History of Ernest Darnell Denison by his Mother Ola Belle Polk Denison
Contributor: Inkasi888 Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
When Ernest and I learned we were going to have a baby we were overjoyed. We both hoped for a boy. We had only been married not quite two months when I became pregnant. Ernest was in school and we were living on his G.I. which was$90.00 per month. But we didn't worry. After school was out Ernest worked at the pea cannery and made the money for the doctor and hospital which was a grand total of $100.00 ($50.00 each).
On July 27, 1948 (two days early) I knew it was time to go. Ernest's Mom and Dad had stayed with me evenings while Ernest worked, but this night they decided to go over to Manti to the temple. I was feeling fine. I had two bushels of apricots that I planned to can the next day. Soon after they left things began to happen. Since I had no phone I went out and called the little boy next door and had him take a note to the Relief Society President Jennie Sorenson. She only lived about three blocks away. She called the doctor then came down to be with me. Since the nearest hospital was in Gunnison, that’s where I was going. Neither my doctor, Doyle Cranney, nor I wanted a home delivery which was quite prevalent in the area at that time.
The doctor came over and checked me and decided we should go to Gunnison. Ernest and I had no car so the doctor would take us down. First he had to go over to the pea cannery and get Ernest from work. Can you imagine a doctor today doing all that and giving all that personal service?!!
After Dr. Cranney gathered up Dad we took off for the Gunnison Hospital. It was a large old home that had been converted. We got there about 9:30 at night and Darnell was born early the next morning about 5:00 AM. We were so thrilled and excited now that we had our baby and we had gotten a boy. I was the oldest in my family and always wished I had a big brother.
Grandma Johnson had suggested the name for Darnell. I must record the history of the name for Darnell in our family. My Grandmother, Margaret Rachel Helms Berry, died when my mother was only ten years old. Her doctor was Dr. Darnell. When Mama had a son she named him Darnell. He died when he was six years old after having his tonsils removed. Anyway, when Mama suggested Ernest Darnell for a name. Ernest and I both thought it sounded good. I was so happy when Cameron was given Darnell as a middle name. I hope the name can carry on in our family.
We finally got to come home from the hospital. I think we stayed there five days. Ernest borrowed a car from a friend in Ephraim, Allen Allred, to come down for us. It was good to get home. We had an old-fashioned buggy that we got from Uncle Miles and Aunt Mae Denison, that was Darnell's bed until we could manage to get a crib.
This was a scary time for me. I had never taken care of a baby before. The first diaper I ever put on I put on Darnell!! It was good that he was born in the summer because it took me so long to bath him that he would have frozen in the winter time.
We had Darnell blessed the first Sunday in September which was September 5, 1948 in the Ephraim South Ward, South Sanpete Stake by his father, Ernest Samuel Denison.
I guess I tried too hard to do everything right with this new baby. I tried to keep him on schedule and feed him a perfectly balanced diet each day.
Since we didn't have a car, Dad fixed a box on his old sled for Darnell to ride in when we went over to Grandma and Grandpa D's and around after the snow fell. Before that we took him in the buggy. Usually when we went to church Dad would carry him. One day I was just going out the door. Dad and Darnell had gone on ahead. I looked just in time to see Dad slip and fall on the ice. It scared both of us so much. We were afraid the baby had been hurt, but he was all right.
In March 1949 we moved to Logan. Dad had taken about all the classes available at Snow College. We probably would have gone to BYU but they didn't have an engineering school at that time.
The first place we moved to in Logan was really sad and so dirty. About the time we got it cleaned up we found a better place. I think we were there five days. We moved to a nice little duplex on 4th North and 6th East. We liked the area, but this was the only place we have ever lived where the ward was really unfriendly. Sometimes we would push the buggy up the hill and go to church at the institute building. We had a friend there, Terry Semison, who had been stationed at the naval base in Memphis with Dad.
