Excerpts from Oral Autobiography of Spafford Nelson "Budge" Daniels
Contributor: finnsh Created: 9 months ago Updated: 9 months ago
Excerpts from the Oral History of Spafford Nelson “Budge” Daniels
Transcribed by Randall J. Lund
[recording starts here in mid-sentence]. . . his wife. My other grandfather was William Nelson Spafford, born in Kingslow, Canada, January 27, 1827. He was a farmer.
My father was James Edward Daniels, born in Payson, Utah, May 8, 1876. My father was a versatile man. He started his career in the mercantile business. He built railroads, owned a 1000 acre ranch, owned a rock quarry. He furnished much of the sandstone for the state capital in Salt Lake. During World War I he was mayor of Provo, Utah.
My father lived a very exciting, colorful life. Before he died, we children prevailed upon him to write some of his interesting experiences. I am quoting two of them in his own words.
“My father and mother were one of the first families who first settled Payson in answer to Brigham Young’s call for volunteers. The following year the family moved to Provo, Utah. My father built the first house as far east as First East and Second South. When one room was finished we moved in, and, as the weather was warm, the unfinished rooms were used for the children’s bedrooms. One night, soon after we had gone to bed, I could see by the moonlight which streamed in at the open door and windows, two large grey wolves. I screamed, and as mother came in, the wolves ran, and we slept in with mother until the doors and windows were put in.
When a boy, I worked on the ranch for Clark Roberts, who had 300 head of horses ranging in Juab County. During the last outbreak of the Black Hawk Indian troubles, I had an experience that I haven’t forgotten, and I know that, had it not been for the friendship of an old Indian chief who was very friendly with my parents and often came to our house, I would never have lived to tell what happened. Someone had stolen 20 head of Clark Roberts’ horses and driven them to the Sevier River. We got traces of them and engaged J. C. York, Andrew Summerville and myself to go after them.
The first night out we camped at Gilson’s ranch in Furner Valley. The next morning, just as we were ready to start, a rumor came from Nephi stating that an Indian had been killed by a white man in Sanpete, and the Indians were on the warpath. I tried to persuade my companions to go on, but they wouldn’t listen, so I went alone. Near evening, as I was traveling along, I saw 10 Indians coming toward me. My first thought was to turn back and try to escape them but knew they could easily overtake me, so I tried to put on a bold front and meet them. I shook hands with the chief and acted glad to see him. The rest of the Indians were conversing among themselves a little in the rear. They were all painted in their war colors. I asked the chief what was the matter, and he told me, “White man kill Indian in Sanpete and Indians heap mad.”
I persuaded him to have his braves go back down the Sevier River and have supper and breakfast with me, which they did, after much coaxing. I made coffee and fried all the fresh meat I had, making them a regular feast, which they enjoyed and later began to get quite friendly. For breakfast the next morning I cooked bacon and all the food I had, which left me to depend entirely on rabbit meat for two days.
The big thrill, or scare of the trip, came that night. I had made my bed on the bank of the river, thinking that, should they attack me, I might escape by jumping in. I did not sleep, just lay with my pistol in my hand all night. Near morning I heard a sound in the brush and thought the time had come. I raised up in my bed and cocked my pistol, and just then something went splash in the river. As soon as morning came, I went to investigate and found to my joy, it was only a beaver.
After breakfast we saddled our horses, and the Indians went on their way, and I went down the river and found the horses which I was after. When I arrived home the next day, they had formed a searching party to go after me. I got a roasting for my foolhardiness, but sure had a stand in with Mr. Roberts ever after that.
Resuming my history—My mother was Emma Maria Spafford. She was born in Springville, Utah, November 4, 1854. I got my first name from her side of the family. I don’t know where I got my nickname, Budge, except that my brothers and sisters started to call me Budge because they didn’t like the name of Spafford. When I started school in the first grade, my teacher called me Spafford. One of my playmates said, “His name isn’t Spafford, it’s Budge.” The name has stayed with me all my life.
