Personal Life History of Leland Ivan Larsen
Contributor: BarbaraLeishman Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Born: May 6, 1918, Preston, Franklin County, Idaho
Father: Ivan Comish Larsen
Mother: Julia Leona Ellis
Father died when I was four years old. I remember very vaguely things about the farm where we lived. It was a “dry farm” (non-irrigated) in a community called Mapleton, a few miles from Franklin, Idaho. The house and other buildings were on a terrace or bench above a small river called Cub River. As I remember it, from where our farmstead was, we looked down into a very deep and wide valley. Actually, it isn’t as deep and wide as I remember. The main road ran through our yard, with the house being on one side of the road and the barn on the other. I remember my father putting me on one of the horses and I clung to the hame and rode from the barn to the watering trough which was at a pump a short distance down the road. I also remember going down the road to meet “Daddy” when he came home with the school wagon after delivering the school children home from school in the evening or perhaps it was when he came home after taking them to school in the morning. The school wagon was the forerunner of the present day school bus. It was a van type of structure built on a wagon and pulled by horses. My father was hired by the school or had a contract to drive the school wagon and haul the neighborhood children to school and home again. This he did in addition to operating his farm.
My memories of this age are very vague but I seem to remember having a little bucket that my mother gave to me to play with in the yard. Although our farm was a dry farm there was an irrigation ditch near the house. As I remember it seems that it was a large canal but it was probably only a good sized ditch. The incident that implants it in my memory was a time when I must have been playing near the ditch and I let my bucket fall in the ditch. I suppose I was trying to dip water out of the ditch although I am sure mother had told me not to go near it. I don’t remember these details, they are only supposition, but I do have an impression in my memory of my precious bucket being out of my reach in the middle of that stream of water and floating rapidly away from me. I don’t recall how I attracted mother’s attention but being a small child I am sure I screamed loudly. I do have a vivid impression in my mind of mother running along the ditch bank to retrieve my bucket. I don’t seem to remember whether or not she was able to, indeed, rescue my bucket but I assume she did else I might have remembered the loss. Anyway, I like happy endings so I choose to believe that my mother rescued my bucket.
I don’t remember much else about my father or about his death. I do seem to remember him lying in Grandmother Larsen’s living room. I suppose in a casket sitting on a bench although I don’t remember any casket. The picture that is in my mind is that he was lying on or in something about the same height that I was. There were double glass doors between Grandmother’s living room and her dining room and the picture in my mind is looking through those doors and seeing him lying there. He died March 30, 1922 at the age of 26 and just a month and a week before I was 4 years old. My brother, Nathan, was two years and two and a half months old and my sister, Dona, was three months old. Nathan was born January 15, 1920 and Dona was born January 1, 1922. Dona was the first baby born in Preston in 1922. Father was buried in the Whitney Cemetery. Whitney is a farming community about 2 or 3 miles from Preston. The cause of his death was pneumonia.
I don’t recall much about the period that followed Father’s death but my memory of those years is more vivid than the prior. I recall living with Grandma Ellis, Mom’s mother (at that age I called my mother Mamma but later I shortened it down to Mom and that is the way I think of her now) in her house in Preston. I recall going to Sunday school while we lived there. I don’t remember going to Primary but I suppose I did that too. I went to movies during that time. I don’t remember how often – perhaps it was only once – and I don’t remember much about the movies I saw, but I seem to remember going to a movie at that time. I also remember going to visit Grandma & Grandpa Larsen and playing with Esther and Helen. They were my Father’s sisters. Esther was four months younger than I and Grandma Larsen’s youngest of twelve children. Helen was about two years older than Esther. Uncle Verner, Father’s brother just younger than he, had a farm about two miles out of Preston. I remember going out there and playing with my cousin Alavon. She was Uncle Verner’s and Aunt Lola’s oldest child and a few months younger than I. It was at Uncle Verner’s that I learned the meaning of the word “couple”. He was stacking up some grain and he asked me to go somewhere and get him a couple of sacks. I didn’t know how many a couple was so I asked him and he told me.
I remember going to visit Mother’s sister, Aunt Minnie (her full name was Wilhelmina) and Uncle Bert and their family on a farm at Malad. They had a son, Harold, who was about my age. Mom’s brother, Uncle Jim, and Aunt Lucy and their family lived in Malad also but they lived in town. They had a boy, George, who was about my age. All these aunts and uncles had other children but I have only mentioned those I remember from that period of my life. I seem to remember riding on a train which I think was on that trip but I am not sure about that. I recall Aunt Lucille’s boys (another of Mom’s sisters) Clifford and Ralph at Grandma Ellis’s house in Preston. I don’t recall that they lived at Grandma’s house but I think they probably did live in Preston. Cliff was about my age and the other boys were younger. Aunt Lucille had 2 girls, Irma & Eva, who were older than the boys. Grandma’s brother, Uncle Tom Nessen, lived quite close to Grandma. He had a son, Alma, who was a year or two older than I. I don’t remember playing with him but I do recall there was such a person. Mom had a gentleman caller while we lived at Grandmother Ellis’s. I don’t remember his name or anything about him except he brought us children candy when he came calling. I asked Mom if she was going to marry him. I don’t know what her answer was but Grandma answered me by telling me I shouldn’t want that because he would be a mean step-father. From that I got the impression that a mean father was a step-father. I eventually learned better but that was my first understanding of the meaning of the term “step-father”.
This is as good a time as any to record a little of my genealogical background. My father was Ivan Comish Larsen, born January 25, 1896, at Cove, Cache County, Utah. He died March 30, 1922. He was a farmer. My mother was Julia Leona Ellis, born November 2, 1900, at Smithfield, Cache County, Utah. She died September 14, 1965 at Ogden, Weber County, Utah. My father and mother were married April 11, 1917 in the Logan Temple, Logan, Cache County, Utah. My father’s father was Almartin Larsen, born December 25, 1868, at Logan, Cache County, Utah. He was a farmer. My father’s mother was Ellen Francis Comish, born March 29, 1875, at Franklin, Franklin County, Idaho. Grandfather and Grandmother Larsen were married October 25, 1893 in the Logan Temple.
My mother’s father was George William Ellis, born August 24, 1866, at Logan, Cache County, Utah. He died January 7, 1912, killed in a snow slide in Blacksmith Fork Canyon, Cache County, Utah. My mother’s mother was Julia Nessen, born February 29, 1872, at Logan, Cache County, Utah. She died June 9, 1935 at Preston, Franklin County, Idaho. Grandfather and Grandmother Ellis were married January 15, 1890 in the Logan Temple.
Almartin Larsen’s (my paternal grandfather) father was Christian John Larsen, born May 21, 1831, at Aarkus, Denmark. He died September 16, 1915 at Logan, Cache County, Utah. His mother was Enger Margretta Peterson, born July 9, 1838 at Risore, Norway. She died August 19, 1910 at Logan, Utah.
Ellen Francis Comish’s (my paternal grandmother) father was John Comish, born December 1, 1838, at Douglas, Isle of Man, British Isles. He died May 14, 1922, at Cove, Cache County, Utah. He was a farmer. Her mother was Esther Elizabeth Stanford, born February 20, 1845 at Southwick, Sussex, England. She died March 15, 1916 at Cove, Cache County, Utah. John Comish and Esther Elizabeth Stanford were married November 22, 1862 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
George William Ellis’ (my maternal grandfather) father was George Ellis, Jr., born January 1, 1830 at Lincolnshire, England. He died in 1883 (I don’t have month and day at this time) at either Providence, Cache County, Utah or Salt Lake City. His mother was Jemima Rose Wiggell, born January 27, 1838 at Bathurst, South Africa. She died January 19, 1922 at Richmond, Cache County, Utah.
Julia Nessen’s (my maternal grandmother) father was James Nessen, born April 18, 1825 at Aalborg, Denmark. He died September 27, 1907 at Smithfield, Utah. Her mother was Wilhelmina Jacobsen, born January 24, 1835 at Fredericia, Vejle, Denmark. She died March 9, 1910 at Smithfield, Utah.
Information on my family genealogy has been gathered and recorded much farther back than this but I will let this do for this narrative.
Sometime during the year that I was 5 years old my mother went to work as housekeeper for a man named Frank C. Goodwin. This was probably in the early spring or late winter of 1924 although I can’t be very sure of the date from my memory and I have no record of it. Mr. Goodwin was a farmer. He had a farm at Dayton, a farm community a few miles west of Preston, Idaho. His wife had died and left him with 3 children, Melvin (nicknamed Bus) about three years older than I, Veda (nicknamed Curly) a few years older than Bus and Velma (nicknamed Brownie) the oldest of the three. As I remember, Brownie was in high school. We lived with them in their house on the farm. We had been in the Goodwin home only a short time when Mr. Goodwin and Mom decided to get married. They were married in 1924.
Mom taught us (her three children) to call our step-father “Dad” and that is the way I shall refer to him through the remainder of this attempt at my life story. Having had two dads has always presented a problem as to how to refer to them without being confusing. In my younger years I referred to my father as “Daddy” and my step-father as “Dad” and whether it avoided confusion or not at least I felt comfortable with it. As I got older, particularly after I got into my teens, I felt I was too grown up to continue using the term “Daddy” and the terms “Father” or “my father” or any use of the word “father” seemed stiff and informal and I wasn’t comfortable with it. Consequently I never developed any comfortable way of distinguishing between them. For the purposes of this narrative, however, I shall refer to my step-father as Dad and my blood father as Father.
I have no quarrel with any adult who refers to his or her father as daddy and I don’t mean to imply that that use of the word in any way improper. I had a peculiar quirk in my personality, however, that made me feel it was for children and when I grew up I should graduate to some less childish term. This is just one of many quirks in my personality that has caused me problems through my life.
I turned 6 years old while we lived at Dayton and it was there I started school. I rode to school in a horse drawn school wagon such as my father had driven when he was living. That summer was a bad time for Dad, however, because he had a crop failure and lost the farm. As I recall the stories about it, the crop failure was due to lack of irrigation water. The farm was in irrigated farm and for some reason, which I never knew or else I have forgotten, the irrigation distribution system it was dependent upon failed to deliver sufficient water. Anyway, Dad’s crop failed and he lost the farm. Dad had a brother-in-law, Will Phillips, a brother of his first wife, who was farming in Twin Falls County, Idaho. Uncle Will was leasing a farm belonging to a man named Stafford and with his help Dad was able to lease the adjoining farm which also belonged to Mr. Stafford. So during the winter – I think it was February 1925 we moved to Twin Falls County. The farm there was about six miles southwest of the town of Filer and about seven miles southeast of the town of Buhl. Buhl was the larger town so when we went to town for shopping, etc., we went to Buhl. The road that went past our farm was also the dividing line between two school districts, Syringa and Poplar Hill. We lived on the Syringa side of the road and Uncle Will lived on the Poplar Hill side. Uncle Will had children in school and I suppose of them we went to the Poplar Hill School too and finished out that school year. When I say we I am referring to my step-brother, Bus, and me. By the time school started the next fall, however, Bus had got acquainted with some neighbor kids, the Nebekers, who lived in the Syringa School District and because of his choice we went to Syringa School that year. I don’t know that we had any choice, either, because the school district officials may have insisted that we go to school in the district in which we lived.
Here at these schools we had no school wagons to ride to school. Dad bought us a horse to ride and we rode the horse. The first horse we had was a bay mare and we named her Nell. Two of us rode her with me riding behind Bus and hanging on to him. At that time I was afraid of horses and was afraid to ride alone. Dad and Mom didn't feel it was safe for us to ride with a saddle. They feared that if the horse shied or bucked or did anything to cause us to fall off we might get a foot caught in a stirrup and be dragged. And old Nell did shy (she would see something alongside the road that would startle her and she would jump sidewise) and we did fall off many times. Bus probably would not have fallen off much if he had been alone but with me riding behind him and holding on to him with both arms I would fall off and pull him with me. I have no count but I would guess we fell off from old Nell several hundred times during that school year. I suspect old Nell wasn’t always as startled as she appeared to be. She learned that she could unload us that way and get away and go home and not have to be bothered with us. Many times we started to school or home on the horse and ended up walking. Fortunately we never seemed to get hurt much.
One of my fond memories of that year was a cute little girl named Bonnie Sonner. I fell in love with her. I was too bashful to ever tell her how I felt. I don’t recall any actual association with her – even as much as to talk to her – but to be in the same school room with her and fantasize about her was enough to fill my heart with rapture.
We got a little pup along about then. We also had a cat that apparently came with the farm. The pup was playful and wanted to play but the cat didn’t want to be bothered so as cats normally do it struck out with its paw and scratched the pup in the eye. I don’t remember how badly the pup was hurt but he yelped and cried as if he were nearly killed. Our sympathies were with the pup, of course, and if we could have caught the cat we would have killed it. Fortunately for cat, it had a hideout under the granary, and when it got under there it was safe. But I don’t suppose us kids ever got over hating that cat.
Another experience I vividly remember occurred sometime during that year. We kids were playing in the field where Dad was working. There was no crop in the field at that time or Dad wouldn’t have allowed us to play there. There were willows growing along the edge of the field and they make good stick horses. Dad let us use his pocket knife to cut willows for stick horses. I got the smart idea that I could bury that pocket knife in the ground and walk away from it and then come back and find it. The other kids bet me I couldn’t do it and I accepted the challenge. I buried the knife and to be sure I could find the same spot I stuck a willow in the ground where the knife was. I walked away as agreed upon and then came back to the willow and dug in the ground but I did not find the knife. I continued digging all around the area but I did not ever find the knife. Although no one would admit it I suspected and still suspect to this day that one of the kids moved the willow I had left as a marker. Needless to say, Dad was very angry about the loss of his knife. He took one of those willow stick horses and used it on me. That is the first whipping I ever remember getting but it was a doozey. It was a whipping to remember. I had a few others later and one thing I was to learn about Dad was that when he gave me a whipping he went all out.
The summer we were there on that farm was also the summer I learned to swim. There was a small irrigation canal (it was referred to as a lateral) about three eighths of a mile from our house. It was about two feet deep and a few feet wide and we would go there swimming. I don’t remember much about the learning process but I do recall going swimming in the canal and I did learn to swim. It was also sometime during the year that we lived there that my brother, Nathan, and I were playing in the yard and for some reason or other which I can’t remember, I pushed him, he fell down and broke his collar bone. He was five years old and I was seven.
Another memory I have of that place is a swarm of honey bees that made their home inside the wall of the house. Apparently there was a hole or crack in the siding on the house and the bees found it and took up housekeeping inside the wall. Quite often there would be a bunch of bees on the outside of the house crawling or flying around. There was an irrigation ditch along the side of the yard a few feet from the house (probably twenty or thirty feet). One day we kids decided to make mud balls from mud in the ditch and throw them at the bees. This turned out to great fun until one of the bees got into my hair and stung me. Needless to say, that ended the fun. I don’t recall that anyone else got stung but it is amazing that we all didn’t get stung many times. Once was enough, however, to get me to stop slinging mud and motivate me to get away from the bees.
It was also that spring that we lived there that my youngest sister, Della, was born on April 29.