I went to work at Dick's Cafe shortly after we moved to Logan. I worked nights. When Dad got home from school I caught the bus to go to work. Sometimes Dad and Darnell would come down later to see me at work. Dad would order a milk shake and let Darnell have a taste. Pretty soon Darnell wanted more than a taste. Usually Dad only got a taste. Finally he had to resort to buying two shakes.
I would try to sleep during the day when Darnell napped. Then I would work cleaning house, carrying laundry, etc. Darnell was the happy adventurer. He seemed to always get into things when I was busy. One time he dumped oatmeal on the living room carpet. I did not have a vacuum but just a carpet sweeper that Grandma D had loaned us. What a time I had getting that oatmeal up. I would put Darnell in his stroller and put him in the yard for fresh air and sunshine and he would run away. He would go till the sidewalk went into the gutter, then he would tip over and get in mud and guck.
The summer of 1949 Dad noticed on the bulletin board someone who was driving back to Alabama and wanted another couple to go with to share expenses. We thought this was a good chance to go home and show off our son. I hadn't been home since I had come to Utah in November 1947.
This couple, (Byrd's were their name) wanted to go to Chicago to visit relatives, so we had Aunt Jennie and Uncle Dick meet us in Chicago and drove back to their home in Indiana for a visit. Then the Byrd’s picked us up there and drove on to Memphis. From Memphis we took the bus to Arkansas to see family. We had a nice visit and showed off Darnell to everyone. He was the first grandchild in my family. He was #21 in the Denison family. We went back to Memphis and met the Byrd’s and returned to Utah.
I still worked at Dick's Cafe. Dad was taking ROTC in college. At the end of the next school year, he was to go to Dayton, Ohio for summer camp for six weeks. Since the government would be paying him travel expenses we decided this would be a good chance for us to go home again. In the mean time we had bought a used car. By being careful - not staying in motels or going to restaurants - we could make the trip with the extra miles to go to Arkansas on what the government was paying. That summer we drove some thousand miles without going into a motel or restaurant!!!
Darnell and I stayed in Helena and West Helena for a visit while Dad drove on to camp in Ohio. Then we took a bus up to Indiana to Aunt Jennie's. Dad met us there.
This summer Darnell made friends with a little boy across the street from Grandma Johnson's. He would go over and play. This family had a Negro maid. Darnell had not seen many black people so he would really stare at her. The lady was explaining to the maid that Darnell was from Utah and hadn't been around blacks. The maid said "Mercy me!! Utah - that's way the other side of Little Rock ain't it?" Since then when we want to stress that some place is far off we will say that is way the other side of Little Rock.
It was good to be with Dad again. We headed back to Logan. We thought of going to Nauvoo but since that was miles out of the way we decided not to stretch our luck. So far we hadn't had any car trouble. We got home safe and sound. Just before we had left on vacation we had moved into student housing, the pre-fabs they were called. We were glad for this. We were with other students. The student ward was friendlier and all activities were geared to those with no money.
While working at Dick's I often was given passes to the movies by the two managers who came into the cafe. One time I had four passes. So we invited our friends, Ray and Elaine Jarrett and their little boy Bobby to go to the show with us. When we got to their place they were popping corn. We laugh now when we tell the story, we went to the show on free passes and took our own popcorn! HA! Such was the life of poor G. I. students.
For a long time Darnell had had a lot of problems with ear infections. The doctor told us he would have to have his tonsils out. We knew this when we were at Grandma Johnson's but didn't breathe a word of it to her. After my brother Darnell's death from a tonsillectomy it was a scary thing in our family.
This was the time when polio was rampant. Doctors would do no surgery in the summer time that could be delayed. They felt this increased the chances of getting polio. In December we took Darnell into the hospital. I was really worried. Dad and I both did a lot of praying and fasting. Darnell came through fine. We took him home that afternoon. The doctor said just feed him a soft diet, soup, etc. Well, he wanted crackers with his soup and he had bacon and toast for breakfast the next morning. That surgery didn't slow him down a bit.
Darnell had several memorable experiences while we lived in the pre-fabs. One time he took a drink of tincture of violet we had in the medicine cabinet. I was scared and called the doctor. He said give him some baking soda in water and watch him. Apparently he just got enough of the stuff to turn his mouth all purple. He was all right.
