin beasts. On weekends, we took turns milking and in midday cleaning out the barn. This day I went to the frm, caught and harnessed the horses, cleaned the barn, washed the floor, and took the load of manure out to spread onto the land we had rented across the river. On returning home, the horses Flip and a black horse called Jeff, boltd and began a runaway. I could not stop them. The road was covered with snow pack and was slippery. The beasts just would not stop. As we neared the narrow bridge
across a deep canal, turning into our farm, I knoew the horses could not make the turn but would surely try. I jumped off the wagon and wnet rolling. The horses turned at the bridge just as I thought they would, they could not make the turn as I had anticipated. Both horses fell into the icy canal and the wagon flew off the raod and landed right on top of the horses. Don was qute upset withkme. I should have driven the horses into a fence to stop them. Don was more a horse than the rest of us. The folks promised him a horse if he would learn to play the piano enough to play the church hymns; he practiced faithfully for 2 years. Then, the wonderful day came, we all accompanied him to Rinderknect's field where fifty horses ran. "You can have your pick" Dad told him. Don picked a beautiful, small, racy mare that he named "Hooner". He never touched the piano again.
I never came to like horses, though in the summer I would ride one taking the cows to the pasture 2 or 3 miles away. My favorite horse was "Wabash Cannonball", a small thoroughbred mare Dad bought from Ray. Cannonball really was not too wonderful a horse, but she would obey me. One day, I was riding her to the far end of the pasture to start bringing the cows home. Cannonball and I shared the same poor trait of indecision; we were running full speed through the field when we were suddenly headed for a cow standing broadside. Which side to pass on? I wanted one way, Cannonball the other. Which way would she go? At the last second, a terrrible collision was avoided! Cannonball jumped over the cow! How I remained on her through the jump has always been a mystery to me. I was riding bareback and was not all that great a horseman.
Somewhere in my growing up, the folks gave me a pump action BB gun. This I greatly prized and'cared for; always careful not to waste the precious BBs. (Devising targets which would allow for their recovery). Also in the misty past, I received an erector set for Christmas. I spent many months building tractors, wind mills, saws, cars, etc. Wayne took great interest and hared in playing with this wonderful toy. Cousin Russell set me up a crystal radio which started a deep interest in electrical engineering. I later dropped this as I felt the future would hold fixing radios which was not quite as challenging as I wanted.
The war was on while I attended junior high and high school. Each day after school I hurried home and drove the milk truck to the farm then helped with the milking. This did not help me socially or athletically. Athletics were not my great interest anyway. One year I went out for football. Getting up at six A.M. to practice was • nothing new for a farm boy. We would get in a few hours of football before school. After school we would scrimage and run until 7:30 or 8:00 P.M. I was used to hours like this. But then when we started to practice all noon hour, too, I decided that was duty beyond the worth of the whole thing. Band was much more fun anyway. Starting as a complete beginner, I developed into a real horrible musician. I felt the greatest value I gained in high school; however, was the appreciation of good music. Much thanks to the orchestra teacher Mischa Poznanski. He would take a student's $25.00 violin and squeeze out of it the most beautiful music I had ever heard.
My application to study in high school was probably only fair. I could get good passing grades by just going to class. Memorizing was impossible. I cannot give you my social security number today!
Some close friendships I developed in high school: buddies were Keith Hansen, Orval
Hansen, Bill Horlacher, and James (Bill) Neff.
Somehow I graduated from Logan High School and in the fall of 1947 I started an engineering course in Utah State Agricultural College (now USU). I enjoyed the studies very much, but had difficulty with the math courses. With the war just over, the college was jammed with returning veterans and the school was really hard up for teachers. Some of the math instructors were not helpful, inspiring, (or even competent).
College was cut short after two years as father appointed me to go on a mission for the church. The older boys had declined or were married, Don and Reed had been away in the Navy for two years, Wayne could not go, so I was "Called with a strong voice". The mission farewell was the capitulation of all my fears. Uncle Walt meaning well embarrassed me by telling the audience that I had a girlfriend (which I had but I was not serious about. She did not particularly like me and I thought I should do a lot better--Still, I was interested in sticking around to see what would develop. I did not want to leave with things hanging in the air). Uncle Walt related, "If she is any good at all, she will wait for him." One blessed consolation - -she was not there.