That fall, the fall of 1925, Uncle Will, who was renting the farm adjoining ours, bought him a farm and moved off from the one he was renting. It belonged to the same man who owned the one we were living on (Mr. Stafford) and it was a better farm. Consequently, Dad prevailed upon Mr. Stafford to allow him to rent the better farm and so we moved about 5/8 of a mile down the road (north) and across on the other side of the road. I suppose it was sometime in the winter or early spring that we moved – I don’t remember the moving part – and that put us in the Poplar Hill School District instead of Syringa. So the next year, beginning in the fall of 1926, I began the third grade in Poplar Hill School. Bill (Nathan), my brother, also started school that year in first grade. I spent the remainder of my grammar school (third through eighth grades) in Poplar Hill School and graduated from there in 1932.
I have many memories of Poplar Hill School and the days and years we loved there on Mr. Stafford’s farm. I shall relate them as I remember them although they won’t be in chronological order or even in the order of importance in my life. They will be in the order in which they come into my mind as I try to recall them.
We got a new pony to ride to school. With Bill going to school that made three of us so we couldn’t all ride on old Nell. Dad got us a little buckskin pony whom we named “Buck” and Bill and I rode on her. Since I was the older I had to ride in front with Bill behind holding on to me so I finally had to learn to ride. I don’t remember how long it took but I finally got so I could stay on Buck’s back with Bill holding on to me even if Buck did shy, which she often did.
I suppose I should explain why we called Nathan, “Bill”. Dad had an acquaintance – I guess he had known him for years – whose name was Nathan and Dad didn’t like him so he refused to call Nathan “Nathan”. Nathan (my brother) was about four years old when we first went to live in Dad’s house at Dayton. He was small and cute at that age and Dad began to call him “Billy Whiskers” rather than Nathan. Soon we were all calling him Billy Whiskers and then it wasn’t long until we dropped the “Whiskers” and just called him “Billy”. The name stuck with him until as he got older it was shortened to Bill and that name has stuck with him until this day. Some of our relatives who weren’t around him as he grew up call him Nathan or Nate but we (all his brothers and sisters, our families, and most of his friends) call him Bill.
We didn’t get to church in those days. We lived in Buhl, Idaho Ward. Buhl was about 6 miles from where we lived or it was probably closer to seven miles to the ward chapel in town. Mom never learned to drive a car so she couldn’t go and take us kids unless Dad would take her. Dad often said he would take us to church but on Sunday something always came up so that he couldn’t squeeze out the time to do it. Mom finally gave up and didn’t even ask him anymore so we just didn’t go to church. Mom did try to teach us about the church to some extent so I grew up with some knowledge of it and some belief in it although without actually a testimony. Mom did get us baptized, although not until I was ten years old. I don’t recall how she got us to the baptism but that might have been one of the few times when she was persistent enough and sufficiently insistent to get Dad to take her. Bill and I were baptized the same day when he was eight years old and I was ten. We were baptized in an irrigation canal called “deep creek”. I remember that some of the other children who were baptized that day wore bathing suits but Bill and I didn’t have any bathing suits so we just wore some of our overalls. That is the only church activity I remember during those years that we lived there.
The farm we live on consisted of eighty acres of land which was irrigated under a system that provided a constant stream of fifty miner’s inches of water. Fifty miner’s inches is equivalent to one cubic foot per second. As all farmers did in the area, Dad used the corrugation method of irrigation which consisted of running small streams of water down corrugates or small furrows. The corrugates were spaced about two feet apart and water was allowed to run through them until the soil between them became wet. It usually took about twenty four hours to soak across so that all the soil between the corrugates was wet so that meant that every day the water had to be changed from one set of corrugates to another. This way a few acres were irrigated each day and by rotating irrigation from one set of corrugations to another each day the entire farm was irrigated about every two weeks.
The main crop Dad grew for farm income was beans but he also grew potatoes, wheat, oats, alfalfa and occasionally some clover and sugar beets. There was also a pasture for the milk cows. We always had a few milk cows ranging from five or six to as many as ten or twelve. Dad sold the milk to a local milk processing company. The company sent a truck around from farm to farm to pick up the milk and haul it to their factory. They picked it up every day but they paid for it twice a month so twice each month we got a milk check which gave us regular income. Milk check day was always a very important day.
One of my vivid memories of the farm was chasing cows back into the pasture when they would get out. We never had very good fences and we seemed always to have cows who thought the feed was better out in the fields than in the pasture. They also seemed to be geniuses at finding weak spots in the fence where they could break through and get out. So it seemed almost daily that we kids would have the task of rounding up the cows out of the crops, putting them back in the pasture, and finding the hole in the fence and fixing it.
One of Mother’s heartbreaks was having the cows get into her garden. Time after time they would get into the garden about the time the corn was ready and they would go down the rows and eat all the ears. They would graze on the stalks after they had eaten the ears but they would clean off the ears first. There were other things in the garden they would eat too but the thing I remember most vividly was the loss of the corn. This was partly because they would go to the corn first and by the time they were finished with it we would usually notice they were in the garden and get them out. It was also partly due to the fact that I loved corn on the cob, fresh out of the garden, - it was one of my favorite foods and still is – and it was a heart break to me too, to have the cows destroy it. I enjoyed other fresh garden vegetables also but the corn on the cob was my favorite.
Mom used to cook peas, carrots, and new potatoes, all fresh out of the garden, in white cream sauce. She called it creamed peas, carrots and potatoes and it was delicious. We didn’t have much meat in the summer but we did have fresh vegetables in spite of competition from the cows.
My folks didn’t have a refrigerator until I was grown up so they couldn’t keep fresh meat very long. Since they usually went to town about once a week that’s how often we had meat, except for chicken. We raised chickens on the farm and in the summer we always had a bunch of young ones so all we had to do was catch a rooster and kill it and we could have fried chicken. We also raised pigs and usually raised a calf or two to butcher for beef but the only time we butchered a beef or pork was in the winter when the weather was cold enough so meat would keep. So we had meat and potatoes and beans in winter and fresh garden vegetables in summer except for once a week meat, usually hamburger, and chicken. We had many meatless meals in summer and many meals in winter with plenty of meat but little or no vegetables. Two things we always had, winter or summer, were bread and potatoes. All things considered, we ate very well. We never went hungry and our food was always good although we sometimes didn’t have much variety.
Living on the farm was a good life although I didn’t always think so at the time. One thing I didn’t like was the work. I can’t pinpoint how old I was when I began to have to help with the work but as I recall by the time I was seven or eight years old I had chores to do such as feeding chickens, gathering eggs, bringing in coal and wood for the stoves and numerous other light jobs. Early in life I was given the responsibility to care for my own horse. I had to go out in the morning and give her hay and oats and a drink of water and curry her or brush her down. That got her ready to ride to school. Then after school I had to be sure her stall in the barn was cleaned and fresh clean straw put in for bedding and give her hay for the night. I was probably about ten years old when I learned to milk cows, and I had to begin helping with the milking. I usually only had to milk one or two cows and that only at night. At first I thought it was great to be old enough to milk cows but the novelty soon wore off and milking cows became one of the chores I disliked most.
Along with milking cows I also had to help with other chores involved in caring for them. In winter we kept the cows in the barn at night and the manure had to be cleaned out of their stalls and clean straw put in for bedding every day. Cows also had to be fed hay and grain and there were times when we had to pump water for them. There was usually water flowing in the irrigation canals for stock water in the winter and we had access to that water. Dad didn’t like to have his milk cows drink that ditch water because it was ice cold and he thought drinking that cold water caused them to produce less milk. There was a deep well on the farm and the water from the well was much warmer than that in the ditch so we usually pumped water from the well for all the livestock and culinary use.
When we moved there in 1926 we had no electricity. This meant we couldn’t have an electric motor on the pump but our landlord did provide a small, one cylinder, gasoline engine. The trouble with the gas engine was that it didn’t always work. I can’t say what percent of the time it did work and what percent it didn’t work and I suppose I remember only the times it didn’t work but I do remember pumping that well by hand. It was a deep well, more than one hundred feet deep. A rod went down the well inside of a pipe which was about one inch in diameter with a disc on the end of the rod. The disc was the same diameter as the inside of the pipe and at the end of the rod it was in the water at the bottom of the well. As the rod with its disc at the end went up and down inside the pipe, which it did with each stroke of the pump handle, it collected water and lifted it up the pipe. Of course, the pipe had to be full of water from bottom to top before any water could come out of the pump spout. The weight of all that water plus the weight of the pump rod was a lot of weight to lift and it made pumping hard work. I am sure that when we moved there, when I was about eight years old, I was not strong enough to even pump that pump but I eventually got strong enough so I could and then I had to. We put a pipe on the end of the pump handle to extend its length and then we would team up and two or three of us would work on it together. This made it easier but there were times – too many times – when I had to do the pumping alone. My memory is vivid of my arms, my back and my entire body aching from pumping water from that well.
It wasn’t all bad, however, because another of my vivid memories is how good that water was, especially when it was fresh and cool on a hot day in the summer. I don’t know what the temperature of the water was – probably the same temperature all the time, both summer and winter – but it seemed warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Because the well water was warmer than the ditch water Dad preferred to have the cows drink the well water in the winter. In the summer he let them drink the ditch water but we still liked the well water for our own drinking. It was good water.
There were other chores to do as well. We had to clean out the horse barn (in the winter) and feed, water and curry the horses. We also had chickens and pigs to be fed and cared for and sometimes small calves. Of course, I didn’t have to do all these chores by myself but I had to do my share. There was Dad and two brothers to help with them. When I was just barely old enough that I had to begin helping there was my step-brother, Bus, who was three years older than me, and who had to do his share. When Bus started to high school he moved into Buhl and lived with his sisters. By that time my brother, Bill, was old enough to help so there was the two of us, and of course, Dad always did his share. There was always more to do, in the way of chores, in winter than in summer but then in summer we had work to do in the fields. I never learned to enjoy the work but as I look back on it now, I thank the Lord that I had it to do. I didn’t have to do enough to hurt me and I now realize that to learn to work is a very worthwhile lesson.
In summertime we had fewer chores involving care of livestock, etc., but we had to work in the fields then. When field work started in spring we would sometimes have to come home after school and work in the fields and we nearly always had work to do on Saturday. When school was out in summer, every day was a work day. Of course, as I have already said, I never had to work so hard or long hours that it did me any harm – actually it was good for me – but I never learned to like to work. One of the things I disliked more than most other jobs was hoeing beans or hoeing anything else as far as that goes, but beans was the main crop we had to hoe.
There were two weeds which were a plague to the bean crops. One was a grass we called “pigeon grass” and the other was a broadleaf weed called “nightshade”. These two weeds, if not controlled, would take over the bean fields and smother the beans until there wouldn’t be much of a crop. Dad always tried to control the weeds by cultivation (machine cultivation that is) and the cultivation did kill most of them but there would always be some that would survive. These were usually within the bean rows so the only way to eliminate them was by hand pulling or hand hoeing. The nightshade had a small berry on it similar to a currant or gooseberry which, when crushed exuded a gooey juice that would gum up threshing equipment. In order to prevent this from happening we had to pull up and carry out of the field any nightshade plants that survived long enough to produce berries. We always tried to get rid of the nightshade while it was young – before it had a chance to develop berries –but there was always quite a lot that would get by.
I never enjoyed working with horses except having a pony or horse to ride. In those days we used horses for draft work, which is towing or pulling machinery or equipment in the field. Tractors were in existence at that time but they were not common. In the early days of my farm working experience most farm work was done by use of horses, although there were a few farmers who had tractors. Dad loved his horses and he resisted giving them up for a tractor until I was well grown up and not around home much anymore. I never enjoyed working with horses. Horses had to be fed and brushed and harnessed and unharnessed, etc., and all this was a lot of work in addition to the work of driving them and keeping them under control in the fields. I did, of course, have to work the horses. There was no way out of it.
Another job I disliked was walking behind the harrow. A harrow is a piece of equipment consisting of several cross bars in which metal teeth several inches long are inserted. As the harrow is dragged across the surface of the soil the teeth dig into the soil and scratch it, stir it, or loosen it up, or make it soft and loose to a depth of three or four inches. Dad had a seat on his harrow so one could sit on it and ride while harrowing. But, when I first got old enough to be trusted to drive horses and do some harrowing, Dad was afraid I was still too young to have enough sense of responsibility to be careful. He was afraid I would fall into the harrow and get caught in it and dragged with it or even under it. So, I had to walk behind it. Dad was very lenient about allowing me to take frequent rests but he was also very stern about goofing off so I learned early not to push my luck too far. In spite of frequent rests throughout the day, by the end of a day of walking behind the harrow my legs would be aching until I would want to cry. Mom always had liniment available to rub on to sooth the aching and it helped some but it didn’t take the drudgery out of walking behind the harrow. I was glad when I finally got old enough to be trusted to ride on it.
I don’t want to give the impression that living on a farm was all bad. There were more good times than bad times. In spite of all the work there was to be done, we also had a lot of leisure time. We had time to go swimming and a lot of time to play and just have fun. Swimming and playing ball with neighbor kids are the fun things I remember most. Also we skated in winter. I also remember with pleasure the good things we had to eat – the fresh vegetables from the garden, new potatoes, fresh peas and carrots, corn on the cob, tomatoes and fried chicken etc., not to mention the good desserts my mother used to make. One of my favorites was her raisin pie.
One of the highlights of life on the farm was the threshing season. We had two threshing seasons, one for grain and one for beans. In those days threshing was done by stationary threshing machines operated by large tractors. The crop to be threshed had to be brought to the thresher on wagons and fed into the machine by pitchfork. In the machine it went through beaters which beat the grain loose from the straw. It then went through sieves and then fans which separated the grain from the straw. The straw was then blown out the rear of the machine by a large fan and deposited in a large pile or stack. The grain came out of a spout alongside of the thresher and poured into a wagon box or truck. The complete process required a crew of about twenty men. To get that many men together the farmers in the neighborhood would all get together and organize a crew among themselves. Then they would all go from farm to farm threshing each farmers’ crops until all of their crops were threshed. To get all the crops in the neighborhood threshed would take about two weeks but it would only take about one day at our place or at most two. But this was always an exciting day for us kids. Beside the excitement of having the threshing machine at our place we always had an exceptionally good dinner. Whosoever farm on which the threshing machine happened to be threshing had to provide dinner for them at noon. Everybody always went all out to provide a good dinner for them and my mother was no exception. Those extra good dinners were among the highlights of my farm life. As I got older, probably about thirteen or fourteen, I can’t remember exactly, I had to take my place on the threshing crew. I usually had to drive or operate one of the hayracks (hayracks in those days were flat platforms about eight feet wide and twelve to sixteen feet long equipped with end walls three or four feet high and mounted on wagons) or wagons used to haul the grain from the field to the thresher. Even then, although I didn’t particularly enjoy having to work, threshing time was an exciting time. I guess I did feel considerable pride in being part of the threshing crew. Later combines came into use more commonly and as I remember I was about twenty or in my early twenties when Dad began hiring combines to do his harvesting.