At Easter time in 1951 one of the gas stations were giving away dyed baby chicks. Darnell got one. We kept it in a little cage we had made. One day I put the cage out on the door stoop in the sun. A dog came by and the chicken got out. The dog was chasing the chicken. I went to rescue the chicken. As I rounded the corner of the house I slipped and fell and went on my hands and knees thru the gravel. This really scared me since I was eight months pregnant with Rozanne. I got the chicken and put him back in the cage. We kept him till June when Dad graduated. We cooked the chicken for dinner.
At this time we lived in a downstairs apartment. We had lived upstairs at first, but when I became pregnant I couldn't climb the stairs very well. While we were still upstairs I thought I had Darnell all situated and happy while I had a shower. I just got into the shower and got all soapy when I heard someone knocking on the door. When I got there it was one of the downstairs neighbors telling me Darnell was on the roof. He had managed to unlatch the window, then turn the crank to open it. I had quite a time getting out there to get him back in since I was pregnant, wearing a bathrobe, and all wet and soapy.
One time we rented a tractor to plow the garden. Darnell, curious as always, almost put his hand into the fan while the tractor was running.
On June 5, 1951 Rozanne was born. Dad had graduated on June 4. Darnell was excited about his little sister. Dad went to Salt Lake to work for the Survey. I had to stay in Logan until Rozanne was a little older. We did go on a field trip with Dad to Moab and Monticello. It was so hot in Moab, Darnell and I took turns playing in the shower.
In July we moved to Salt Lake. Darnell gave me another scare. Polio was still rampant. One evening he came in from play complaining of his neck hurting. Dad was gone on a field trip. We had no doctor in Salt Lake yet. I got the name of my neighbor's doctor and called him. He wasn't too interested since it was about 7 PM and he didn't know me. He said just watch Darnell and see how he felt by morning. By then he was fine. I sure did a lot of praying that night.
In September we moved out to Vernal. The oil boom had just started out there. Housing was scarce and expensive. We had to rent a basement apartment in Maeser about four miles out from Vernal. The basement hadn't been built properly. The walls were very damp. We had such a severely cold winter; ice formed on our bedroom walls and had really built up by April. I couldn't dry wash in the house because of the dampness. I hung washing out in 15 degrees below zero temperatures. When we first moved there Darnell was still sleeping in the crib and Rozanne was sleeping in the buggy. She soon got to big for that so we got Darnell the little roll away bed that we still have. He liked that bed. Since we only had one bedroom we could fold up his bed during the day.
While we lived in Maeser Darnell acquired his pet frog. He would play with and talk about that frog. One day he brought the neighbor boy in to see his frog. The look on that boy's face was something to see! The frog was completely imaginary. Ha!
One day another neighbor boy and Darnell were out trying to catch a snake that was in a trench by the house. Imagine the condition I would have been in if he had come in the house with a snake.
We eventually moved into Vernal. When Darnell was five he started to Kindergarten. The school was just across the street. He would go with a friend, Johnny Barton, who lived down the street from us. I would always watch them until they went in the door. One day they decided to play on the swings rather than go into class. His teacher's name was Mrs. Anderson. Darnell had only about two months of Kindergarten before we moved to Alaska.
We left Vernal October 31, 1953. That was a long trip. We visited in Salt Lake and Logan that week end. We left Logan Monday noon and had breakfast in Palmer the next Monday morning. The last day on the road Darnell got a stomach bug and vomited all day long. We really had a mess in our little Champion Studebaker. What a helpless feeling to be way out there in Yukon Territory with a sick little boy and not even a drugstore available. Finally when we came into Alaska someone at the customs station told us that a nurse lived in a trailer camp at Tok Junction. She sold us some suppositories which worked miracles with Darnell. We had planned to drive on into Palmer that night, but when Darnell began to feel better we spent the night at Sheep Mountain Lodge about 60 miles from Palmer.