I was born in Provo, Utah September 5, 1893. My wife was born in Springville, Utah July 27, 1895. Our family, in addition to Mother and Father consisted of Wis [James Willis], Min [Marilla], Pearl [Elizabeth Pearl], Roy [Horace LeRoy], Neva [Minerva], and Allie [Alice]. Allie was really my cousin, but Father took her from infancy, when her mother died. She always seemed like a sister to me. Then I made up the balance of the family, except for three little girls who died [Azalia, Lillian, and Hazel] with scarlet fever in infancy.
We had two homes—one in Provo and one on the ranch. Each summer the family would move to the ranch in Carbon County, about 70 miles from Provo and about 12 miles east of Colton on a dirt road. Colton had a population of about 300. Here we stayed until the snow and cold forced us back to our home in Provo. Some years we had to cross Price River on the ice. Usually my sister Neva and me went to Provo early to attend the Maeser school.
Ours was a frugal family. We had to be to survive. The farm was a backbone of the country. Everyone looked to the farm for support. There was no unemployment insurance, no compensation insurance, no social security, no welfare, few trade unions. If a member of the family became incapacitated, the farm could support them, but living was cheap. One could buy an Ingersoll watch for a dollar. The catch was to get hold of the dollar. A haircut, 25 cents, but mostly we cut each other’s. Shoes, two dollars; bicycles, 10 dollars; best piano, 100 dollars with a 25 year guarantee; picture show, 25 cents. I remember when there were no telephones, no indoor plumbing, no TV, no radio, none of the hundreds of modern inventions that we take for granted. As farmers we seldom had any cash, but we had plenty of eggs. So when we kids wanted any candy, we took some eggs to Mother Newsome’s grocery store in Provo. Mother Newsome was practically blind. She would invariably put too much on the scales. My eyes feasted in anticipation, but my spirit sank lower and lower with each piece she removed.
Our ranch house was constructed of rough lumber. I remember stuffing rags into the cracks to keep the cold out. I remember we had a swing suspended from the rafters. One day Pearl was working on some fancy work, which she called drawing work. It required the use of scissors to cut threads. I had been warned to stop, but I continued to swing and, you guessed it, I bumped into Pearl, caused her to cut a big whole in the drawing work and ruined two months’ work. I don’t remember if I got a licking, but I know I deserved one.
Father dug an eight mile ditch from Willow Creek to irrigate our alfalfa. The surveying was done with a bubble in a bottle. Sometimes the water in the ditch would stop running. We had to follow the ditch to find the break. Usually we found it running down a gopher hole.
At 14 I did a man’s work. My chief job was tending the garden and irrigating 80 acres of alfalfa. I also had the responsibility to drown out all prairie dogs so they wouldn’t eat the alfalfa. I remember late in the fall, when they had started to hibernate, how they hated to come out. They would reluctantly come out with their noses above water. One day an old Indian we called Peterson visited the ranch while I was watering. When he saw me drown out the prairie dogs, he said, “Me catch ‘em.” But instead of hitting them with the shovel, he choked them to death. I said, “What do you want them for?” He said, “Me eat ‘em.”
Father welcomed the Indians and always fed them. They were always welcome. Not so when the gypsies came. He would assign one of we children to follow each gypsy everywhere he went. He found from bitter experience that a gypsy would take anything that wasn’t nailed down.
Saturday night was bath night, whether we needed it or not. It was performed in a small tin tub, too small for comfort. Diet was simple, but wholesome. Mush, eggs, and toast for breakfast. Our chief meal was at lunchtime. Invariably homemade bread and milk for supper. Some of the games I remember were: Duck on the rock, mumblepeg, run sheep run, hopscotch, leap frog, kick the can, eenie i over, marbles, tug of war, over the millrace—the looser got dunked. Mother used to read to us in the evening. She was an excellent reader. Some of the books I remember were The Bishop’s Carriage, Richard Carvell, When Knighthood Was in Flower, Chip of the Flying U, The Virginian, and many more.