Harvesting with a combine saved a lot of hard handwork. To harvest with a stationary thresher required that the grain had to be cut and shocked and allowed to dry before it could be threshed. The grain was cut with a machine called a binder. A binder was drawn by three or four horses or by a tractor if one was available. As it was drawn through the field it cut the grain, bound it in bundles tied with binder twine and dropped the bundles in the field. The bundles of grain then had to be gathered up and set in shocks so the grain would dry. The grain had to be cut when it was still just a wee bit green so it wouldn’t shatter while being cut and shocked. It would be almost ripe but not quite. A shock consists of several bundles set up together with the straw ends on the ground and the head ends up into the air so they could dry. One bundle by itself wouldn’t stand up very long – any small force such as a slight breeze would tip it over – but six or eight or more bundles standing together would support each other and stay standing for a long time. When the heads of the grain became dry enough to shatter, or thresh out readily, the bundles would be loaded on wagons, hauled to the thresher, fed by hand into the thresher and threshed. This system involved a lot of handwork and it was all hard work. Use of combines eliminated all that hard work.
I think it was about 1940 or maybe 1939 when Dad started using combines to do his harvesting. By that time many farmers owned combines and although Dad never owned one himself, most of those who did own them were eager to do custom work so Dad always hired one of them. By that time I wasn’t home much anymore.
I have mentioned a few of the kinds of work or farm jobs that I had to do and, of course, there were others, none of which I ever enjoyed doing. I guess I was basically lazy although I did learn to be a good worker (at least that’s my opinion) and as I have grown up I have learned to enjoy work. As I look back on it I realize that the work I had to do was good for me even though I didn’t like to do it and the farm life was a good life. One of my great blessings for which I shall be eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father is that I was born and raised on a farm.
As I mentioned earlier, we moved from one farm to another in 1926 and I was about eight years old. We actually moved early in spring or late winter and my birthday is May 6 so I wasn’t eight years old until a few months after we moved. The move put us in a different school district so that fall (1926) I started third grade in “Poplar Hill School”. Poplar Hill was a small, two room school with about forty or fifty students and two teachers. Grades one through four were in one room with one teacher for the four grades and grades five through eight were in the other room with a teacher who taught those four grades. We referred to the room with the lower grades as the “little room” and the room with the upper grades as the “big room”. Actually both rooms were exactly the same size but the kids were different sizes.
When I hear about kids nowadays who graduate from high school and they can’t read or write well enough to read or fill out an application for a job, I realize how lucky or how blessed I was to have teachers who taught me to read and write and do arithmetic. I was taught to read using the phonics method in which I learned to sound out words and whether it was a good system or not (there seems to be some these days who think not) I am glad that I learned that way. I am sure it has been a great benefit to me. We had the simple Dick and Jane and Spot and Puff stories that I have heard criticism of recently but I can’t see that they caused me any problems. I fact, it seems to me they were a good vehicle for teaching children to learn and understand single words and simple sentences. Anyway, I think I learned well and by the time I was in second grade we had advanced to reading fairy tales and nursery rhymes, etc. I learned to enjoy reading and when I was in fourth grade I tackled my first complete book. I remember it well. It was a story about Reddy Fox. I don’t remember much about the story but it was a full size book with chapters and all. We were also reading geography and history by the time we were in third and fourth grades. I can’t remember well enough to be sure how much of that we got into in third grade but we were well into it by fourth grade.
As for my writing, I did learn to write, but, although my teachers drilled me with penmanship practice day after day, I didn’t learn to write well. Sometimes I had difficulty reading my own writing until I finally resorted to printing years after I was out of school.
I did learn to do arithmetic, however, and another one of my blessings was that I had teachers who made me learn that. I was learning to add and subtract in second grade and to multiply and divide in third grade. I shall be eternally grateful that I had teachers in those lower grades who insisted that we memorize the multiplication tables from 1 x 1 through 12 x 12. We had to memorize all the combinations and we were drilled on them until we didn’t even have to think when presented with a problem. The answer was automatically in our minds. If the teacher or anyone asked what is six times nine or what is eight times eleven or any other combination of one number times another the answer was automatically in our minds without any thought having to be given to it. This has been a tremendous benefit to me throughout my life in enabling me to multiply and divide.
I had good teachers all through grammar school and although Poplar Hill was a small country school I am sure I had as good a grammar school education as any other child in that day and age and far better than many children get in this day and age. The basic methods used in those days were superior to the modern methods that are being experimented with today. When modern educators wise up they will go back to basics. I have never been able to understand why a system that has been tried and proven over many years should not continue to be used, especially since it is being proven day after day that under the modern systems of education used today “Johnny can’t read”. (I am writing this segment on March 15, 1982 – the Ides of March).
I enjoyed my school days at Poplar Hill School. I always said I hated school because all the other kids said they hated school and I didn’t want to be left out. I haven’t ever had the courage to be in opposition to my peers especially when they all seemed to be of one mind. And at that age I really did feel that I disliked school although I did not like to miss school. It was the studying and work that I didn’t like and criticism if I didn’t do things well enough or when I was wrong. But I also had fun at school and I suppose I considered that school work was better or less undesirable than work at home.
There was one other attraction at school. I found me a new heart throb. I mentioned earlier that when I was in second grade in Syringa School I fell in love with a cute little girl by the name of Bonnie Sonner. After I left Syringa School and went to Poplar Hill School I don’t know that I ever saw Bonnie Sonner again but there was another cute little girl at Poplar Hill School and I promptly fell in love with her. Her name was Vivian Johnson. I don’t know how she felt about me because I was far too bashful to ask her or tell her how I felt about her. She never volunteered to tell me whether she liked me or not. During the six years that I was at Poplar Hill School I loved Vivian Johnson, at a distance, with all the love there was in my heart. We did talk to each other and play together as children do when they are closely associated over a long period of time. Our association was always in a group, however, and seldom if ever one on one. Nevertheless, I was happy to be with her even if it was only in the same room or same group along with the other children. I generally just looked on with admiration and love, without any communication with her but even that filled by heart with rapture. My desire just to see Vivian and be in the same room with her far outweighed any dislike I had for school so I strenuously resisted anything that would keep me out of school. About the only things that would keep me from going to school were being sick or if there was a winter blizzard. I wasn’t sick much but occasionally I did catch cold or have the flu or something and would have to stay home. I had to be pretty sick before I would willingly stay home. Almost every winter we would have at least one and sometimes more terrible blizzards. Sometimes they would last two or three days and during those storms the folks wouldn’t let us go to school. I hated anything like that that kept me from going to school and seeing Vivian. Of course, I never told anybody how I felt about her. I loved her in silence and solitude.
After we finished grade school we went to different high schools and our paths parted. I did see her a couple of times during the first year after grade school but I soon lost track of her and I guess now it has been nearly fifty years since I have either seen her or heard anything about her. I haven’t forgotten what she meant to me, however, and although I didn’t ever muster up the courage to tell her how I felt about her and she never said anything to me or acted toward me in any way to tell me whether or not she even liked me, I still thought of her all through those years in Poplar Hill School as “my girl”. I still think of her with a feeling of intimacy and affection. While she wasn’t actually “my girl” since she, herself, never acknowledged such a thing, I made her mine in my day dreams and fantasies. I fantasized wonderful romances between us in which she always loved me with all her heart. In my fantasies I did great and marvelous deeds to show my love for her and she always responded giving her love to me as I always wished she would in real life. Childhood fantasies may seem unimportant to many adults and even foolish and silly but as I look back I feel they were important in my life. They helped to make my life more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been.
I was so bashful that I couldn’t interject myself into the lives of other people. In spite of having brothers and sisters and friends in school and in the neighborhood I was a loner. My fantasies enabled me to experience, in my imagination, the closeness with friends and loved ones that I seemed unable to have in real life. They made my loneliness less lonely.
As I have gone through life I have overcome my shyness to a large extent and I am much happier for it. But in my childhood and teenage years and even into my twenties and thirties, it was a severe handicap to me and a source of much unhappiness. I am extremely grateful to my Heavenly Father that I have been able to overcome it to the extent that I have. I used to wonder why the Lord would inflict me with such a severe handicap and I guess I actually had a low opinion of myself. Now I realize that nearly everybody has some kind of handicap – some of us have many kinds – and if we are wise enough to recognize our handicaps and overcome them we gain strength by so doing. I still have far to go in overcoming my weaknesses and gaining the strength I know it is possible for me to gain but I have made some progress. I thank the Lord for that.
Getting back to my school days, there were many things I enjoyed. We had fifteen minutes of singing every morning before we started studying and I enjoyed that. Some of my favorite songs, even now, are the songs we sang in school. Some of our teachers would read stories to us. As I recall this usually came after lunch for ten or fifteen minutes before beginning school work. And, of course, I enjoyed the playing during recesses and noon hour. In some schools the boys played marbles when the weather was good, but for some reason or other, which has escaped my memory, the boys at Poplar Hill School didn’t play marbles much. We did play other fun games however. Some of the games I remember in my younger years were “Hide and Seek” and a running game we called “Pomp Pomp Pull Away”. In later years, when I was larger, there was baseball and basketball. I think, perhaps, one reason we didn’t play marbles much was that our teachers wouldn’t let us play for keeps, that is to keep the marbles we were able to knock out of the ring. They considered it to be gambling and they felt that gambling was evil. I didn’t like to play for keeps anyway because it hurt me too much to lose my marbles. I usually had a few marbles but not many and my folks never seemed to have money to buy more marbles. I never had confidence that I could win other kids’ marbles. I was always afraid I would lose mine so I was glad we didn’t play for keeps. But I am sure that was the reason we didn’t play much at all. The older boys weren’t interested unless they could play for keeps and the younger boys imitated the older ones.
I did enjoy the games we played, however, and especially when I got old enough to play baseball and basketball. In my younger years the older boys wouldn’t let me play with them because I wasn’t good enough. When I was in fifth and sixth grades the older boys finally let us younger ones play with them and when I was in seventh grade we seventh graders were considered to be part of the big guys. It was a great relief to see those older boys graduate and leave Poplar Hill so we didn’t have to put up with them anymore.
We always tried to have a baseball team and a basketball team. We didn’t go in for football. We did have a few ballgames with other schools and as I recall we got beat more often than we won. Concerning athletics we were handicapped by having a woman teacher. During my last three years at Poplar Hill our teacher was a woman by the name of Mrs. Hayes. She was a good teacher and the one of all my teachers I remember with the most affection. I loved her as a teacher but she didn’t attempt to coach our athletic teams. We were on our own. Before Mrs. Hayes was our teacher we had a man teacher in the big room and he spent quite a little time coaching the ball teams. That was before I was old enough to be on the team and by the time I got old enough we had no coach. We did have fun, however, and as I remember those school days, they were happy days.
Another of the highlights of those school years were the Christmas programs. We always had a Christmas program in which our parents would come to the school and we would put on short plays – or perhaps they should be called skits – and sing songs, etc., and a good time was had by all. We would set up a small stage in the “big room” and spend several weeks before Christmas learning our parts and practicing. It was always a very exciting time. And then at the end of the program there was always a visit from Santa Claus and each child would receive a bag of candy and nuts.
My mother belonged to a woman’s club in which they also had Christmas parties. I don’t remember them as well as the school programs but I remember that they did have them and I enjoyed them.
A sad memory of those school years was the day the barn burned down. Several of the children, including us, rode horses to school. We lived three miles from school and it was considered too far to walk. There was a barn to shelter the ponies during the school day and one day some kids got to playing with matches behind the barn and a fire got started and burned the barn to the ground. One of our horses, old Nell, was in the barn and burned to death in it. There was one other horse in there also. We also had another pony, a little buckskin we called “Buck” but for some reason or other she was not in the barn. There were also hitching rails outside the barn where we could tie our horses and I can’t recall now why we would have had one tied outside and one inside but it was lucky that we didn’t have Buck inside too. As it was we lost old Nell and Dad had to go haul away her body and bury her. Dad also had to buy another pony for my step-brother, Bus, to ride to school. Nell was his horse. Dad bought a little sorrel mare who we named “Bess”. Bess was high spirited and was never what you would call a kid’s pony but she was a good horse. At first I was afraid of her because she was high spirited but when Bus graduated, I had to take her over and I finally learned to control her and stay on her. Then I realized what a good horse she was and I learned to love her. Dad liked her too and even after we kids were all through school and hardly anybody ever rode her anymore, Dad still kept her. I don’t remember what happened to Buck after she was no longer needed for kids to ride to school. I suppose Dad probably sold her, but he kept Bess.
I got interrupted in this writing and it has lain idle for a few years in which I haven’t done anything with it, although I have been keeping a journal. It is now April 24, 1989. It is about time I get started again on my life story.
I graduated from grammar school – Poplar Hill School – in 1932 at the age of fourteen years. We lived about five miles from Filer, Idaho and six miles from Buhl. There were high schools in both of these towns. We were in the Filer High School District, however, and they didn’t have a school bus. Buhl High School had school busses but since we weren’t in that district it didn’t help me any.
Five miles seemed too far to walk to school or even to ride horseback and my folks didn’t have money to buy me a car so I didn’t go to high school that first year after grade school. I stayed home and worked on the farm. That was probably the first year that I worked on the threshing crews. I didn’t enjoy the work; it was always dusty and dirty; but I was proud that I was old enough and man enough to do the work. I don’t remember much of what went on that year except that I stayed home and worked on the farm. I also worked out some for other farmers, our neighbors, and earned a little money. That was well into the Great Depression of the thirties and wages were only $1.00 to $1.50 per day but I was tickled to get that. It seemed much better to me to work for a neighbor for $1.00 per day than to work at home for nothing. I shouldn’t say for nothing because I always had food and shelter and a good home and there were millions of people in those days who didn’t have that.
Jefferson Junior High School in Preston, Idaho. This is where I went to school in the ninth grade in 1933- 34. I had graduated from grade school in 1932 but we lived about seven miles from the high school in Buhl and six miles from the high school in Filer. There was no school bus to either school and my folks could not provide me with transportation, so I didn’t go to school that year. The next year, 1933, I went to Preston and lived with my grandmother and grandfather Larsen and went to Jefferson Junior High School. The ninth grade there was the equivalent to the freshman year in a four year high school. Junior high at Jefferson consisted of seventh, eighth and ninth grades.
Then my mother got the thought that I might be able to go live with my grandparents in Preston and go to high school there. We wrote to them and asked them if I could and they wrote back and said, of course, they would be glad to have me. So the next year, 1933, I went to Preston when school started and lived with Grandma and Grandpa Larsen and went to school at Jefferson Junior High School.
That was quite a fun year and as I look back on it I see it as one of the great blessings of my life. I addition to the opportunity to go to school, which I appreciated, it gave me an opportunity to be active in church. We hadn’t been active during those years on the farm and I hadn’t given much thought to it. I knew other kids whose folks always went to church and took their kids with them and I felt sorry for those kids and felt that I was lucky that I could have Sunday for play and not have my fun and games interfered with by church. But when I finally got the opportunity to get active in church I enjoyed it and appreciated it.
Grandma and Grandpa Larsen never missed church unless they were sick or something. They still had two of their twelve children home, Esther and Eugene (Gene). Esther (they called her Essie) was my age, actually four months younger, and the youngest of Grandma and Grandpa’s children. My father, Ivan, was their second. Although she was and is actually my aunt, she has always been more like a sister to me. It had been nine years since we had left Dayton, and Preston, and since I had seen my grandparents or any of their family. I soon learned to love them all with all my heart. I think I had a special love for Essie. She also went to church with Grandma and Grandpa and was active in MIA which helped me. Gene was rebellious and never went to church but that didn’t bother me.