We settled into life in Alaska, living in a small government house just south of town. Of course we had to wait until Christmas Eve for our furniture to arrive. The neighbors were friendly and helpful and loaned us things to get by with.
Some of Darnell's and Rozanne's friends here in the government housing area were Allen and Cindy Moore and Sharon and George Smoot. One day Darnell and Allen had been out playing in the wooded area near by. Darnell came in wanting some pliers. I asked what he needed pliers for. He said he and Allen had found some nuts in the woods. I didn't think there were any nuts growing in Alaska. When I went out to check I found they had gathered moose pooh thinking it was nuts!
Since there was no Kindergarten in Palmer, Darnell did not get to go to school any more that year. He started first grade the next year at Central School.
The branch of the Church there was quite small. They met in the Carpenters Hall just for Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting. There was no Primary when we first moved there so I ordered the lesson materials from Salt Lake for Darnell's and Rozanne's Primary classes. Each week we had Primary in our home and had the Smoot and Moore children there. That made four non LDS and two LDS children.
The next year the branch was able to rent the hall for a week day so we had Primary in the afternoon and MIA at night.
In the meantime he and Rozanne tried to have all the childhood diseases that spring and summer - measles and chicken pox. Darnell never seemed to really recover and feel good. After a lot of sickness, hives and generally just feeling bad, we came home from church one Sunday and Darnell started to cry with his knees hurting. We immediately took him over to the hospital. The Lord was really with us. The local doctor, Dr. Bailey, had never been able to determine what was wrong with Darnell. On weekends he would get military doctors from Anchorage to come up and take care of emergencies at the hospital. The doctor this day specialized in children's heart diseases, rheumatic fever, etc. He immediately said Darnell had rheumatic fever and admitted him to the hospital.
Darnell was in the hospital for awhile and then came home, but had to be very careful and get lots of rest. He missed a lot of school his first year. He had surgery for a hernia and his resistance was so low that he picked up everything. When all the kids in school had the stomach bug for a day or so Darnell got it for a week and ended up in the hospital with kidney infection.
Darnell spent so much time in the hospital he felt like he knew the nurses better than he knew his teacher.
Miss Farnsworth was Darnell's first grade teacher. She was very understanding. The summer after first grade, Miss Farnsworth taught Darnell in summer school one-on-one for about six weeks. One day Darnell was real tired and fell asleep in his summer school class. As he was the only one in class, she let him sleep.
When Darnell was in second grade we moved over to the Matanuska Valley Lodge locally known as the "Dorm". This was owned by the Farmer' Co-op and was originally built for housing for teachers and nurses. Most of the people were permanent guests although we had a few overnight guests.
This put us right on the same lot as the school which was really good in the winter time. When we lived in the government houses I worried about the moose that gathered in the woods along the path where the kids walked to school. It was dark so much in the winter too. In December and January the sun would come up about 11 AM and set before 2 PM. The PTA bought Scotchlite tape for all the kids to have sewn on their parkas.
Darnell's second grade teacher was Vera Gassaway. She was an excellent teacher and was really good for Darnell. Darnell was having trouble with his reading, partly because he had missed so much of first grade. Mrs. Gassaway suggested he have tutoring in reading during the summer. He did this and it really helped.
One time Darnell was sledding at the Grovers. He came down the hill and plowed into a tree stump and got cut above his eye. We had to take him into the hospital for stitches. Before he went on his mission he was in a car wreck and cut that same place again. He still has the scar.
One time he went down on the Kenai Peninsula with Dad on one of his field trips. After helping dad do some of his work, they did some fishing and Dad and Darnell really had good luck. They each caught 32 fish (the daily limit) and did it in less than an hour. He was really proud of those fish.
Some later friends he had were Stephen and Mary Ann Durrant. They liked to fish too. One time we all went to one of the sloughs on the Knik River to fish for salmon. Stephen got in a soft muddy spot that was almost like quick sand. He sunk to his waist before we got him pulled out.
