Ralph Leo Holt (1896–1980) (Written by his son, Ralph M. Holt)
Contributor: Chynna67 Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
Ralph was born at home in Bountiful, Utah, the last of ten children. In his early years, he grew up with a friend — a puppy. They were buddies, at least into his early school years. When he was two or so, Ralph disappeared. The family searched everywhere — the barn, the blacksmith shop, the house. Finally, in desperation, they searched the forbidden (at least to children) parlor, and there behind the sofa slept Ralph. Ralph, from an early age had the ability to sleep anywhere, anytime.
The Holts were truck farmers. (William J. Holt was also a blacksmith and sometimes “dentist.”) They grew vegetables on their small farm and periodically hauled them to Salt Lake to the farmers market and sold them. The night before, they would pick the ripening fruit and vegetables and load the wagon. Then about 2 a.m., Ralph and his dad would get in the wagon and head south. By 6 a.m. they would be at the old farmers market (about where the Salt Palace now stands) and sell their produce from the wagon. Toward 11 a.m., if there was produce, it would become young Ralphs job to go door to door until the excess was sold. This early selling experience served Ralph well in later years.
Ralph’s mother died when he was about twelve years old. This probably was the main reason why he very often accompanied his father to the market. The loss of his mother also resulted in the deterioration in the quality of meals. The older girls were marrying and moving away from home, so they could only occasionally cook for the younger ones. Ralph thought that the poor meals at that stage of this development contributed to his later bouts with ulcers.
Ralph graduated form the 8th grade and continued working on the farm and at other odd jobs. Occasionally he would take a break, catch the tram and spend a day swimming at Saltair, the place to go in the early 1900s. In 1918, Ralph was drafted into the Army and assigned to an artillery battalion for training in Kentucky. Fortunately the Armistice was signed in November, before Ralph’s battalion was ready to go to France. A quick demobilization put Ralph out of the Army and out of work. Brother Willard was working for the Southern Pacific railroad as a fireman. He found a yard job for Ralph. On this job, the crew did maintenance work on boxcars, which included straightening of the brake rods for the cars, lubricating and repacking the cotton waste in the journal boxes. This was a short job and only lasted until mid-1919, as the continued post-war demobilization finally impacted the railroad business and S.P. had to cut back on their employees. This affected the yard gangs, and Ralph was out of a job. Brother George, for some time had been working with O.P. Skagg in developing the Safeway store system — he was a vice president. So, Ralph went to work for Safeway. Very soon after starting, he became a store manager. Since his store did very well. He soon was used as a trouble-shooter for poorly producing stores. Ralph used to say that each time he got a store built up to where he could make some real money (as manager, he got paid a percentage), they would transfer him. Ralph had stores in such places as Price, Utah; San Francisco; Reno; Sacramento; Lodi, California; and others. (In the 1920s, it was unusual for a grocery store to have a cash register. The recording cash register had not been developed yet. All sales were recorded by item with pencil on pad. Even as late as the 1960s, Dad could total a long column of numbers quickly and accurately.)
Most of Ralph’s net income was siphoned off by his being paid in Safeway stock at a discount from the market price. In this way, Safeway took care of its people and acquired much of its development money.
On the promotional front, Safeway ran many competitions to increase sales. Ralph won a heavy man’s platinum ring with a 1 1/3 carat diamond in it and a ¼ carat diamond tie pin for increasing sales. The stress to constantly increase sales finally took its toll. In late 1929, Ralph went to the hospital with a severe bleeding ulcer. It was nearly fatal. When the doctors got him stable, they advised Ralph to eliminate all stresses so as to prevent a recurrence. So, brother George was summoned to his bedside and he was told to sell all of his stock. The price that day was $239/share. It took George a week to complete the sale; by then it had dropped to $219/share. The stock market was beginning its great crash. A year later, Safeway was $4/share. Ralph had loaned brother George about $5000. To settle this debt, George gave Ralph a house at 1658 Yalecrest Dr. in SLC. So, Ralph started off in the depression with $65,000 in cash and, a bit later, a house.
After his release from the hospital, Ralph checked into a hotel to ease his recuperation. While there, he met Ida in the lobby. He soon gave her a 1 1/3 carat diamond engagement ring. In 1930, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple.
After a lengthy honeymoon, by present-day standards, they settled in Southern California. Ralph had retired at age 34. With a quarter of the workforce unemployed, even if he wanted to work it would have been very difficult to find a job.
After several moves and an earthquake, the family returned to Salt Lake City and the Yalecrest home. There, Ralph installed an underground sprinkler system. Ralph and Ida had a good time going to the auctions, where they bought a house full of furnishings for very little. In Salt Lake City, Ralph Moyle had a pet tortoise that was “found” crossing a desert highway. Gene had a skunk that her uncles Rex and Rod had deodorized (with some mishap). Rex got sprayed.
After about two years in Salt lake City, the house was rented and the family permanently moved to Long Beach, California. Soon after getting established in Long Beach, Ralph was called to be ward clerk, of the Long Beach Ward at 1200 Atlantic Ave. He served as clerk for 33 years and under 8 different bishops. This was probably a record for continuous tenure in one Church position.
In 1939, after a tenant revolt, Ralph and Ida were asked to manage the apartment house where they were living. Managing gave them free rent, telephone, lights, and a garage for the car. They stayed at 1485 Atlantic until 1975, when Ida bought a condominium on Second Street. As manager, Ralph did plumbing, carpentry to repair termite damage, painting (every time a tenant moved), cleaning, and constantly was patching the roof. He became a jack-of-all-tradesman.
Almost constantly while in California, Ralph was tormented by his ulcer and anew malady: arthritis. Both kept him constantly in pain. Finally, in the early 1970s, another bout with the ulcer sent him to the hospital for surgery. Recovery this time was slow and not complete. He lost about 60 lbs. From this point on, he was rather fragile. Ida took the best of care of him. Ralph always enjoyed geography and the intrigue of faraway places. He said that someday he would like to go to New Zealand.