I got into the Boy Scouts and was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood and learned the principle of paying tithing. The area around Preston is farming country and many of the students in the schools are from farms. One of the main farm crops is sugar beets and during the sugar beet harvesting season the high school had a vacation period so students could assist with the sugar beet harvest. My Uncle Fenton was a farmer and he grew sugar beets and he allowed me to help with the harvest and paid me for the work. I don’t recall just how much I earned, but I think about $19 or $20. I had never paid tithing before and it didn’t occur to me that I should, but when Grandpa realized I didn’t seem to be intending to pay tithing on my money he taught me a lesson on tithing. So I paid my tithing.
Although I was fifteen years old I had never been ordained to the Priesthood and since I was old enough to be ordained a teacher that is what they did. They ordained me a teacher. I was never a deacon.
I enjoyed the Scouts more than anything else. I don’t remember much about the activities we had but I worked up through the ranks from Tenderfoot to First Class. I remember that much.
I also got into seminary and we studied the Old Testament. Until then I knew practically nothing about any of the scriptures and so that year was actually the beginning of my learning about the gospel. It was still years after that before I ever actually read the Bible or even The Book of Mormon but that was the beginning. It was also the beginning of my gaining a testimony.
During that year while I was there in Preston my family moved from the farm there between Filer and Buhl to a different farm about two miles from Eden, Idaho. Eden is a very small town in Jerome County about sixteen miles northeast of Twin Falls, Idaho. The Snake River runs between Jerome and Twin Falls Counties. Twin Falls County is on the south side of the Snake River and Jerome County is on the north side. That is how the people there refer to the two areas; either as the south side or the north side. Those that live in Twin Falls County are on the south side and those in Jerome County are on the north side. Both Filer and Buhl are in Twin Falls County.
Dad went into a partnership with his brother-in-law from his first marriage, Will Phillips. We always called Will Phillips, Uncle Will, although he wasn’t any relation to me or Dona and Bill or even Della and Von. He was Bus and Brownie and Curly’s uncle but not ours, but we called him uncle anyway. I think it was just simpler that way. This farm at Eden was for sale apparently at a bargain price. I don’t recall that I ever heard any actual dollar figures but I understand it was a bargain price. Uncle Will’s father-in-law was fairly well to do in spite this being in the middle of the depression and he offered to help Will buy the farm provided Will could get Dad to go in with him on it. It was a rather large farm and actually too big for either one of them to farm by themselves so Uncle Will persuaded Dad to join him in buying it.
Dad didn’t have to put up any money, but even so he would have a half interest in the farm. If he had been required to put up money he would not have been able to do it so I guess he saw it as an opportunity to get a farm of his own. To this point in time he had rented a farm and he did have a great desire to own a farm. Uncle Will’s father-in-law built a house for Uncle Will and his family – he had his wife and three young boys at home – and that was the down payment on the farm. Dad and Will would then be required to make yearly payments to pay off the mortgage. They had very lenient terms and it seemed like a good opportunity. There was a small house on the farm and that was where we lived.
So when school was out in Preston that year I went home to a new home. Since it was only two miles from Eden and there was a high school at Eden I could live at home and go to high school after that. I only spent one year in Preston High School.
Two things happened that first year at Eden that spelt disaster for Dad’s attempt to buy a farm. First, that winter, 1933-34, was a very mild winter. It hardly got cold enough to freeze and there was no snow. Our farm was on the edge of the desert and with winter being so dry, the grass and weeds or whatever it is that jackrabbits eat didn’t grow. The jackrabbits in the desert got hungry, of course, and they came onto our farm. All the farms bordering the desert had the same problem. We got poison from the county and poisoned them and killed them every way we could think of. People from town came out and had rabbit drives in which they killed rabbits by the thousands but it wasn’t enough. Jackrabbits came in by the tens of thousands. They ate our bean crop and we replanted and they ate it a second time. By then it was too late to replant so we just didn’t grow a crop on that part of the farm.
Second, the bank that held the mortgage on the farm had agreed to finance the operation and part of that included paying the fee for the irrigation water. They neglected to do so and when Dad and Uncle Will ordered water turned into their ditches so they could irrigate their wheat the irrigation company wouldn’t turn it in because the fee had not been paid. Their wheat was in fields that were inland from the desert and the jackrabbits didn’t seem to get that far in from the desert so they didn’t bother the wheat. But the timing of the first irrigation of the wheat is critical. Dad and Uncle Will got in touch with the bank and they then paid the irrigation water fee and we finally got our water but by then the wheat had gotten too dry. Irrigation kept it growing, it didn’t die, but the yield was severely curtailed.
So with the two problems, the destruction of the bean crop by the rabbits and the poor yield of the wheat, Dad and Uncle Will were left without sufficient income from the farm to even pay the interest on the mortgage. If they could have even paid the interest the bank probably would have carried them for one year on the payments on the principal. But since they couldn’t pay even the interest the bank foreclosed.
Then the bank leased it to them for the next year. My understanding, if I remember correctly, is that the lease included an option to buy it back if they could make up the payment the second year. But that year a blight hit the bean crop. The blight was a disease, which I don’t know the name of, that caused the leaves to turn yellow and then brown and then the plants died. So, again, the second year in succession, we didn’t have much of a crop. So that was too much for Uncle Will. He just gave up. He got a chance to lease a small gas station so he quit farming and went to pumping gas. Dad felt that he couldn’t operate that big of a farm by himself, that is, him and me – both Bill and Bus had left – so he gave it up and found a smaller farm (80 acres) he could lease back on the south side at Castleford, Idaho. We moved over to Castleford about the middle of March, 1936.
The town of Eden is a very small town and the high school was a small high school but it was a good school with good teachers and actually a pretty good bunch of kids. But in spite of all that I didn’t enjoy school there very much. I was still extremely bashful and that was making my life miserable and I didn’t know what to do about it. To make matters worse there were two or three girls that as soon as they learned I blushed easily they delighted in doing and saying things to make be blush. Now if somebody said the same things to me I would have a comeback and be able to laugh and have as much fun as they did. But at that time I couldn’t think of anything. All I seemed to be able to do was turn red and be embarrassed and that made me feel miserable. Those girls were not bad girls or actually mean or anything like that. They were actually pretty good kids but they were still young enough to enjoy having fun at somebody else’s expense. A lot of otherwise good kids are like that until they grow up a little bit. If I hadn’t been so bashful I could have enjoyed a satisfying warm friendship with them.
I tried to go out for football and the coach encouraged me. I went out and practiced at the beginning of the season. I never learned to kick or pass a football very well but I did pretty well at catching passes. The coach was impressed with that and tried to encourage me. I think if I had stayed with it and practiced I could have learned to kick and pass better. But football players had to buy their own shoes which cost about $5.00 and neither I nor my folks had the $5.00. So after a week or two of practice when I was the only one without shoes I dropped out. I can’t remember if that was the first year or the second year I was there. I only tried it one year.
I did go out for basketball one year too. I think it was probably the second year but I managed to squeeze out a pair of cheap tennis shoes which they let me play in. Basketball players had to buy their own shoes too and they wouldn’t have let the varsity players play in the cheap kind of shoes I had. They had to have better shoes so they wouldn’t be so likely to get blisters on their feet which would impair their ability to play well. I wasn’t good enough to be on the varsity team but they had a junior varsity and they weren’t quite so strict with them. Any way I played on the JV team and we had several games with the JV teams of other high schools and it was a lot of fun.
I have often wished we could have made it on that farm at Eden. It actually was a pretty good farm and if we could have hung on to it and paid for it I might have been a rich farmer by now. But as I see it the things that happened were beyond our control so I guess the Lord had different plans for us.
I was active in the church while we lived at Eden. The other kids and I went to church on our own mostly but we did go. The ward was very small for a ward but it was a ward. There were not enough young people to have a complete MIA or a Boy Scout troop but they at least had Sacrament Meeting and Sunday school. Bill and Dona had never been active in church before but I think if we could have continued to live where they could be active for a few more years they might still be active today.
It was while we lived there at Eden that I learned to drive a car. I was seventeen years old at that time and most kids by that age had been driving two or three years. The reason I hadn’t learned before was that I was just reluctant to ask Dad to teach me. Dad was a good man in many ways but sometimes he was not very patient. That was the reason Mom never learned to drive a car. She could have learned as well as anyone but she became a victim of Dad’s impatience. She did ask him to teach her and he took her out in the car one time to teach her. In the process of the lesson she forgot something he had instructed her to do and he swore at her. I didn’t hear it but knowing Dad I have always suspected it was something like “G.D. it I told you to do so and so!” I also suspect that it probably happened several times before the lesson was over. Anyway, Mom never asked Dad to take her out for anymore driving lessons.
Being a timid person such as I was I was reluctant to subject myself to Dad’s impatience. Then one day Mom and Dad had some kind of an argument. I don’t know what it was about. I am not sure if I ever knew but if I did I don’t remember now. I do remember they were very angry with each other, even to point that they didn’t sleep together for several nights. We boys had built ourselves a makeshift shelter outside and moved our beds out there because it was cooler sleeping than in the house. Dad came out and slept in our shelter with us and left Mom alone in their bed in the house. I finally decided enough was enough and one evening I told Dad that problem had to come to an end and I took him by the hand and led him into the house and got them back together. I guess they were both ready for it by that time and both wanting to get back together but both too proud to make the first move. That was the first and only time I know of any such thing happening between them.
That car was a 1926 Nash. When it wore out Dad took the wheels and frame and built a wagon on it.
One of our neighbors had some apricots that were ripe and they had told Mom and Dad they could have them if they wanted to come and pick them. Then this problem came up between Mom and Dad and they weren’t communicating so Dad asked me if I thought I could drive the car and take Mom to get the apricots. I said I thought I could and I did. I had never driven the car before but I had got in it and started the engine and put it in gear and backed it up and driven forward in the yard. I had done that on my own many times but that was the extent of my driving until that day. I got Mom to the neighbors and got the apricots and we got home again, and I have driven cars ever since.
I was a junior in high school when we moved to Castleford. Castleford is a small town or more of a village, similar to Eden, ten miles southwest of Buhl. It had a population of probably about two hundred. Buhl is also a small town, but a little larger that Castleford, with a population of about two thousand. Buhl is seventeen miles west of Twin Falls, Idaho. Twin Falls is the county seat and we always thought of it as “the city”. It is the hub of business for a large area of that part of Idaho and even areas of northern Nevada. At that time the population of Twin Falls (we always just called it “Twin”) was probably about ten thousand or maybe twelve thousand. I say probably and maybe about these population figures because I don’t have any data to refer to and I am relying on my memory.
A number of things changed for me at Castleford. The first day I went to high school there I got there early, a few minutes before time for school to start. Several boys were in the gymnasium shooting baskets with a basketball. I walked in there and immediately one of the boys came over to me and asked me if I would like to join. That was the icebreaker and seemed to be the beginning of my coming out of my shell of bashfulness. All the kids there seemed to welcome me and accept me into their activities and I actually started having fun in school again. I even got to the point that I could actually talk to girls after a while. I could hardly believe how different my life was in Castleford High School compared to my previous high school years. I was still bashful and I still am but at that time I began to break out of it. That was the turning point.
I suppose I had reached the point of maturity that I was ready and the friendliness of the Castleford High School kids was the catalyst I needed. Anyway things started to change for the better for me at that point and I shall forever be grateful. I looked on the loss of our farm at Eden as a disastrous blow but it was what got me to Castleford so now I can look back and see that it was a blessing.
One thing that was not as good there as at Eden was there was no ward or branch of the L.D.S. Church at Castleford. We belonged to the Buhl ward and we were twelve miles from Buhl and probably thirteen miles from the ward chapel. We lived on a farm two miles from Castleford and then it was ten more miles to Buhl city limits and probably another mile to the chapel. I could drive the car by then and I could have taken the car and taken the family to church – we all would have liked to have gone – but it took two gallons of gas to make that round trip and we seldom had money to buy the two gallons of gas. Gas only cost $.21 a gallon in those days, sometimes even less, but $.21 was hard to come by.
So we didn’t go to church at first. After a while, I think it was after I graduated out of high school some stake missionaries from Twin Falls came out and organized a Sunday school and then sometime later after that a branch was organized. As soon as the Sunday school was organized I started attending with my mother and youngest sister, Della. Both Bill and Dona had lost interest and got out of the notion of going to church by then or they might have both been married and left home by then. I don’t remember all those details that clearly but when we finally got to going to Sunday school it was mainly Mom, Della and me.
High school at Castleford was good and many other things about Castleford was good. I enjoyed life after we moved there much more than I had done before. I don’t remember much of details about the remainder of that school year, my junior year, nor the following summer. When school started again in the fall, my senior year, I went out for football. Somehow I was able to get a pair of football shoes. I was given the position of center on the varsity team and we actually had a pretty good team. We were in a conference which included five other high schools. One of them was Eden, my previous Alma Mater. It gave me a good feeling when we played Eden and they saw that I was on the varsity team. We actually beat them, if I recall right, by one point. By defeating Eden we won the championship of our conference. Then we had a playoff with Glenns Ferry High School for district championship and we got beaten badly. I don’t remember the score anymore. I guess it is one of those things I just wanted to forget but it was something in the order of fifty to six.
I got my right knee wrenched a little bit playing football and I wore a knee brace for a while. Actually that sprain bothered me for ten or fifteen years afterward. It doesn’t affect me anymore and hasn’t for many years for which I am thankful.
I tried to use the wrenched knee as an excuse not to go out for basketball. I didn’t think I was a very good basketball player and I didn’t want the other kids in school to know how bad I was. But the coach insisted. He wanted me because I was tall. By that time I was in my eighteenth year and I was six feet four inches tall. I have always been easily talked into things so I eventually let the coach persuade me to join the basketball team. I was given the position of center and again I made the varsity team. The coach wrapped my knee and had me wear a knee brace and I found I could play without it hurting.
The basketball conference was the same as the football conference so we played basketball against the same high schools we played football against. And we had a very good basketball team. We didn’t win our conference championship, however. Eden won the championship but we were runners-up and both the champion and runner-up got to go to the district tournament and play for the district title.
In the district tournament we came out ahead of Eden. They got eliminated but we won our first two games so we made it to the finals and got to play for the district championship. Again, our opponent was Glenns Ferry and again, the outcome was similar to what they did to us in football. We lost by about forty to ten.
But I enjoyed those high school athletics. They were a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed the road trips when we travelled to other towns to play other high schools. I enjoyed the prestige of being on the team. The other kids had respect for the varsity athletes and I enjoyed that. And I think I especially enjoyed it because we had good teams and won most of our games.
Another highlight of my senior year at Castleford was that I got a girlfriend. Her name was Marjorie Schlake (pronounced like hockey) and she was one of the cutest girls in the school, and very sweet and delightful and charming. I couldn’t quite understand why a girl as attractive as she was should be attracted to me although I did recognize that I had some good qualities. I have always recognized that I have some good qualities and have held myself in high self-esteem because of them but in spite of that I have always had an inferiority complex and lacked self confidence in my ability to accomplish certain things. One of the things I felt most inferior about was my ability to attract girls. So I was surprised that Marjorie was attracted to me. She did seem to like me and I certainly did like her.