There were lots of interesting things to see in Alaska. We went with Dad on lots of field trips. One time we went up to Circle which was actually about 50 miles from the Arctic Circle. But from nearby Eagle Summit you could see the sun all night on June 22. It was cloudy and rainy that day and a cloud burst formed in the south and the sun went behind the cloud for about thirty minutes.
There were lots of large vegetables grown there - 3 foot celery, 60 pound cabbage, 14 pound turnips, etc. As Darnell got older he was in 4-H and had a garden where he raised turnips that weighed 8-9 pounds. He also took cooking in 4-H and learned to make really good baking powder biscuits.
We were in Alaska almost three years before we came back to the States for a visit. We flew out - the first flight for all of us but Dad. We picked up a new red Ford station wagon in Utah and drove back home to Alaska. Darnell's eighth birthday was spent along the Alaska Highway. We spent the night before in White Horse. We stopped in the afternoon for him and Rozanne to play in Kluane Lake. That didn't take long as the water was cold.
(Added by Darnell) Sometime during this week I kept seeing funny shadows on the walls which seemed to move around. I couldn’t figure out what was making the shadows. But doubts about being baptized kept coming to mind. When I spoke aloud, “I am getting baptized this coming Saturday no matter what” all of the shadows disappeared and never bothered me again.
Darnell was baptized in Anchorage, Alaska August 4, 1956 by his father and confirmed August 5, 1956 by his father. The baptism font was in the basement of the building and the floor was real cold. Probably the permafrost.
After a few years we started to build a new church. Darnell helped Dad and the other branch members in construction of the chapel. Darnell remembers seeing his dad cry one morning. The night before, a strong wind was blowing. The following morning, all of the walls (just the studs) had been blown down and had to be re-built. It was nice when it was finished and we had our very own building. It was finished in 1957 I believe. Darnell then spent many hours mowing lawns at the church after it was completed.
In February 1957 Grandpa and Grandma Denison came up to Alaska to see us. They were there when Mark was born on April 5th.
After Kevin was born we decided taking care of the Lodge and two babies was a little too much for me. So we bought an Alaska Housing Authoring house. This was the first home we had ever bought.
Darnell was at 4-H Camp when statehood was granted. He said they had quite a ceremony and celebration at camp even though it wouldn't be official until January 1959.. This was an historic event in our lives.
Dad had been called as Branch President of the Palmer Branch so we knew this meant staying a little longer in Alaska. While Dad was in the Branch Presidency, first as counselor then as President, Darnell met many church authorities and had the opportunity to visit with them. Some of those were three Mission Presidents; . . . McMurrin, Douglas H. Driggs, Franklin D. Richards (later made Assistant to the Twelve.) Darnell met Adam S. Bennion who dedicated the site for the chapel, Dilworth S. Young who dedicated the chapel, Delbert L. Staply, Wm. J. Critchlow, Jr. and Harold B. Lee. Darnell also attended an organ concert by Roy M. Darly held in our Palmer chapel.
We enjoyed the house. It was small but it was great to be in our own place.
Dad was gone a lot so this meant that Darnell had to help me a lot around the house and with the babies.
The summer Darnell was eleven we made a trip home to Utah. Rozanne and Darnell were able to go to the Manti Temple to do baptisms for the dead.
On another trip home we had gone down to the St. George Temple where one of the ladies in the nursery showed some parts of the temple to Darnell and Rozanne while Ernest and I, and Grandpa and Grandma Denison were in a session.
Right after I came home from the hospital with Brent Dad had to leave on a field trip. We had a coal stoker furnace. Since I didn't quite feel up to making it down the steps to the basement, Dad had shown Darnell how to clean the clinkers out of the furnace. He would go down each day and clean them out. Since we only had two bedrooms upstairs Dad finished a bedroom in the basement for Darnell and Rozanne.
One morning I woke up very early to find the house full of smoke. I got up to check the problem. Darnell hadn't gotten all the clinkers out around the bottom of the furnace and the house was full of coal gas. The bathroom seemed to be the clearest place so I put all the kids in there, tiny baby Brent and all. Then I opened up the rest of the house to get fresh air in.