One day I went to throw away a piece of bailing wire with a hook in one end. It caught in my eyelid. I had to walk to the house, where mother removed it. I still remember the trip to the house, me holding the suspended end of the wire with one hand while my faithful, sympathetic dog traveled at the other side, licking the other hand. In all accidents—and they were plenty—short of a broken bone, we never had a doctor, depending on home remedies. For one reason—we were too remote, about 70 miles to Provo. And unless it was a dire emergency, we couldn’t afford it.
My mother had a great sense of humor. Once when Father had been away for over a year, Mother greeted him with her stomach stuffed with pillows. I also admit to a comic side of my nature. In fact, there are times, when I am absolutely [here the cuckoo clock chirps seven times]. In one of my zaniest moments I composed this little jingle:
Said Mrs. Cat to Mr. Cur,
“I’m so happy, I could purr.”
“What for?” said Mr. Cur.
“Cat fur,” said her.
And on one of my trips I was lonesome and homesick and I composed this little poem about my wife’s oatmeal cookies.
I’ve dined at all the best hotels.
I’ve fed on cavier.
I’ve eaten lunch with all the swells.
But friends, I do declare,
If you want to taste a treat
That’ll make famous chefs
Look like rookies,
Just come with me when my wife bakes
Her famous oatmeal cookies.
Epicureans, here is bliss.
Please listen to my story.
I get the fun of writing this,
But my wife deserves the glory.
I sit at a table, just me, myself,
While expensive food surrounds me.
My thoughts go home to the pantry shelf,
And the saliva almost drowns me.
Rich men might envy such a dish,
But money cannot buy it.
It will fulfill your wildest wish.
Someday you ought to try it.
But this I say, ere I talk too long,
If you want the best, “right” cookies,
You can’t go wrong
In singing your song
For my wife’s oatmeal cookies.
I have had many dreams over the years, usually with an Alfred Hitchcock ending. I will relate one. I dreamed I was driving my car out into the country to apply for a job at a factory. I saw a hitchhiker with thumb up standing by a service station. Having heard of so many murders, I passed quickly by. Then I decided I’d better ask the service station attendant the way to the factory. So I backed up. After telling me, he implored me to take the hitchhiker. I told him of my opinion of hitchhikers, but he said this wasn’t an ordinary hitchhiker. So I conceded. When I got to the factory, I let the hitchhiker out while I parked the car. On applying for the job, the personnel manager said, “We just hired this man.” I looked at the man. It was the hitchhiker.
Well, this is enough of this foolishness. Now back to my history.
We had a happy home life. Father, Mother, and all my brothers and sisters were kind, loveable people. I can never remember ever getting a spanking. However, I can still remember some of the lectures I received for some of my errant ways. Once I fully expected a licking. Neva and I were overdue for dinner, so Father came after us. He found us by the creek making mud pies. As he approached us, he cut a long willow. I thought, “Here comes a spanking,” but all he did was to show us how to put the mud on the end of the willow to switch like a projectile to pelt mud dobs on the fence.
One summer, when I was about 15, I got working for a surveying party to run a new line through Price canyon. My job was to haul the groceries from Colton to camp. When not working at this, I worked as rear chainman. Returning to camp after a hard day’s work, we could gain about 30 minutes if we went through the railroad tunnel and hoped we didn’t meet a train. We never did.
Benson, the head chainman, wanted to quit. But if you quit, it was company policy that you could not get paid until the check came from Salt Lake City. So Benson figured out a way to get paid on the spot. He tripped the boss going through the dark tunnel, causing him to fall on the rocky roadbed, thereby skinning his knees, thereby causing him to vent his wrath in profanity and to vow he would fire the man who did it. Benson promptly confessed, and the boss promptly fired him.