We actually didn’t go out on dates much, in fact, I can’t remember that we ever did. We spent time together when we could during the school days and whenever there was a school entertainment function. Mostly in those cases we would just meet at the school and that was about as near to a date as we had. As I remember I did go to her house and pick her up a few times also. And I went to her house on Sunday a few times and we just spent time together there. I didn’t have money to spend on dates and she understood that. She didn’t seem to expect me to spend money on her. Anyway she made me a happy man during that school year and the following summer. When school was out and I didn’t see her every day it seemed to taper off between us. I still tried to see her on Sunday but sometimes she had other plans and I wouldn’t see her for two or three weeks. My feelings for her never diminished but her feelings for me seemed to taper off although we did continue to see each other until she went to college that fall.
She went to the University of Idaho at Moscow and I didn’t have money to go to college at all so I stayed home and that was the end of our romance. She eventually married someone she met there at the university and he eventually became a professor at the University of Michigan. The last I heard of her, which was in 1974, that is where she was.
It was probably a blessing to me that it did end between her and me because, although she was a very nice girl and very sweet and charming she was not L.D.S. If she had been sufficiently interested in me to want marriage I’m not sure I had the strength of testimony at that time that I could have resisted the temptation to marry outside the church. I could have blown my entire salvation. So I do see it as a blessing that it came to an end when it did but it was nice while it lasted and it took me a long time to get over her. What it finally took was to meet another girl.
It was during that last year in high school that I joined the National Guard. There was a unit in Buhl called Company D of the 116th Engineers of the Idaho National Guard. Several of the boys in high school belonged to it and they talked about going to drill and I got the urge to go with them so I did. They had drill for two or three hours in the evening one night each week and then they had a two week camp in the summer.
In those days men were working for a dollar a day and working ten hour days so a dollar for two or three hours seemed like big pay. A problem with it was that they only had a payday once every three months. But when we did get paid it was twelve or thirteen dollars and that was big money. Besides the money I rather enjoyed the drills and the association with the other guys and the friends I made. The National Guard was another highlight of those years that made them a good time in my life.
I was in the National Guard for three years. That is how long the enlistment was for. We went to camp two weeks each summer and I am not sure which year we went to which camp. There was a camp in Boise, Idaho, where the Idaho National Guard normally went to camp, but one year we went to Fort Lewis, Washington. As near as I can remember we went to Boise the first year, 1937, Fort Lewis the second year, 1938, and Boise again in 1939.
I don’t remember much to highlight about those camps. We were an engineer regiment and we built bridges across rivers. I remember that in Washington we built a bridge across the Nisqually River. That was quite a feat because it is a swift flowing river, but we succeeded in getting a bridge across it. I also remember the long trip it was getting to Washington. We travelled in army transport trucks and it took three long days. I don’t know how fast they drove but that was fifty years ago and trucks were not as fast nor as comfortable as they are now. By the time we got there we were so tired we could lie down in the bottom of that steel truck bed and go to sleep. A problem was there wasn’t room enough for everybody to lie down at one time so we had to take our turns. Those trucks were open bed trucks with canvas over the top and wooden benches along the sides. They weren’t built for comfort. We went from Buhl to Boise one day and camped overnight at Boise. That day wasn’t so bad except it was hot. The second day we went to Pasco, Washington and camped there that night. The third day we made it to our destination at Fort Lewis. Then we had to retrace that route to return when camp was over. At least one day it rained and then it was cold in those trucks. We did have blankets issued to us that we could wrap around ourselves and we used them. That travelling in those trucks was one part of my hitch in the National Guard that was not pleasant. That was not a good time in my life. In other ways, however, I enjoyed the camps.
On the last year that I went to National Guard camp, on the last day of camp, I came down with appendicitis. I got a terrible pain in my abdomen. I reported to sick call – we had a sick call everyday – and the doctor had me taken to St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, Idaho and they operated on me and took out my appendix. So camp broke up and everybody else went home and I stayed there in the hospital for thirteen more days. In those days – that was the summer of 1939 – they always kept patients in the hospital ten days after an appendectomy. But since I was in Boise and had to go on a bus 140 miles to go home they kept me an extra three days.
There are a few things about that appendectomy and stay in the hospital that have stuck in my mind. I remember having the mask put over my face and ether being applied to it and then about a second later, or so it seemed, I woke up and the operation was over. I felt as if there was a tight band around my middle and it was about to cut me in two. Actually it was only a bandage over my incision stuck on with adhesive tape but it felt like it was completely around me. My belly was very sore and painful for about four days and it seemed that almost all of a sudden it was much better.
One night I heard someone outside on the street singing. All I can remember of the song he was singing are the following words: “Eerie, Eerie, Irie, Oh. Oats, peas, beans and barley grow.” Somehow those words and the tune stuck in my mind and every night when it was time to go to sleep they would start going through my mind and I would fall right off to sleep. For years after that whenever I was ready to go to sleep that song would go through my mind. It still does sometimes when I am having difficulty getting to sleep.
There was a young teenage boy in the next bed – we were in a two bed room – who had also had an appendectomy and on top of that he caught a cold and developed quite a severe cough. In spite of all the efforts made by the doctors and nurses to help him he would lie there and cough and cough and cough. My incision was so sore and painful that any little sudden movement was very painful. If I ever had to cough or sneeze even once it was excruciating. I could only imagine what it was like for that kid. I wondered how he could stand it.
There was a family living in Boise who previously lived in Castleford. They had two daughters who were in Castleford High at the same time I was but they had since moved to Boise. Their name was Vogel. The girls were Viola and Elynore. Viola had been in my graduating class at Castleford. Elynore was a couple of years younger. Since I knew the girls I called them and let them know I was there in the hospital. They both came up to see me right away and after that first visit Elynore was there at least once every day and usually twice. She brought me books to read, ice cream, candy and I don’t remember what all else but anything I wanted. She was so sweet and thoughtful. I have never forgotten how much I enjoyed her attention and kindness to me. That was one of the pleasant memories of that time.
As I have thought about it in later years I have suspected that Elynore might have had a romantic interest in me and been hoping that something might develop between us. If that was so I wasn’t alert enough or maybe not smart enough to pick up on it. She was a sweet, charming, delightful and beautiful girl and would have been a nice girlfriend. It would have been kind of difficult, however, to have carried on much of a relationship with her in Boise and me 140 miles away in Castleford. Besides that, she wasn’t L.D.S. either. I was twenty one and she was probably eighteen and a lot of kids got married at that age. If we had fallen in love with each other, and it would have been very easy for me to have fallen in love with her, again I am not sure I could have resisted the temptation to marry outside the church. And who knows what kind of trouble that might have led to. But nothing like that happened so there probably is no point in speculating about it. I have thought about it and it was a part of my life so I thought I would mention it.
Another good thing about it was the Idaho National Guard paid for all the hospital expenses and my trip home. I got a free appendectomy.
One of the traditional activities of graduating classes from high school in those days was the senior sneak. From the time they were freshmen the senior class had been accumulating money to finance this activity. A week or two before the end of the senior year the senior class was excused from school to take a trip somewhere. We chose to go to Boise. I don’t remember much about what we did there but we had fun. We stayed overnight in the Owyhee Hotel. In those days it was one of the classy hotels in Boise. And it was one of the highlights of my life up to that point.
One other thing I want to mention was the wiener roast our senior class had. Wiener roasts were common activities in those days. We would gather around a bonfire and roast hotdogs (wieners) on a stick over the fire. Then for dessert we would roast marshmallows. So our senior class went to a place in a canyon which was near Castleford and had one of these wiener roasts. The significant thing about it was that one of the boys brought along a jug of wine. I was the only boy who didn’t drink any of the wine and some of those who did drink got plenty drunk. Sufficiently so that none of the girls wanted to ride home in the same car with them. The upshot of it was that I got to take all the girls home. The other boys, those who were drunk, had to go home by themselves. Which goes to prove that virtue has its rewards. It’s not that I mean to boast about my virtues, it’s just that I had the “Word of Wisdom” to give me some guidelines about how to conduct my life, which gave me a distinct advantage over the other kids.
I should mention that Castleford High School was a very small school. Our senior class had fifteen members.
A few days after school was over that year, after my graduation from high school, a neighboring farmer, Soren Hesselholt came and asked me to go to work for him. Soren was a bachelor, he was about forty years old but he had never married, and he was a Dane direct from Denmark. He and his brother, Chris (Christian), had come from Denmark years earlier and worked as sheep herders for a number of years and saved their money until they could each buy themselves a farm.
Since Soren was a bachelor he hired a housekeeper. His housekeeper was the mother-in- law of Dad’s nephew, Darrel Phillips. Darrel was one of Uncle Will’s sons, the same Uncle Will Phillips, Dad’s brother-in-law, who had been his partner on the farm at Eden. Darrel and his wife, Leota, lived in Castleford and so did Leota’s mother. Soren Hesselholt had hired Leota’s mother as his housekeeper and when it turned out he needed to hire someone to work for him she told him about me. I was surely tickled to get the job.
That was the summer of 1937, still in the midst of the great depression of the 30’s, and jobs were scarce. Soren wanted me to go and live at his place, he had a pretty decent bunkhouse, and in addition to my room-and-board he paid me $40.00 per month. That was for six days a week and ten hours a day. The work day was from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM with the noon hour off for lunch and rest. As I said, I was very pleased to have the job. For those days it was a good job for a young single guy like me.
I worked for Soren through that summer and fall. I took time off to go to National Guard Camp. In the fall my girlfriend, Marjorie Schlake, went off to college to the University of Idaho at Moscow and I continued to work for Soren on his farm and that was the end of our romance.
Later in the fall after all the crops were harvested and the fall work was all done Soren didn’t need me anymore. He didn’t need a hired man through the winter so he laid me off. His brother Chris’s hired men left him so Chris hired me. Chris needed a man through the winter as well as all the rest of the year because he had milk cows and pigs and some cattle to feed, etc., which Soren didn’t have. Chris had about ten or twelve milk cows and several brood sows and a few beef cattle. He needed help to milk and take care of his cows and take care of the other livestock. The livestock generated a lot of manure which we hauled out during the winter and spread on his fields for fertilizer. So he had plenty of work to do to keep a hired man busy through the winter.
Since the cows had to be milked on Sunday as well as other days Chris paid me $45.00 per month. That was based on $1.50 per day for thirty days. But I worked more hours for Chris. We would get up about 5:00 AM to get started milking the cows and we would be finished by about 7:00 PM. Of course, we took time off for breakfast, dinner and supper which time off probably totaled two hours. But even though the hours were long and it was cold on those early mornings to get up and go to work I was glad to have the job. It also was a good job for a single guy like me.
As I recall I worked for Chris for about one and a half years. I worked for him until the summer of 1939 which was when I had my appendectomy. Chris managed to get along without me while I went to National Guard camp but after I came home from the hospital in Boise I had to take it easy for a few weeks and Chris had to hire somebody else. That was the end of my job.
I had decided that I wanted to be a pharmacist. I don’t remember now what motivated me to make that decision. I think I probably heard someone talk about it and I also knew a guy who had recently graduated from college as a pharmacist. He was working in the drug store in Buhl and he had just bought himself a car. I guess that made some impression on me. Anyway I had decided I wanted to be a pharmacist. There was a four year pharmacy course at the college in Pocatello. At that time the college was called University of Idaho, Southern Branch. It is now Idaho State University. At that time it was a two year college except for the pharmacy school which was four years. That was where I planned to go to college and become a pharmacist.
There was also an excellent pharmacy school in Washington State University at Pullman, Washington. Mrs. Hesselholt, Chris’s wife, had a great respect for Washington State University. I don’t remember now if she had gone there or if she knew someone who had or if she knew somebody who taught there or what her association with it was, but she thought Washington State was about the best there was. She convinced me that if I wanted to be a pharmacist I should go to Washington State. So along towards fall of 1938 I made a trip to Pullman, Washington to investigate the possibility of getting into school there. Mrs. Hesselholt convinced me I could work my way through so I went to investigate. I bought a one way bus ticket because if I could get a job and get into college I would stay there and wouldn’t need a ticket home. But as I asked about jobs I found out that there were long waiting lists of other students who also wanted jobs. There were many more job seekers than there were jobs available and it was only very rarely that a freshman could get hired. By the time a job became available several upper classmen had already been on the waiting list for a long time and so one of them would normally get the job.
Without a job there was no way I could go to school there. I had saved a little money but it was just barely enough to have got me started and then I would have been out of luck. I was afraid to take the chance. I have always had the problem of getting discouraged easily and that time was no exception. I gave up on it and went back home. I decided I didn’t want to spend money on another bus ticket so I hitchhiked.
I don’t remember anything about the details of the hitchhiking but I must have got home alright. Brownie and Larry were living in Pendleton, Oregon at that time. I think it was Pendleton. Anyway it was some city in Oregon that was sort of on the way home. I went to their place the first day and stayed overnight with them and went on home the next day.
I didn’t go to college that year but I did manage to go to U.I.S.B. in Pocatello the next year and got in one semester. That was 1939 and I ran out of money after one semester and had to quit.
I probably would have had enough money for a full year but I loaned some money to Dad and I never got it back. Dad had a piece of land leased from his neighbor whose name was Floyd Goss. Floyd owned the farm that adjoined the one Dad was farming and there was a piece of his farm that adjoined Dad’s and which was cut off from the rest of his farm by a wild creek that ran through the place. There was no bridge across the creek and it was very inconvenient for Floyd to get to it and farm it but it was quite convenient for Dad. So Floyd leased that field to Dad and Dad planted oats in it.
When Dad wanted to borrow money from me he offered me the field of oats as security for the loan. I would have loaned him the money without any security but I figured having the field of oats for security was OK. When the oats were harvested Floyd wanted to buy them. Half of them were his anyway because that was the terms of the lease but he wanted to buy our half, or, I guess I should say, my half. So as the oats were harvested we hauled them over to Floyd’s granary and stored them. Then before Floyd got around to paying for them he ran into trouble. His wife took off and left him and filed for divorce. He had borrowed money from the bank and had everything mortgaged. So before Floyd’s wife could lay claim to what was mortgaged and get it tied up in a court action the bank demanded payment. Floyd didn’t have any money except what was tied up in his property and crops and the bank had a mortgage on all that so the bank foreclosed on everything, including my oats. Even without the foreclosure I doubt if Floyd would ever have paid me for the oats but as things turned out he definitely did not.
I guess Dad figured he had given me the oats and the deal to sell them to Floyd was between Floyd and me so as far as he was concerned his debt to me was paid. The fact that Floyd never paid me had nothing to do with him. It was just my tough luck. Anyway I never got the money back that I loaned to Dad. Perhaps Dad would have paid it anyway, in spite of the loss of the oats, but I guess he just never had the money to do it. Anyway I have to believe that he would have.
As I have thought about this I have thought that if I borrowed money from somebody I would feel obligated to repay it regardless of security. If the shoe were on the other foot and I were the borrower, and had offered the oats as security and the oats were confiscated so my lender never received his money, I think I would feel obligated to repay the loan myself. I have to believe that Dad would have too but he never had the money to do it. Basically, Dad was as honest as anybody I ever knew and conscientious about his obligations but I think in this case he did use the deal with the oats to rationalize that he had fulfilled his obligation. I might have done the same under the same circumstances. He had no money.