My first assignment was in Parkersburg, West Virginia. I loved the people there. My first companion and I were not too compatible. I would awaken at 5:00 A.M., as farm boys are want to do, and would begin to study. He would awaken at 8:00 or 9:00 and demand we begin studies. His time for re-assignment came and he reported to the mission president, "I think Elder Gibbons is about to apostatize. He goes to the Baptist book store to buy books". (Josephus Works and The Apostolic Preaching by Dodd).
In keeping with mission policy of not putting "faithful" missionaries with those who tended to by "wayward", (the wayward always corrupted the faithful - -the faithful never convertd the wayward). Fromt hen on I was on the 'wayward' list. For tow months I travelled the district with Rulon Terrlink, the supervising Elder. We shard a deep mutual repect --and I pushed that damned Ford of his all over the state of West Virginia. Later assignments included Harlan, Kentucky; Bourbonville, Kentucky; Louisville, Kentucky; Tullahoma, Tennessee; and Springville, Tennessee where my companion was Milton Christensen, who referred to himself as "Mad Mitt - -King of the Onion Wine industry". Though at the top of the 'wayward' missionary list, I greatly appreciated him as the keenest mind I have ever met. We shared mutual respect and really worked hard.
Five days after my return from the mission field I was standing in line to be inducted into the army. My first assignment was to the Signal Corps in Camp Gordon, Georgia. After eight weeks of unpleasant basic training I started cryptography school and started a new philosophy of life. I had just read Bertrand Russell's CONQUEST OF HAPPINESS. As I looked at myself and about, yes I was unhappy here - -what to do about it? What ius most unpleasant? Marching from the barracks to the school areas with all the students. The students were marked by carrying a rain coat everwhere they went - -Aha! Rising early in the morning, the new De Gibbons would shave, shower, and eat breakfast 10 minutes before the rest of the troops. He would then throw his raincoat under the barracks steps and casually walk to the school. It worked - I found I could be happy under most any circumstances by eliminating a few very irritating elements.
I hated inspections. When stationed in Hawaii, if not working on Saturday, my friend Jack Van Deursen would put a padlock on my door so the inspectors would believe I was working (actually I was in the room asleep. At noon, Van would came and unlock the door and let me out. Then I would join him for lunch.
While in Camp Gordon, I was assigned as an instructor in the cryptography school. I taught teletype procedures and teletype tape reading. I really disliked Camp Gordon so I volunteered to go to Korea "with the troops". To my complete surprise (and pleasure) I was assigned to Fort Shafter, in Honolulu. The cryptography work was very interesting. In off hours, I would go to the beach with friends. There were many new interests there. I tried all the restaurants, Japane'se movies, spear fishing, surf boarding and swimming.
For a semester, I attended the University of Hawaii. The army let me work afternoons and have the mornings to go to school. For the most part, the duty in Hawaii was very enjoyable. After fourteen pleasant months, I again boarded a troop ship and spent four
miserable, seasick days sailing back to the mainland. I was recycled into a civilian again.
Soon after military discharge in August 1953, I re-entered college taking a chemistry major course. Chemistry came quite naturally to me and I greatly enjoyed it. I would have continued in chemistry had not Merrill Gunnell, now Doctor Gunnell, urged me to apply for medical school. "Then I was accepted to medical school," he counseled, "take it you fool, take it". I had two schools accept me: Northwestern and George Washington. I chose to go to George Washington. In college my favorite course was organic chemistry inspired by Dr. Theodore Buron. On several occassions, he called me in for fatherly advise. "De, you could go a long way - -if you could bring yourself to go in one direction. Your education is far too important and you have too much promise to work part time. If you are working part time, then you are only attending school part time. You should apply yourself completely these few years to your education. Try to impress your family that this is important, too."
The college years passed quickly and in September 1955, I left home to study medicine in Washington, D.C. The school was much
more boarder, Beppy Krommenhoek, who was later to become Beppy Gibbons. We began dating. Then Beppy went to work as an airline stewardess for United Airlines. We would meet when she would fly into Salt Lake and in 1960, after I had begun practice, we would fly into Logan.
In August 1960, I began practicing in Lewiston, Utah. I bought the practice of Dr. Robert Skabelund. Beppy came to Logan and the romance culminated on December 15th when we were married in the Logan Temple.
To be continued when I leave my childhood.