While I was working for the surveying party, I received word that the ranch, the rock quarry, and all the horses had been sold. I was to take care of everything while the folks went to Provo to sign the papers. On the way home, I picked up a hitchhiker. After the folks had gone, I discovered that he left me with a good crop of lice. By boiling my clothes several times a day, I was able to get rid of them by the time the folks returned. While they were gone, I had all the eggs and milk, and cream I could consume. And, speaking of milk, I think I invented the world’s first milking machine. I found out, if you would inserts straws up the cow’s tits, they would milk themselves while I rested. When Father found out, he made me stop because he said it would in time cause the cows to loose their milk.
After selling the ranch, Father took a contract to build a railroad from Silver City, Utah to the mines. He gave me a job helping to grade the road. It was mostly wheelbarrow work. We were paid every Saturday night entirely in gold and silver—no paper money whatever. I was paid a dollar a day, plus board and room.
In the fall of 1910 I enrolled in the Brigham Young University at Provo in Business Administration Department. The main subjects I took were accounting, commercial arithmetic, penmanship, writing, theology, history, physical education, drama, oral expression, economics, commercial law, civics, English, and salesmanship. During the four years I attended, I took a special interest in drama and athletics. I won my Y letter three years competing on the high hurdles. I sang in the glee club and had a part in the school play when I graduated in 1914.
About this time two events happened that had a lasting effect on my life and future destiny. I was called on a mission by the LDS Church to Eastern States [Mission], West Penn. Conference. And the other event was that I fell head over heels in love with Hilda Noakes of Springville, Utah, to me the most wonderful girl in the whole world.
Springville is six miles from Provo, but distance didn’t mean anything to us—we were in love. When I couldn’t borrow Dad’s Kissel car, I went on horseback or used the train, which usually left too early, so many times I walked. During the time I was waiting to go on my mission, I did odd jobs.
On March 10, 1915 I departed for my mission. After arriving in Pittsburgh, I was assigned to work with Elder Howard [S.] McDonald in Newcastle in the northern part of the state. He is a very talented, sincere elder. We did house to house tracting, held Sunday meetings with the Saints, and, once a week, held a street meeting. Sometimes the crowd was hostile. In all my missionary experience, this was the hardest task I ever had to perform.
The summer of 1915 we spent traveling in the country without purse or scrip, depending entirely on the generosity of the farmers for meals and lodging. We found them very kind and generous. We missed very few meals and only had to sleep out three times in three months.
My companion, Elder McDonald, was made conference president, and I was transferred to McKeesport up the Monongahela River about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh. The Monongahela and the Allegheny meet in Pittsburgh to form the Ohio.
One day while tracting in McKeesport my companion, Elder Moon, and me were picked up by the police and charged with distributing literature without a license. We were bailed out. We were found guilty by the police magistrate and fined 10 dollars plus costs. Our mission president got in touch with J. Reuben Clark in Washington D.C. J. Reuben Clark later became a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. He had us appeal it to the Superior Court in Pittsburgh. The Superior Court reversed the decision of the lower court because it was unreasonable and discriminatory, requiring a license of out-of-towners, while exempting local merchants from paying a license fee. This incident had a happy ending. The mayor assured us we would not be harassed further and admitted that he had been treated better on a trip to Salt Lake City than we had been treated in McKeesport.
On my return from my mission in March, 1917 I found to my delight that Hilda was still waiting and we didn’t loose much time in getting engaged to be married. But first I had to get a job. Without any experience in business, this was not easy. After canvassing all the business houses in Provo without success, I decided to try Salt Lake. I went to work for the ZCMI as a billing clerk. After four months, a job opened up in Provo at Van Wagonen Garage for a bookkeeper, which I accepted.
Now that I had a job, we decided to get married. We chose as the wedding date my 24th birthday, September 5, 1917. So we were married in the Salt Lake Temple. We were very, very happy. I remember setting up a toll bridge in the kitchen. My wife was not allowed to pass until she gave her new husband a kiss.