I mentioned that I doubt if Floyd Goss would ever have paid me anyway. It is not that Floyd would have intentionally cheated me out of the money. He was basically honest too, but I don’t think he would have gone to the trouble to bring the money to me and I was too timid to ask him for it. Even though I had overcome my bashfulness to some extent I was still very bashful and timid. I found it very difficult to get enough nerve to ask anybody for anything. That is, anybody except family members. There had been sufficient time between the harvest of the oats and the trouble that developed between Floyd and his wife for him to have paid me. If I had gone and asked him for it he probably would have paid it immediately. But as it was he didn’t take the trouble to bring it to me and I didn’t go ask him for it. So I guess it was my own fault that I didn’t get my money. Throughout my life I have missed out on many benefits I might otherwise have had because I was too timid to exert myself.
While we were living there at Castleford and while I was working for the Hesselholts my baby brother, Clifford, was born. He was born July 1, 1938. It came as a complete surprise to me. Although Mom was only 38 years old it had been thirteen years since she had had a baby; Della was thirteen years old at the time; and the last thing I expected was that she would have another baby at that stage of her life. But Clifford was a joy to all of us. I wasn’t home to spend much time with him except on weekends but I surely loved and enjoyed helping tend him and taking care of him and stuff when I had the chance. Then, just before Christmas, when he wasn’t quite six months old yet, he got pneumonia and died. In those days antibiotics and equipment to treat pneumonia was not available such as it is now. Pneumonia was a deadly disease. Sometimes people recovered from it but very often they didn’t. Clifford didn’t. Mom spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the hospital with him. We kids were at home alone. Our neighbors, Lou and Emma Robbins, invited us to their house for dinner. Then sometime in the evening somebody brought Mom home. It was a terribly sad loss for her. She had been so thrilled to finally have this baby and now he was gone.
Another sad thing about it was that Dad wasn’t home. He had gone to California to spend Christmas with his son, Bus. I am very hazy on the details but as I remember it, Bus had sent him some money for the trip and asked him to come, or it could be that Brownie and Curly and Bus had all gone together on the money. We all urged Dad to take advantage of it and go because we knew he would enjoy it and thought we would be fine together at home. Of course we had no reason to assume anyone was going to get pneumonia. It happened so fast and we had no telephone so we could call Dad and let him know unless we went to the neighbors and used their phone. We did that immediately after Clifford died and Dad came right home as soon as he could make it, but in the meantime Mom had to suffer that grief without him there with her. We kids tried to comfort her as best we could but it wasn’t the same as if Dad had been with her. Of course, Dad had his grief too and he had to suffer it alone until he got home.
Dad had a cemetery lot in Dayton Cemetery where his first wife was buried so they took Clifford to Dayton where they had the funeral in a Dayton L.D.S. chapel and then buried him in the Dayton Cemetery.
Many of Dad’s relatives and old friends lived within a few miles of there in Dayton and Weston, Idaho and Trenton, Utah and other communities in that area. It had only been about fourteen years since he had left there and prior to leaving there and moving out to the Twin Falls area he had spent his whole life there. He had many relatives and friends there and many of them were active Mormons so they were glad to arrange a funeral. Most of them still remembered Dad with love and respect even though he was not a Mormon himself. Having the funeral at Dayton and having Clifford buried there seemed to please Mom too as well as the rest of us.
At that time I don’t suppose I gave much thought to it one way or the other. I suppose Mom and Dad did but I can’t recall that I did. But now I can see the wisdom of it. (Now is 51 years later, 1989). Now most of us have left the Twin Falls area and it is not likely that any of us who have left will be buried there. Dad is buried in Dayton alongside his first wife. Mom is buried in Whitney with my father. I buried Maude in Logan, Utah and as more of us pass away we will probably be buried in northern Utah so Clifford will be there among us. Anyway I am glad that is where he is rather than out in Buhl or anyplace in the Twin Falls area.
I managed to save enough money so I could go to college in the fall of 1939. I went to the University of Idaho, Southern Branch (UISB) at Pocatello and enrolled in their pharmacy course. I was lucky enough to get into a cooperative type dormitory called Ferris Hall. This was a dormitory where we had a manager, our own dining hall and kitchen and we hired our own cook. We students did the waiting on tables, dishwashing, much of the food preparation and janitorial work and for our room and board we just paid the actual cost. Our manager kept a record of all costs of the dormitory, including utilities, all supplies and food, etc., that had to be purchased, the cooks wages and whatever other expenses there might be. At the end of each month it was all added up and the total divided by the number of students living there and whatever that amounted to is what we had to pay. As I remember it was never more than $15.00 per month. And that is what made it possible for me to go to college on the little amount of money I had. Some students would manage to make it through a whole year on $200.
But in those days $200 was a lot of money. The depression of the 1930’s was still going strong. The economy did begin to improve in 1939 because that is the year World War II began in Europe. Germany invaded France and other bordering countries and began bombing England and the U.S. began manufacturing war materials to help England, France, etc. and that boosted our economy and eventually brought an end to the depression. But in the fall of 1939 we hadn’t realized much change or improvement in the depression economy in southern Idaho. Two hundred dollars was four or five month’s wages even at that time.
I had some good experiences that semester in college. In the dormitory there were two men to each room. My roommate was a young man from Spanish Fork, Utah whose name was Bill Hales. We got along beautifully. The only problem with Bill was that he smoked. He would also drink once in a while but that was only occasionally. He was a Mormon and a very nice guy but he didn’t take the church very seriously. In spite of that, however, I enjoyed having him as a roommate and I learned to love him. I’ve always wished I had kept in touch with him but after that semester of school was finished we lost contact and I have never seen him again until this day.
Another thing that made college enjoyable was the L.D.S. Institute. I enrolled in a course at the Institute and took part in all the church activities that went on there. If I remember right there was a college ward that used the Institute for its activities. Anyway, in addition to the study courses there were Sunday school and Sacrament services on Sunday and young men’s and young women’s activities through the week. In those days we called those activities Mutual or M.I.A. and the young men’s and young women’s organization The Mutual Improvement Association. I don’t know why they changed it from that to what they call it now but regardless of what the name of it was or what they called it, it was fun. Practically all my entertainment came from the Institute and other college activities. There was enough in those activities to take care of all my needs for entertainment.
Occasionally we would go to a movie. There was one theater that specialized in movies that had already been around to the first run movie theaters and were being circulated a second time. Many of them were top grade movies but this was the second time around for them; or even the third or fourth time around. In a sense they were reruns although I doubt if the word “rerun” had been invented at that time. This theater charged $.15 (fifteen cents) per ticket for students, including college students. One night each week; I have it in my mind that it was Tuesday night; it was two for the price of one. Two of us could go to the movie for fifteen cents. Sometimes, if our studies were not too pressing we would go to a movie on two for one night.
Bill Hales and I entered the beard growing contest for homecoming. Homecoming is always a major event for colleges and as part of the celebration of it there was a beard growing contest. Bill and I won first and second prizes. As I remember Bill was first and I was second. I don’t remember now what the prizes were but whatever they were, we won them.
The night before each football game there was usually a pep rally. I don’t remember the details of any of these pep rallies except that for one of them there was a van type truck available for transportation for the participants. The reason I remember this particular one was that in the truck I rode in there were two girls. I wouldn’t have believed I would have the boldness to do it but I struck up a conversation with those girls. Or maybe it was they who struck up a conversation with me, but whichever, the three of us got into a conversation. The girls’ names were Gladys and May. I don’t remember their last names but they were very sweet girls.
During the following week when I went to Mutual at the L.D.S. Institute May was there. I don’t know why Gladys wasn’t there that night because she was L.D.S. too. I learned later that both of them almost always came to Mutual and to church but that particular evening only May was there. Since we had already met, May and I seemed to gravitate to each other. A significant feature of the Mutual program was that after the classes or whatever church activities we had there would be a session of dancing. Since May and I were acquainted with each other we danced together and I walked her home to the dormitory where she lived. I don’t remember anything else we ever did together except whatever togetherness we might have had during the Mutual activities and at the Saturday night dances.
There was a student dance every Saturday night and most students who didn’t go home for the weekend usually went to the dance. I didn’t always go and I can only remember one dance that I danced with either May or Gladys. But there might have been one or two others that I have forgotten.
One Saturday night shortly after I had met these girls a friend and I decided to try to get dates for the dance. The problem was, it was already Saturday night when we decided that. If I had a choice of which of the two girls I would like to have a date with I would have preferred Gladys, simply because she was the prettier. But May was the only one I had had any significant association with and I was fairly confident she would go out with me. Anyway I called May and she told me no, she couldn’t go with me, she had other plans.
I have always had a difficult time handling rejection. I never seemed to be able to ask a girl for a date a second time after she had turned me down. I never asked May for another date although I did continue to see both her and Gladys in Mutual. Sometime later I went to one of the Saturday night dances. That time Gladys was there and May was not. I dance with Gladys and while dancing with her I asked her if she would go out with me. I don’t remember now what the occasion might have been for which I wanted Gladys to be my date but I did ask her for a date. She told me no, she couldn’t go with me because she was afraid May would have her feelings hurt. Even though there was nothing between May and me, I had walked her home from Mutual and I had called her and asked her for a date and that made me out of bounds for Gladys according to Gladys’s code of ethics.
Gladys also explained to me the reason May declined to go to the dance with me was because I waited too late to ask her. Girls did not like to be called at the last minute. They reasoned that a guy should know far enough time in advance what he wants to do that he wouldn’t have to wait until the last minute to call. They imagined that if a guy called late he had already asked some other girl or perhaps several others and been turned down and the one he asked at the last minute was at least second choice or perhaps even third or fourth. They would not accept such late invitations. It helped me to understand May’s reasoning but even so I never asked her for another date. And that was the extent and the end of my college romancing.
I did have one other experience with a girl that I have never forgotten. There were two local, Pocatello girls who were very beautiful and charming and very popular on campus. They were both involved in nearly everything that went on in the college, all the student and social activities, etc., and they were also Mormon girls and involved in L.D.S. institute activities. Through the institute activities I knew them and they knew me too although I wasn’t really aware that either of them knew that I even existed. I was much too bashful to approach either of them to talk to them. I surprised myself by getting to know May and Gladys and I realize now that they were just as charming and just as sweet as these other two girls but somehow at that time I thought of those girls as being on a higher level and out of my league. And then one day I was walking along one street and one of those super girls was walking along another street and we met at the corner. If I remember correctly one of the girls was named Beverly Bistline and the other’s name I can’t remember at all. And if I remember correctly the girl I met there at the corner that day was Beverly Bistline. She called me by name and greeted me just like an old friend. Her friendliness toward me made it easy for me to be friendly to her and we walked on down the street together chatting together just as if we were lifelong buddies. I could hardly believe it. Here I was walking along the street carrying on a friendly, familiar conversation with Beverly Bistline. It seemed as if I must be dreaming. Such a thing as that only happened in fairy tales. Beauty and the beast. But it really happened and although I don’t remember that I ever talked to her again that one time was a thrilling experience that I have never forgotten.
As far as classes in college were concerned I did very well in some classes and not so good in others. Chemistry was my best class. Zoology was not so good. In zoology they wanted us to dissect things, like, for instance, a frog, and draw pictures of the parts. I could do the dissecting OK but I could not draw a recognizable picture of anything. Math was the subject I didn’t do so well in. I did very well in algebra and geometry in high school but for some reason or other I couldn’t make heads or tails of that college math. Because of my bashfulness and timidity I couldn’t bring myself to go to the instructor and ask for special help. I ended up failing the course. It was the only “F” grade I ever got in any school course but I got an “F” in that course.
When the first semester was over I was out of money so I had to go home. Also, Dad had rented a different, larger, and better farm and he told me if I would come and help him farm I could share in the proceeds from it. It had the potential to be a good deal for me so I agreed to do it.
By that time I had got to the point that I didn’t mind farm work, in fact I rather enjoyed it, but I still did not like working for no pay. But Dad was confident we could make enough so I would have a reasonable share so it seemed good to me. And besides that there was no one else available to help Dad and he needed help.
I think it was in 1939 that a Sunday school was organized in Castleford. Castleford was part of the Buhl, Idaho Ward. There was one ward in Buhl at that time but it was a nice-sized ward with quite a few young people. It was part of the Twin Falls, Idaho Stake.
They sent out a couple of Stake missionaries from Twin to conduct the Sunday school. It was part of the Buhl ward and under the jurisdiction of the Buhl bishop but the stake missionaries who were assigned to it were from Twin Falls. I am hazy on the date when this was done – it might have been in 1940 – but it was along about that time in one or the other of those years. We held the Sunday school in the home of a good member, Myrtle Reynolds, who was a grand lady, a marvelous and wonderful person. If my memory serves me correctly it was through Myrtle’s efforts that the Sunday school was organized. She went to the bishop and requested it and I theorize that she bugged him until he got something done about it. We didn’t have very many L.D.S. members in Castleford but we had enough to hold a pretty good Sunday school.
There was us, Mom, Della and me. It was around that same time or maybe shortly after that both Bill and Dona got married. They got married at the same time in a double wedding ceremony.
In addition to us there was the Slim Hammond family, two Skeem families, the Rosencrantz family and a Brown family. At this time I can’t think of any others. Slim Hammond had two or three younger children. The one Skeem family was an older couple with two teenage kids, Doris and Wayne, still at home. The parents always came to Sunday school but the two kids only came occasionally. Mark Skeem and his wife were the other Skeem family and they had two or three real small children. Mark was another son of the older Skeem couple. The Rosencrantz family had four teenage kids, Mable, Amelia, Sherman and the youngest whose name I can’t remember. She was about thirteen I guess and I was 20 or 21 so I didn’t pay much attention to her although she was the prettiest of the three girls. The Browns were a couple in their forties and I don’t remember any children that they had. And there was Myrtle Reynolds and her sister Thelma. That wasn’t a whole lot of people but it was enough to hold a pretty good Sunday school. We didn’t have all the classes that a normal Sunday school has. There was an adult class and then all the kids from about 10 or 12 years old up to and including me were grouped together in another class, and a third class included all the smaller children. There was no nursery class.
The two stake missionaries taught two of the classes and one of the ladies from our group was assigned to teach the small children. We held Sunday school at the normal time, 10:00 AM, and then if we wanted to go to sacrament meeting we went to Buhl in the evening. To give farmers time to get their evening chores done, sacrament meeting was held from 7:00 to 9:30 PM. That was many years before the block system of meetings being used today was instituted.
As a result of the Sunday school, we young people, the four Rosencrantz kids, Thelma Taylor (she was Myrtle Reynolds’s sister who lived with her), my sister, Della and I formed a group that began doing things together. We started going to Buhl on Tuesday nights for MIA and Sunday nights for sacrament. We had fun going to MIA and joining with the young people in Buhl in the MIA activities. It provided its own incentive for going. As an incentive to attract the young people to sacrament meeting we had a fireside every Sunday night following sacrament meeting. We would usually go to somebody’s home and have a program of entertainment and refreshments. It was nearly always a lot of fun and it provided an incentive to get the young people to go to sacrament meeting. That was one of the requirements. In order to be allowed to go to the firesides we had to first be in sacrament meeting.
