The Departure from Southern California

Wearily I pulled open the heavy front door, glanced toward the over-loaded and already tired looking Buick at the curb, and wondered if my aching feet would carry me that far. Closing the door, I stopped for a deep breath and let my glance go for a moment to the mountains. There stood Mount Wilson, keeping its never-ending vigil over my beloved valley. In a tired delirium I almost wished for a moment that I could change places with the mountain and stay where there was such a feeling of home.

I had fallen in love with Southern California nearly twenty years before. It had been a case of love at first sight. and each year the infatuation grew deeper. I still marveled that Calla Lilies grew at the doorstep and whether they had loving care of neglect, each Spring the white blossoms came with profusion. There was the never forgotten thrill of finding that some old brown stumps in the back yard in April would soon sprout into tall green-leafed fronds which at Christmas time would be topped by dazzling Poinsettias which decorated the house with a holiday air that no holly could match. I had soon learned that the winter season just meant a different group of flowers, a few rainstorms and the darndest lines of traffic from nearby Santa Anita Racetrack that could be imagined.

Yes, all this and more meant my California, but an impatient blast from Betsy the Buick reminded me that I was leaving. Giving the door one last tug to make sure it was securely locked, I staggered to the car and climbed under the wheel. I had often wondered in the past three months if this moment would ever actually come. Now it was here; the two story Colonial house had been disposed of, the furniture was even now joggling along to the storage company where they would undoubtedly add to the mars and scratches they had so ably begun this morning while getting it off the truck and tucked away into the recesses of their yawning warehouse. After stopping for a while to sleep in the car, we were on our way again pulling the trailer across the desert past Barstow, Baker with its heat and huge thermometer, to an even hotter Las Vegas, up to St. George after going through the Chiwitz Indian Reservation, to Cedar City, Fillmore, Nephi and finally into Provo having traveled through every little town between the above mentioned ones.

Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere in Utah with mountains to the right of us and mountains to the left. and not a soul for about forty miles the car stopped. The car drifted down a hill and I pulled over to the side of the road with the children frantically asking, “What will we do? What will we do?” and darned if I knew myself what we would do. The car had gas so that wasn’t the problem. But, in such cases as this I have always seen people get out and lift up the hood, so that is what I did…in a very business-like way…oozing (or trying to ooze) confidence and all that sort of thing. I looked down into the intricacies of the motor and felt as helpless as a person could feel to whom the mechanics of a car motor are a complete mystery. But since the same thing had happened to me before I knew the general direction that the mechanics took to fix the blamed thing. I looked and looked and finally saw what I thought was loose. I tried to crawl under the car, but it was too low, so we opened the trunk, hoping for dear life that we had a jack, which we did. The ground was hard as rock so I had to take the jack lifter and scrape and pound to make an indentation to set the jack in. Finally that was accomplished and I climbed under. The girls said that if the car fell off the jack to just lay flat and they would jack it back up before I was entirely crushed. I found what needed doing but the cotter pin, still in one piece, was all bent around another part. Then began the frantic search for a pair of pliers, but to no avail. No one even had a nail file handy, but I finally found a pair of eyebrow tweezers and by twisting and turning I finally got the cotter pin out and got the two pieces in place and secured quite snugly with two bobby pins. I climbed out, wiped a quart of grease off my hands, put down the hood, slammed the trunk closed and we all climbed in still not knowing…still not knowing if it would work or not. I stepped on the starter, put it in gear and MIRACLE OF MIRACLES we started off. The kids clapped and cheered “Three cheers for Mother..” Tosca the cat purred and we were off again.

(The above was found on a separate piece of paper after Mother’s first history was written. While typing it, I got the impression that she wrote it for a paper at BYU. The actual hero of the story was Linda who had watched boyfriends fix their cars. She was the one who recognized what a cotter pin was because she had fixed it before and she fixed the car. Mother didn’t put in this story that when she went to get the car repaired, the mechanic had a devil of a time getting those stupid bobby pins out. He said the bobby pins were so sturdy, he suggested we leave it and it was just fine until Mother sold the car.)

The rest of the trip passed without incident except that we all were ’tireder and tireder’ but we arrived safe and sound about nine o’clock that evening. So ends the first phase. When I am a little more rested I want to write a few lines on Mother and her apartment where we are spending most of the time. No one would ever believe that such a person, or such a place exists, but it does and I am going to write about it. That’s all for now.

The trip to Salt Lake City was uneventful. It had been decided that since I was so exhausted that I would stay with mother for some time and try to get rested. We spent nearly two weeks there but my Mother, who was a remarkable woman in many ways, but completely maddening in a hundred other ways. The children got on her nerves, Steve especially. Nothing of great importance happened except that the girls had their picture in one of the daily papers. The Telegram, now extinct. They sang at the granting of the charter to the “Sweet Adelines.” At the program the charter was presented by Mrs. Earl J. Glade, whose husband was sort of a celebrity on the radio at the time and a staple at KSL The program was sparsely attended but the girls had never sung better. For the occasion, we made and Linda and Joan skirts and blouses like the one Marilyn had for Easter…dotted organdie with red ribbons around their waist. They were even wearing ‘Johnny Balinda’ shoes. To me very ugly, but what ‘everyone who is anyone’ wore.