Then the war came along. A man had two choices— volunteer, in which event he could pick the branch of service he preferred to get killed in; or wait and be drafted, which meant the Army, and the Army meant the trenches. I picked the Air Force. I was assigned to the 76th Aero Service Squadron in Waco, Texas, where I took basic training. Thence I went to Dorr Field, Florida. Shortly I became a corporal, then sergeant first class, and ultimately became in charge of one hanger of eight planes used to train cadets to fly for combat.
On July 12, 1918 our first baby was born. We named her Lillie. The flu epidemic was raging all over the country. It hit our camp, including me. I came very close to dying. One of my pals from Salt Lake City passed away, and the captain asked me if I wanted to accompany the body. In my weakened condition I should have said no, but I couldn’t resist the chance to visit my wife and family, especially our new daughter. While home on furlough, the armistice was signed, November 11, 1918.
One of my biggest thrills was an airplane ride I took with Lt. Kenneth Decker. He was an old school chum from Provo. He asked if I wanted to go up and do some stunts. I said yes. The only plane available was one with a seat for the pilot in front and a dismantled gun turret in the rear. Since I had a perfect confidence in Ken, I went up. We climbed up to 7,000 feet and did many stunts. I was anchored to the gun turret on both sides. It wasn’t scary until we started to loop-the-loop. I was standing in the gun turret, strapped to the sides. As the pilot dives to get up speed for the loop, you feel like you weigh 1,000 pounds. At the top of the loop you are hanging upside down, held in only by the safety belt. I never got sick on the trip, but just before landing, Ken did a tight spiral. Had he done a few more spirals, I would have lost my dinner.
After the armistice was signed, there was practically no work to do, so we took it easy until we were mustered out February 13, 1919 at Ft. Logan in Denver. Then I went to work for the Utah Power and Light Company in Provo as a bookkeeper. Our first son, Garth, was born during this period, January 30, 1920.
I heard that there was a boom in the Salt River Valley in Arizona. In spite of Father’s warning that the bubble would break, I moved my family to Phoenix. I worked for Price and Price Investment Company as a bookkeeper. We had another son born in Phoenix, October 25, 1921. We named him Burton David Daniels.
The bubble broke in 1922, so we moved back to Provo. I went to work for Provo Lumber Company as a bookkeeper. In 1924 I decided there was more future in sales work than in bookkeeping. In ’24 I went on the road selling woolen goods for Cache Knitting Mills with my brother Wis in northern Idaho. It was an interesting experience, and I learned much that I put to use in the balance of my life. For one thing, it helped me get a job as sales manager at Utah Woolen Mills in Salt Lake, where I stayed for five years. During this period the sales went from $130,000 annual sales to over a million. The territory grew from a small local territory to cover eleven western states. Also we erected a blanket factory in Murray, Utah.
On July 13, 1926 our third son was born. We chose as his name Richard Jay Daniels. I had been so successful at the Woolen Mills that I reasoned, “Why not get my own company and start over?” This happened in the fall of 1929 when the Logan Knitting Mills went broke. I bought it at auction for $10,000, but then I had to finance it because I had very little money and by now we had started into the Great Depression of 1929.
My first problem was to get a sample line ready to go on the road. This takes time, and if it isn’t ready by spring, the salesman will all be on the road. So I talked to three key employees of the defunct knitting mills. I said in substance, “You have no job, and since Logan is a small town, you are not likely to get a job in your chosen profession. So why not take a chance with me, and when I get the factory financed, I will see that you get all your back wages.”
I made this proposition to the designer, the head of the knitting department, and the head bookkeeper. They all accepted. I had ninety days to raise the $10,000 or lose the $1,000 paid for the option. I planned to sell stock in the company, but after working 30 days I had not sold a dime’s worth of stock. So I took a week off, which I used to analyze the problem and make plans. The chief objection: “We are going into a depression,” to which I said, “If we were not going into a depression, there would be all kinds of money, and you wouldn’t have a chance at this unusual opportunity.”