We had some good times in those firesides and the highlight of my life at that time of my life was the firesides and the MIA activities. I did occasionally go to a movie or do some other thing but church activities provided all I really needed for entertainment.
Another highlight of my life at that time was Thelma. Her mother died a year or two before that and her father apparently didn’t feel he could or didn’t want to take care of a teenage daughter so Thelma came to live with her sister, Myrtle. Myrtle’s husband had also passed away along about that time. I think Thelma had lived with Myrtle for a year or two before the Sunday school was organized but I had never gotten to know her. But as soon as I did get to know her I immediately fell in love with her. She was so pretty and so sweet and charming and so delightful that to know her was to love her. The problem was that I was still too bashful to let her know how I felt.
We, the group from Castleford, would usually all get together and all travel in one car to go to the church meetings in Buhl. The major association I had with Thelma, then, was in that crowd and the church activities that were also group activities. But as time went on I did eventually develop enough familiarity with her and get up enough nerve to ask her for a date. She very sweetly accepted. So I did date her a few times. The trouble was, there were also at least four other guys, members of the church activity group we associated with in Buhl, who dated her from time to time. She was very popular. This discouraged me from being aggressive in regard to her but I surely would have liked to have been more aggressive.
She was always on my mind. I couldn’t think of anything or do anything that she was not mixed up in my thoughts. I dreamed and fantasized constantly about how I could approach her and sweep her off her feet and take her away from all the other guys. But when I was with her I couldn’t open my mouth to say any of the things I dreamed and fantasized about. And she didn’t give me much encouragement or perhaps I was just too stupid to recognize encouragement when I got it. As I look back on it now I recall two or three things she did that, as I think about them, it seems to me now that she was probably trying to give me a message. But at the time I was not alert enough to pick up on it.
Somewhere along the line, I don’t remember now what was done or said or how I might have gotten the impression, she gave me the impression that she did not want to be kissed or mauled or handled in any way so I never offered to do anything like that. Whenever I was with her I kept my hands off and never attempted to kiss her because I thought that is the way she wanted it. But there was a saying among the group there that if a girl put a guy’s hat on her head, the guy had a right to kiss her. This one night we were having a party there in Castleford and this saying came up. My hat was lying there on a table and Thelma immediately picked it up and put it on her head. The thing I wanted more than anything else in the world at that time was to take advantage of the situation and kiss her. Apparently she wanted it too or she would not have extended the invitation. As I look back on it and think about it now it seems to me it was an obvious invitation for me to kiss her but I made some excuse about being too bashful and I didn’t do it. How stupid can a person get?
Part of my problem was that I had a deeply ingrained inferiority complex. I recognized that I had many good characteristics that a girl ought to admire but I also felt inferior to other guys in many ways. I couldn’t seem to carry on a conversation unless the other person was able to keep it going. If I was with someone who did not keep the conversation going then the two of us would sit there like two bumps on a log and neither of us say anything. I always felt like it was my fault. I would see other guys, and girls, josh and joke and be the life of the party, but I could never think of anything to say. I felt that I must be very boring to be around. I never seemed to be able to learn to dance well. In those days the kind of dancing we did was real, genuine dancing – the old ballroom type – in which the man was supposed to lead and the girl followed his lead. I never seemed to be able to learn to lead, or, at least, I didn’t have confidence that I was actually leading. Girls were kind enough to dance with me when I could muster enough nerve to ask one but I always had the feeling they couldn’t be enjoying dancing with a guy who was such a poor dancer. I did not feel that I could compete with other guys for a girl’s affection. Especially such a girl as Thelma.
Why would any girl who had all those other choices, choose a guy like me? Thelma had these other boyfriends and it seemed inconceivable to me that she would not have her choice of whichever one she wanted or whichever guy she wanted if she happened to want someone else. It also seemed inconceivable to me that with all the choices she apparently had, she would choose me. So when she gave me hints to indicate she might be choosing me or at least be wanting me to be a little more aggressive, or wanting something from me more than I was giving her, I couldn’t believe it was happening. In real life things like that don’t happen to guys like me. It only happens in beauty and the beast fairy tales.
In those days decent girls, proper girls, were not aggressive. It was not the appropriate thing for a girl to do. So when she gave me a hint or two and I didn’t pick up on it, that’s as far as she went. She even turned a little cold afterwards and that further discouraged me. I realize now that she had good reason to cool off toward me. I can imagine that if a girl makes such an advance to attract a guy and he ignores it she might feel that she has been snubbed. The last thing in the world I ever wanted to do was to snub Thelma or ever do anything to hurt her feelings or to do anything or say anything to give her the impression that I didn’t love her. But I suppose, unwittingly, I may have done just that.
I seemed to have a tendency to convey the impression to a girl that I didn’t like her. There was another girl that was in the MIA and firesides there in Buhl whom I apparently affected the same way. Her name was Eunice Woods and she had just recently returned from a mission and she was a dream of a girl. I never had a date with her or any such thing as that and the only association I had with her was in the church groups, but I surely admired her, was awestruck by her, and would like to have had closer association with her. I don’t think I had the same feeling for Eunice that I had for Thelma, or anything near to it, but nevertheless, I did have a feeling of extreme affection for her.
It was leap year that year, 1940, and the stake put on a leap year dance. That meant that the girls were to ask the guys for the date to go to the dance. I didn’t expect to get an invitation to the dance so it didn’t surprise me or disappoint me that I didn’t get one. But it did surprise me who Eunice invited to be her date. Frank Olenslager was his name and while he was as nice of a guy as one will ever find he didn’t seem to have much attraction to the girls. But anyway, Eunice invited Frank, which was great, it showed what a down to earth girl she was in addition to her attractiveness and charm, but she told somebody, and the word got back to me, that she would have liked to invite me but she had the impression that I didn’t like her. I was crushed when I heard that, to realize I made that impression on a girl I did like so much. I was also elated to realize that in spite of all my shortcomings maybe there was something about me that a girl could like or be attracted to, even such a grand girl as Eunice.
Eunice got married soon after that. She met a guy that moved into the ward and they only knew each other two or three weeks when they decided to get married. I don’t remember anything about her after that. But another highlight of my life was the realization that she would have liked to have asked me to escort her to the leap year dance.
This illustrates the tendency I apparently had to give girls the impression I didn’t like them and Thelma must have had that same impression about me. It didn’t matter so much what other girls thought about me but I loved Thelma and I wanted her to know it. I just didn’t seem to be able to let her know it. Part of my problem was that I had a sense of pride that made me determined that I would not allow myself to be the left out leg of a love triangle; or if I was the left out leg I wouldn’t want anyone else to know it. I had the attitude that before I would commit myself to a girl and tell her I loved her I wanted to be sure that she also loved me. I tried to apply this principle to Thelma and it backfired on me.
The last time we were together we were in the car and I was taking her home from wherever it was that we had been. She came out point blank and asked me if I loved her. She didn’t say she loved me – perhaps she was leading up to that but she hadn’t said it – she just asked me if I loved her. Somehow or another I couldn’t say “Yes, I do”. I felt I had to have her commitment first before I could give her mine. I answered her question by saying something like, “I couldn’t love any girl who doesn’t love me.” In my mind that was her clue to say, “But, I do love you” or words to that effect if she did. It seemed perfectly logical to me that she should have responded that way. But she didn’t. She didn’t respond at all. She never said another word the rest of the way home and when I got her home she jumped out of the car and ran into the house. She was obviously very angry or that is the way I interpreted her reaction at the time. As I have thought about it since then it has occurred to me that she might have been very hurt. And I couldn’t think of anything to say to her the rest of the way home either. When she didn’t respond the way I thought she should have I didn’t know what to do next. I couldn’t think of anything to say or do. I just sat there like a bump on a log and let her go out of my life. Many times after that I wanted to go to her and try to clear up the misunderstanding. Again I fantasized about what I would say to her but before I could ever get to the point of talking to her or approaching her at all I would chicken out. That was the end of my relationship with Thelma.
Eventually I met another girl that I fell in love with and we got married and had a very happy marriage and life together. But I have never been able to forget Thelma. I have thought of her often through the years and even wondered at times what my life might have been like if I had married her instead of Maude. But when I met Maude I loved her too and I don’t think my memories and feelings for Thelma ever interfered with or affected our love for each other or our marriage in any way. I surely believe it is normal for a man to love more than one woman. Anyway I did love Maud but in spite of that I couldn’t forget Thelma.
Thelma got married too, a year or so after that and the surprising thing to me was that she didn’t marry any one of the guys she dated while I was dating her. She married a different guy altogether.
The preceding narrative of his life was written by my father, Leland Ivan Larsen, partially in 1982 and partially in 1989. This is as far as he completed his history. I will attempt to write a brief sketch of his life from that point on using whatever source information that I have at my disposal.
Craig M. Larsen
After completing one semester at University of Idaho, Southern Branch (UISB) Lee returned home to help his father work his farm. He returned the following year and completed another semester for a total of two semesters at USIB. This was toward the end of 1939 or beginning of 1940. During this time war was waging in Europe and Southeast Asia. Japan wanted to seize the petroleum and other resources of Southeast Asia and the adjacent islands. The U.S. opposed this expansion. On July 23, 1941, Japan occupied southern Indochina. In response the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands froze Japanese assets to prevent Japan from purchasing oil in an attempt to cripple the Japanese military. Unable to get the embargo lifted Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. As of December 8, the United States was now officially at war.
On September 16, 1940, the United States instituted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which required all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for the draft. This was the first peacetime draft in United States' history. Those who were selected from the draft lottery were required to serve at least one year in the armed forces. Once the U.S. entered WWII, draft terms extended through the duration of the fighting. By the end of the war in 1945, 50 million men between eighteen and forty-five had registered for the draft and 10 million had been inducted in the military.
This statement about the draft was taken from http://www.nationalww2museum.org, the website of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans.
Now that the United States at was at war the draft efforts intensified. Lee did not want to be drafted into the army so he enlisted in the Coast Guard on May 23, 1942. He was first stationed in Seattle, Washington and later stationed in Marshfield (later renamed to Coos Bay), Oregon.
Lee’s first assignment in the Coast Guard was for guard duty. He had to be on guard for two hours with four hours off, then two hours on and four off, for a twenty-four hour period. He hated it. The two hours on were the longest hours ever.
After that he volunteered for mess hall duty. In the Coast Guard mess hall duty was voluntary and not a punishment like it was in the Army. Lee enjoyed working in the mess hall and it had the advantage of him not having to work guard duty. He said that he considered training as a cook but about that time he learned that the Coast Guard was looking for men to train as Pharmacist’s Mates. He thought that this would be perfect for him so he applied for that and was accepted. He finished training courses for Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd Class, Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class and Pharmacist’s Mate 1st Class. According to his completion certificate, toward the end of his enlistment he attended Pharmacist Mate School at Columbia University, New York City, New York. He completed the U.S. Coast Guard course for Chief Pharmacist’s Mate with an 89% grade. In an interview with my sister, Terri, dad said that he went to New York early in his time in the Coast Guard for a period of three months. I haven’t been able to reconcile this with the date on his completion certificate. Perhaps he went there more than once. His completion certificate was dated June 26, 1945.
His duties consisted of working in a medical facility and helping to treat people with minor medical problems. He said that he wasn’t a doctor or even a good nurse but he did the best he could with the training that he had.
Lee was not required to do normal coastal patrols because of his duties as a Pharmacist’s Mate, however one unusual incident did require him to go out on board ship during extreme conditions. During a storm with 95 mph gale force winds a ship named the Alvarado was run aground and the Coast Guard had to come to the rescue. Lee was required to go with them in case there was some medical need.
Lee was honorably discharged December 21, 1945, with the rank of Pharmacist’s Mate 1st Class, after having served 3 ½ years active duty.
When Lee first arrived in Seattle one of the first things he did was to find out where the church was. There were several L.D.S. servicemen besides him and they went to church together. At church there was an announcement about a dance party to be held that week. Lee and several other servicemen attended the dance. The people in charge of the dance introduced the servicemen to the girls at that were there. Lee was introduced to a young woman named Maud Brown. He was always very shy but Maud liked to talk and made up for his lack of conversation. He did manage to ask her if she was ever called anything but Maud because I don’t think he liked the name very well. As it turned out Maud didn’t like the name Maud either and she told him that most of her friends called her “Penny”. He said, “Oh good, I’ll call you Penny.” Penny’s knack for talking put Lee at ease and he and Penny got along very well and began dating.
Shortly after this Lee was sent to New York to Pharmacy School and was away for three months. While he was there he wrote to Penny and she wrote back. It was during this time that Lee decided that he was going to ask Penny to marry him. During this same time Penny had told one of her friends that Lee Larsen was spoken for. She had already decided that she wanted him. So a short time after he returned he asked her to marry him and she said yes. A month or two after his return they were married on January 16, 1943. At first they were going to wait until he was able to get a promotion so that they would have a little more money but they changed their minds about that.
They were married at Penny’s sister, Wanda’s house in Seattle, Washington in a very small ceremony. The wedding ceremony was conducted by the bishop of their ward.
Their honeymoon was just a weekend in Seattle. Lee only had a weekend pass. That first night after their wedding Lee received a phone call telling him that he was needed back at the base immediately. He was getting ready to go back to the base when he realized that no one back at the base even knew where he was. It was a prank call. Lee always suspected that it was Wanda’s husband, Stan who made the call.
A little over a year later Lee and Penny were sealed for time and eternity on March 17, 1944 in the Logan, Utah Temple.
Lee was later stationed in Marshfield, Coos County, Oregon. The name of the town of Marshfield was sometime later changed to Coos Bay. They first lived in one room in a boarding house. Later they moved to a boarding house with kitchen privileges and eventually found an apartment. At some point Lee’s Coast Guard station was moved to a base in Empire, Oregon that the Navy had moved out of. Rather than continue to commute the five or six miles to Empire, Lee and Penny moved to an apartment there. Their first child Wanda Lee was born in Marshfield on October 18, 1943.
Lee was stationed in the Marshfield/Empire area for twenty-seven months. He was then transferred to San Francisco for a month, and then on to the Hawaiian Islands, where he finished out his enlistment. After the war ended his assignment was such that he could not leave until they sent someone to replace him. This took a couple of extra months, but eventually he was replaced and was able to be discharged and returned home.
Lee was discharged from the Coast Guard on December 21, 1945. I believe that they then moved for a time back to Castleford, Idaho. I found a letter addressed to “Lee, Penny and Wanda Lee” from the Castleford Ward, I assume from either the bishop or a clerk, indicating that they would forward their church records to their new ward as requested. The new ward is not mentioned by name but my assumption is that they went to Logan, Utah at this time.
(Note added by Terri Larsen Freeman, Maud and Lee's daughter: Mom told me of a time early in their marriage when she (Maud/Penny) and Dad (Leland) tried farming. I believe it was a period of about a year, on a farm they rented. She mentioned that she thought Dad would have liked to have been a farmer. I would assume this time in Castleford would have been that period. Mom told me of a time when one of her sisters came to visit her on the the farm. Her sister, the "city girl," went home and reported to their mother about how terribly "extravagant" Maud was. She was using real butter and cream on everything! Of course, on a farm with milk cows this wasn't an extravagance at all--it was making sure not to waste a good resource!)