Being in the basement, Darnell and Rozanne got the worst of the gas. They both vomited some. Darnell got the most since he slept on the top bunk right by the heat duct.
This was a scary experience for all of us. We were just grateful it wasn't any more serious than it was. Dad came home that day, but after I had cleaned out the furnace and washed coal soot off of everything.
Every February the Fur Rendezvous was held in Anchorage. We went down several times to see the dog races and the Eskimo blanket toss.
In the summer of 1960 Darnell graduated from Primary and in June 1960 we got a transfer to Lincoln, Nebraska. We had had some great experiences living in Alaska but were glad to be going back to the South 48.
Brent was in the hospital with pneumonia so Dad drove out with Darnell, Rozanne and Mark. Kevin, Brent and I flew out and met them in Great Falls, Montana. We took a quick trip through Yellowstone and then drove on to Lincoln. Darnell was ready to start Junior High when we got to Lincoln. He had gone to school six years in dear old Central School there in Palmer.
He was now twelve years old and was ordained a Deacon shortly after we arrived in Lincoln as he had to wait for our memberships to arrive from Alaska. Darnell was ordained a Deacon September 4, 1960 by his dad.
We enjoyed living in Lincoln. Darnell especially liked the scout troop. He was chosen as outstanding scout of the month during our first winter in Lincoln.
In March 1961 we went on quite a trip. Dad had a special assignment in Washington, D.C, Darnell had been attending Culler Junior High in Lincoln. It was a beautiful new building.
We lived in Arlington, Virginia while back East and Darnell attended Stratford Junior High, a very large school. It was named for the home of the Lees - Light Horse Harry and Robert E.
While in Washington we saw all the things of historical interest in the city and surrounding territory.
This year Darnell was striving for the 100% award so we had to plan all of our travels so Darnell could get to his meetings.
After three months in Washington we returned home to Lincoln.
We hadn't been home very long when we got sad news. Aunt Wanda Curtis' son and wife, Marvin and Rose Marie were killed in an auto accident. We went to Utah for the funeral. This was the first funeral Darnell had ever attended.
During Darnell's years as a Deacon he tried to carry out all assignments. He spent lots of time mowing lawns at the church again.
In January 1962 Darnell's Grandfather Denison passed away. We crossed Wyoming in the middle of the winter to attend his funeral. This was the first time Darnell had been a pall bearer.
Darnell was ordained a Teacher September 25, 1962 by his dad.
During the last year of Junior High School at Charles Culler Jr. High Darnell became interested in electronics. The kit he had been given in shop class for electronic projects had one bad part (a diode). As a result, Darnell couldn't get past the first project. Three weeks before the end of the semester, Darnell bet the shop teacher, Mr. Alexander, an A against an F that if he could get a new diode, he could complete all the electronics projects before the end of the semester. Mr. Alexander agreed but Darnell had to buy the diode. Darnell did all of the projects and got a B+ in the class.
All during his years at Lincoln Northeast High School he continued his interest in electronics. He built a ham radio receiver and a TV set. His ham radio was built entirely from scratch. Darnell received an award at the state industrial arts fair for his ham radio. Darnell was also the only student elected president of the high school ham radio club (call letters KZAZU) who never had a ham license.
Darnell was ordained a Priest September 6, 1964 by his dad.
Darnell graduated from Lincoln Northeast High School in 1966 in the top one-third of his class.
That fall he started attending the University of Nebraska in the College of Electrical Engineering.
After two semesters he got his mission call to Denmark.
Darnell was ordained an Elder June 25, 1967 by his dad.
In closing this history I want to state that Darnell has brought a lot of happiness into the lives of his parents. If I had it to do over again I think I would try to worry less and enjoy him more. I would dwell more on his good points and less on his mischievous actions. I guess part of the problem was that he was the first and Dad and I were having on the job training. Maybe we expected too much from him. Also his bout with rheumatic fever made us worry about him more and maybe we tried to curtail his activities too much. But anyway we love him very much and are very proud of him.