I was totally unknown in Logan, so decided I should attach myself to those who had a good reputation in the community. Accordingly I made friends with Alma Sonne of the First National Bank. Then I said, “Give me a list of monied men.” I got several interested, but they said, “I will come in when you get it financed.” Nobody wanted to be the first to come in. So I drew up an agreement which became binding only when enough money had been pledged to pay off the indebtedness. I got five men to sign. Then I ran out of prospects. I needed a new influential man.
John Henrickson was the father of the knitting business in Utah. So I chose him, and, by promising to make him president of the board of directors, enlisted his help. He had many good contacts. With his able assistance, we met the ninety-day deadline.
We started to operate the factory and to build a sales force. During this period our fourth son was born, February 2, 1931. We chose to name him Russell Leon. He was a fine, robust boy, but unfortunately he stayed only with us less than two years. He came down with pneumonia and passed away December 19, 1932.
The president of Cache Knitting Mills offered to make me manager of their company. I told them I could not forsake my stockholders, so the Cache Knitting Mills and Logan Knitting Mills became one company, known as Cache Knitting Mills.
We started operating and were getting along fine until Bry Stringham, manager of Utah Woolen Mills, came to Logan, met with my board and, while admitting that I was a good sales manager, stated that I would not be a good manager. Without a hearing they had voted to demote me from manager to sales manager only and cut my salary $50 a month.
After working so hard to get where I was totally crushed and disgusted. I just packed up my family and moved to Salt Lake to look for another job. Looking back, I think I should have accepted the job and fought my way back up.
I had a $400 loan value on my life insurance policy, which I used to buy an inventory of cosmetics. I took over three states for Charm of Hollywood, with an office in Salt Lake. During this period we were blessed with twin girls January 24, 1934. We named them Jean and Joan. After five years with Charm I left to move my family to California, where we went to work for Los Angeles Knitting Mills as a salesman and organizer. I was there five years.
By then World War II had started, so I went to work, first as a ship fitter at Cal Ship, then for Vol-Tee Aircraft as an instructor. I also taught night classes in industrial relations for California Institute of Technology.
During all these vicissitudes my good wife stood by my side with encouragement and sympathy. Not only that, but she helped to relieve the financial burden by going to work, first at Douglas Aircraft, then at the Broadway and the May Company department stores as a sales person.
When the war ended I sold life insurance for five years for Mutual Life of New York. For the next 12 years I worked for the Department of Corrections as canteen manager. They had a mandatory age limit of 70, so I was forced to retire.
I still felt like working, so I went to work for the US Forest Service for two years. I manned a look-out to report forest fires. In one season I was there for five months. I had only ten visitors in this time, which included my wife, my daughter and son-in-law, who spent one day with me. In spite of the privations, it was an enjoyable experience, surrounded by wildlife, beautiful High Sierras, and fresh air.
While living in San Luis Obispo we bought a half-ton truck and camper. Since then we have traveled 60,000 miles in it. We have been to Alaska, Mexico, and all over the western states.
In 1966 we moved to Long Beach, where we bought a house, where we expect to spend the balance of our retirement years. This is the eighth house we have owned over the years. We paid cash for our home in Long Beach. I get a check each month from Social Security plus one from the state pension system. Hilda gets social security from her employment. Our car is paid for. All our medical expenses are taken care of by Kaiser. Our children help us with the tasks we cannot perform on our own. Our health is above average for our age. So we have much to be thankful for.
While preparing to take the examination to sell real estate, I had a severe stroke. I spent ten days in the hospital. I had to learn to walk a step at a time. That is almost three years ago. I have recovered, except that I had to learn to use my left hand in place of my right.
We are mourning the death of our son, Burton, who passed away in September, 1977 at age of 55. He died of hardening of the arteries.
[skip in the tape] ...Logan, as Mutual stake board second counselor in Long Beach, as Sunday School teacher of gospel doctrine class in Bellflower.
Our life has be . . . [end of tape]