While they were living in Logan, their second child, Carl Ivan was born on November 2, 1947.
Lee attended college in Logan at Utah State Agricultural College. He studied agronomy. By this time he had changed his mind about what field of work he wanted to study and went a different direction from pharmacology. He graduated from U.S.A.C. in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture with a major in agronomy. The name Utah State Agricultural College was later changed to Utah State University.
Not knowing exactly what agronomy was, I looked up the definition on Wikipedia. Here is that definition:
Agronomy is the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fiber, and land reclamation. Agronomy encompasses work in the areas of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology, and soil science. Agronomy is the application of a combination of sciences like biology, chemistry, economics, ecology, earth science, and genetics. Agronomists today are involved with many issues including producing food, creating healthier food, managing environmental impact of agriculture, and extracting energy from plants. Agronomists often specialize in areas such as crop rotation, irrigation and drainage, plant breeding, plant physiology, soil classification, soil fertility, weed control, and insect and pest control.
Lee became a soil scientist for the Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service beginning August 1949. He could have done any number of different jobs in his field but there were job openings at that time with the S.C.S. He was stationed in Wells, Nevada. The best description of what his job was is found in a resume that he wrote while looking for post- retirement work:
The following is a brief resume of my qualifications for employment.
I was born May 6, 1918, in Preston, Franklin County, Idaho. I am a citizen of the United States. I have a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University with a major in agronomy. I am married and have five children, all of whom are grown to adulthood and no longer in my home. I served 3 ½ years in the United States Coast Guard during World War II.
Following my graduation from college in 1949 I worked for the Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, for 29 years and retired May 5, 1978. My title with the S.C.S. was “Soil Scientist” except for two years when I took a break from that and was classified as a “Soil Conservationist”.
My responsibilities as soil scientist were soil surveys which consists of mapping and classification of soils. Specific duties were to collect data about soils by sampling and examining soil characteristics, using the soil data to classify the soil, prepare soil description, prepare maps of land surface areas showing the kinds of soil existing therein, and prepare soil survey reports which include the soil descriptions and soil maps. Aerial photo interpretation and drafting of maps was required as well as interpretation of the soil data as to uses for which the land is suitable. Considerable leadership responsibility was included as I was frequently assigned to be party leader over soil survey parties.
I remember, as a child, going with Dad as he went out into the field to collect soil data. He used to dig, by hand, large holes in the ground. These holes were usually about four to five feet deep and large enough for him move around in easily. He would be able to clearly see each layer of soil from the top to the bottom of his hole. He would scrape small samples of each layer with his pocket knife and put the samples in one of the dimples in a small porcelain plate. He would then put chemicals on each sample and record the reaction to each layer. This would tell him the properties of that layer of the soil. After getting this information he would then fill the hole in and head off to another location to start all over.
Sometimes he would use a quicker method of digging a cylindrical hole with an auger. The auger was a cylinder with digging teeth attached to a bar with a “T” handle. He would dig enough to fill the cylinder and then tamp the dirt out into a little pile. He would keep doing this until he was as deep as he wanted to go and had all the samples he needed. The samples were more mixed, but this was his quick method of testing.
While living in Wells, Nevada, their third child, Craig Murray was born. Penny had been seeing a doctor in Twin Falls, Idaho, which was approximately 110 miles straight north from Wells. Craig was born there, in Twin Falls, on May 21, 1950.
A couple of years later Lee was transferred to Ely, Nevada. While living in Ely they had their fourth child. Chad Brian was born in Ely on May 9, 1953.
Toward the end of 1953 Lee was again transferred. This time to Henderson, Nevada. Henderson is located in southern Nevada, near Las Vegas. I believe that his job was in Boulder City, Nevada, but we lived in Henderson, six or seven miles from there.
It was while living in Henderson, in 1955, that Lee had an unusual experience. While he was working he was driving across the open desert near Las Vegas when he saw something on the ground. He had driven past it before he realized that it was a human skull. He stopped to investigate and found a skull and most of the bones of a man. The skeleton’s feet were still in his army boots, the clothes were mostly gone but appeared to have been military, and a .45 caliber pistol among other items were found nearby.
Lee reported the find to the authorities and the scene was investigated. It was determined that the skeleton had been there for many years. No identification was ever made. (The story of Lee's discovery was reported in the local newspaper. Photos of the article are found in the original pdf version of "Personal Life History of Leland Ivan Larsen".)
Lee received another transfer and the family moved to Lovelock, Nevada. Their fifth and final child, Terri Leona, was born in Lovelock on June 20, 1957.
Lee’s final transfer was to Winnemucca, Nevada, where he worked the remainder of his career. Lee retired from the Soil Conservation Service May 5, 1978 after working 29 years in that job.
After his retirement, Lee worked as a soil scientist for a private firm, or perhaps more than one, for a time. He also tried working real estate. He did get a real estate license, but I don’t think he really did very much with it.
In December of 1976 Lee received a phone call from a lady who was looking for information concerning her missing father. She had had a dream that led her in search of the possible remains of her father who had been missing since 1934. She thought that it was possible that the skeleton that Lee had found in 1955 might be that of her father. The following article appeared in the Humboldt Sun Newspaper, Winnemucca, Nevada on December 7, 1976:
Dream May Have Solved 42-Year-Old Mystery
An Article from the Humboldt Sun
December 7, 1976
The disappearance of a man 42 years ago, a dream, the coincidence of street names, the finding of a man long dead in the desert.
“It’s a very odd story,” said Leland Larsen, who found the bleached bones 21 years ago. Larsen is a member of the Soil Conservation Service staff here.
“I had almost forgotten about it,” Larsen said of the day in 1955 when he found the skeletal remains in the desert southwest of Las Vegas.
What recalled the incident was a telephone call Larsen received from Gail Metcalf. She thought the remains might be those of her father, William Allen Hughes, who disappeared in 1934.
“I wasn’t able to tell her much,” Larsen said, “except what she already knew.”
Larsen was traveling across the desert in a four-wheel pickup when he noticed the skull. “I was past it before I realized it was a human skull,” he said.
Scene of Tragedy
An inspection of the area convinced Larsen he had come upon the scene of a tragedy. The bones he found had been disturbed, but were obviously those of a man who had died there. “They were all still pretty much together,” Larsen said. “The feet were still in army boots, so he died with his boots on.”
He said the man had apparently been wearing army pants. “They were pretty much gone, but the double thickness along the seams remained,” he said. A further inspection of the scene uncovered other items of military equipment and a .45 caliber automatic pistol.
Larsen reported the finding of the remains to the sheriff’s office in Las Vegas. Deputies who visited the scene found two dozen spent rounds of ammunition. They theorized that the man had been injured and had attempted to attract attention by firing his pistol.
“I never did know whether or not the body had been identified,” Larsen said here last week. “Apparently it wasn’t”
Larsen heard no more about the body he had found until two weeks ago when he received a long- distance telephone call from Gail Metcalf of Auburn, California. She said she believed the remains might be those of her father who disappeared in 1934. She said she believed the remains might have been those of her father because of a dream she has experienced.
Mrs. Metcalf was six years of age and living with her mother in Lakewood, Ohio, when her father disappeared.
When he left his young daughter, William Allen Hughes, then in his early 30’s promised to bring her back a gold nugget. He wrote frequently. Finally he sent a card from Albuquerque, N.M., saying he was heading for the Funeral Mountains in California to search for gold. That, apparently, was the last anyone ever heard of him.
Over the years, Mrs. Metcalf assumed her father was dead. She made no serious attempt to find out what had happened to him. Then she had the dream. Actually she had three dreams, oddly connected.
Describing her dream to a newspaper reporter in Las Vegas, Mrs. Metcalf said she didn’t generally remember her dreams, but could recall this one. “It haunts me,” she said.
In the first dream, she said, she and her husband were in an old one-room cabin. There was a wash alongside the cabin with a little water in it. Involved in the dream was the name Lincoln. She said afterwards she wasn’t sure whether it was the name of a place or a person – just a thought that came to her. “The main thing I got of this part of the dream was the wash and Lincoln,” she said.
In the second dream she was riding in an old car with an Indian who was driving. She turned to the Indian and asked him, “If you’re so wise, why don’t you tell me where my father is?” The Indian did not answer.
Saw Her Father
In the third part of the dream, Mrs. Metcalf was walking in the desert amid large shrubs or bushes. “He was there,” she told the Las Vegas reporter who interviewed her, and who, coincidentally, was also named Gail Metcalf. “He was lying there, just off the road – more of a trail of sorts, a foot path – and he’d been shot. There was no doubt in my mind, I knew it was my father.”
Prompted by her dream, Mrs. Metcalf set out to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance.
The clues were slim – a wash with a little water in it, the name Lincoln, a desert covered with bushes, an Indian driving a 1930-vintage car.
She was aware that there was a Lincoln County in both New Mexico and Nevada, but could think of no reason why her father would have been in either one.
In the card sent from Albuquerque he had said he was leaving for the Funeral Mountains in California. “I sat down and pulled out an old atlas,” Mrs. Metcalf said. “I started looking with the thought in mind that if I were going from Albuquerque to the Funeral Mountains what would be the most direct route. It was fairly obvious that was through Las Vegas.”
With her husband’s cousin, Claris Cronkhite, she drove to Las Vegas. Both women are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so the first thing they did when they arrived in Las Vegas was to call the church genealogical library there. The woman they talked to suggested they call the Woodlawn Cemetery.
A search of the cemetery records failed to turn up any mention of a William Allen Hughes. They did find, however, that the remains of a long-dead John Doe found in the desert had been buried in 1955.
“When she said that, the desert, it just struck me,” said Mrs. Metcalf
The cemetery employee sent the women to the local mortuary that had handled the burial. The mortuary sent them to the coroner’s office. The coroner’s office directed them to the police department. At the police department they talked to Sgt. Fred Anderson of the homicide detail. Mrs. Metcalf told him of her dream, and the suspicion that her father had been shot and had died in the desert.
Anderson checked the records on the John Doe at Woodlawn Cemetery. He found that the skull had a fracture in it, but that a Federal Bureau of Investigation laboratory examination had been unable to determine whether it was a wound or had been caused by weathering.
During the discussion, Anderson happened to mention that the remains of the John Doe had been found by a Soil Conservation Service employee who lived in Henderson. The subdivision in which Larsen was then living had been constructed as a wartime housing project by the federal government. The streets had been named for prominent American figures. The street on which Larsen was then living had been named for President Abraham Lincoln.
After leaving the police department, the women drove to the area in which Larsen had found the remains that now rested, unidentified, in the Las Vegas cemetery.
At the time Larsen found the remains, the area was open desert about four or five miles from the Las Vegas city limits. Today it is part of the city. Over the years several streets and roads have been constructed in the area. Whoever named them had a sense of western heritage – Wigwam Avenue, Fort Apache Road, Buffalo Drive. In her dream, Mrs. Metcalf had seen an Indian driving a car!
Wash and Path
The area was as Mrs. Metcalf had seen it in her dreams. There were the tree-like bushes – Creosote bushes – and a wash with a sandy trail-like path caused by water that had run down it at one time. The path looked like the one beside which she had seen the body of her father.
Certain she had found the place where her father had died, Mrs. Metcalf telephoned the Soil Conservation office here to talk with Larsen. She described the wash, the path, and the bushes. Larsen said it sounded like the place where he had found the skull and other bones.
“I can’t recall the exact wash,” Larsen said, “but there were washes like that all over that country.” He wasn’t sure about the path, but was certain there was no proper road in the area. He was driving across the open desert, among the Creosote bushes, at the time he made the find.
He did recall that the skull had a hole in it, but he said he wasn’t able to tell at the time whether it was a bullet hole.
The description of the body found by Larsen and buried in the Las Vegas cemetery doesn’t match the description of Mrs. Metcalf’s father in all particulars, but it is close. William Hughes was in his early 30’s when he disappeared. The police report gives the age of the John Doe found by Larsen as “at least 25.” The estimated height of the body is a few inches different from Hughes, and the boots found with the remains are one size larger than Hughes normally wore. According to the report, there was an amalgam filling in the skull’s lower left third molar. Hughes did have such a filling.
“A very odd story,” said Larsen.
Were the remains he found 21 years ago those of William Allen Hughes, and had they lain undiscovered in the desert for 21 years before he spotted the skull half-buried in the sand? He doesn’t know. Was Mrs. Metcalf’s dream of Lincoln and a wash and an old Indian in 1930-vintage car trying to tell her where to find her father’s body? And did her father die of a gunshot wound, as Mrs. Metcalf believes?
Neither Larsen nor Mrs. Metcalf know the answers. Probably they never will.
On November 17, 1988 Lee’s wife, Penny, passed away following a stroke. Penny had had a previous stroke a year or so earlier and was undergoing physical therapy to help her recover from it. She was making good progress until she suffered a second stroke that took her life. She was buried in the Logan, Utah cemetery close to the graves of her parents.
The following September (1989) Lee was visiting his sister, Della, in Twin Falls, Idaho. This happened to be during the time of the Twin Falls County Fair. Della was working a booth at the fair for Avon products. She noticed an old friend of hers working a nearby booth for a music store. It was Thelma Bernardi (formerly Taylor), the same person that Lee had dated for a time as a young man. Della discovered that Thelma had recently lost her husband. Della went home and told Lee that she had seen Thelma and that she also was single again. He decided that he would go look her up.
Lee and Thelma started seeing each other in a relationship that was sometimes long distance between Winnemucca and Filer, Idaho, where Thelma lived. After a few months Lee asked Thelma to marry him, and she accepted. They were married in Winnemucca on Jun 14, 1990. This was quite a surprise to Lee’s children. They knew about Thelma but were not informed about Lee and Thelma being married until after the fact. I don’t know if Thelma’s daughters knew beforehand or not. Lee said that he knew immediately after seeing Thelma again that first time that he wanted her. He also said how very blessed he was to have her. We as Lee’s children accepted Thelma with open arms and we all loved her very much.
After they were married, Lee and Thelma lived in Paradise Valley, Nevada for a time. Lee had accepted a job as water master for the Paradise Valley area.
After their time in Nevada they went back to Filer, Idaho and Lee moved into Thelma’s home there. Lee sold his home in Winnemucca, Nevada.
Nearly every year, in the fall, we (Lee’s children) would meet there at their home in Filer for a family reunion. I don’t remember how many years we did this or even if it was every year, but we would meet and have a great time. Thelma’s property had plenty of outdoor space for setting up tents, plus she had room in the house for some of us. It was a very nice opportunity for us to get together and we all had a good time.
Lee and Thelma were called to serve as Temple Officiators in the Boise Temple and enjoyed that service.
During his life Lee was a faithful and active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t remember all of the callings that he had but he was always faithful. He served a Stake Mission while in Henderson, Nevada about 1955, and another Stake Mission in Winnemucca, Nevada starting toward the end of 1972. I remember this because I returned home from my full-time mission in October 1972 and let him have my missionary supplies to use on his mission. I know that Lee was assigned to be the instructor for his priesthood quorum on several different occasions and in different wards. I believe that he served in quorum presidencies as well. Whatever calling he was asked to do he did well. He had a very strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he lived his testimony daily.