We also went up the canyon several times on picnics with the Family: Wanda, Lamont and family and Vera and Bob, with David who were visiting in Utah from California.

All this time the girls were terribly homesick…well, so was I. Everything about the place was an anathema to me…the architecture of the house, the color of the dirt the house were built on…the way people dressed…in fact everything except the lawns and flowers, which in contrast to the dried up look of California in the summer, were glorious.

Along about June 30, 1950, things became unbearable. The children felt they had no home for a foundation for their lives. The heat was terrible at night and I couldn’t rest and relax in the atmosphere at my mother’s house.

(I called Linda and she said we only stayed at Grandma’s a few days because Grandma, who had a fairly large house for that time had at least three bedrooms and she made mother sleep on the back screened porch and we had to sleep in the basement with dirt floors and walls and Grandma had a way of smiling and giggling while she said the most rude things. Mother couldn’t stand it and she packed us in the car and we headed for Provo. As we stayed in a park on Center and 5th West, she found a grubby, deathtrap of a tiny apartment owned by the Tucker family directly across the street from Manavu Ward. We crowded into a tiny apartment on the top floor and became acquainted with the Toblers who were a wonderful young married couple going to school. As long as we lived there we‘d go up and play cards and listen to the BYU Basketball games. I think that was the year BYU won the NIT tournament with Mel Hutchens so the games were exciting to listen to. We finally moved into a downstairs apartment that was big enough for the family, but still a horrible place to live. Joan and I started high school in the ancient Provo High two story building off Center Street downtown. I hated almost every minute of going to that horrid place for three awful years. Linda and Mother started BYU. Mother got a job with Dean deJong, Head of the Fine Arts Department along with going to school full time. Now back to Mother‘s story.)

1950, and still in the upstairs apartment. After getting the job with Dean deJong, I felt that things were looking up for us. So the five of us lived out the hot Provo summer with millions of bugs flinging themselves against our windows at night and singing their ‘bugly’ songs from the ground up to our apartment. At that time Provo was completely dead in the summer and we had no friends, and nothing to do, but we somehow waited it out.

My feelings as Fall approached were that if Linda didn’t like the Y, and if the children were still as homesick and lost, that I really wouldn’t know which way to turn. As it happened, all of them loved the Y, although Marilyn and Joan hated Provo High. At that time Prove was a very ‘turned inward’ little town with people who had lived here all their lives and felt they were big frogs even though it was a small puddle. This was especially evident in high school and made for some bad time for the two girls.

I felt that the school Steve was in was quite good and he seemed to be making friends, as we all were. From this time until the present California students are a spoiled lot. They felt that Provo was the epitome of ‘hickism.’ My girls joined in the chorus at first, but after a while realized the great talent that came from such places as Vernal and Southern Utah and they began to change their opinions. (Marilyn: I liked my friends in college, but High School, ugh! So, to this day still feel that Utah is not as good as California!)

When Fall came the town began to come to life. About the only places they had to live were in basement apartments. There were almost no apartment house and condominiums weren’t yet invented. We found that our place was about even for the type of places to live. The year before we came to the Y, there were somewhere around 3,000 students. How times have changed. President Wilkinson didn’t come to take over the school until the first of January, so things continued on the same as before until then, but when he came things were to change beyond anything we had ever imagined.

The week before school started, students began arriving, sometimes with proud parents in tow, from Idaho in pickups, and from California quite often in red convertibles. Those who came from farms often carried in boxes of home canned fruit and vegetables, and a supply of meat. The town awoke from its summer sleepiness and became a different, vibrant place. Even though the downstairs apartment was quite an improvement over the upstairs one, it wasn’t a dream of a place. The living room wasn’t so bad and even had room for our baby grand piano. The kitchen was made from what had been a hallway. Our stove didn’t have an oven, but underneath was a small refrigerator. It had a large black hood that is hard to describe, but we put that over the burners on top in order to bake something. Our finances were still precarious and I remember that halfway or so through the Fall or Winter semester, Linda invited a boyfriend over for dinner or something, and since it was before payday, we couldn’t run out and buy something. We told the fellow our position and he laughed and said that this happened in his apartment all the time and it was fine. So we ate what we had and were relatively happy.

Then came school. I found that I had made a score so high in the English class that I was put in the advanced English 103 or something and Linda was in the same class. Then I found that I was also in with her in Dr. John Halladays’s Music Theory class. There I was, by some fluke, in with all the top music students, who had all, Including Linda, had quite a background in theory. I had had absolutely none. I think that because I played by ear and had played so much that my teachers took for granted that I had a background in this. It was awfully hard for me and I struggled in the class. When the bell rang, I heaved a sigh and thought “Saved by the bell!” I was taking Spanish, which I had in high school so it wasn’t too difficult. And Religion which was. My English class I loved. It was taught by Dr. Brian Jacobs, from whom I continued to take 5 classes and loved every one. He and his wife Barbara became good friends to this day. Finals were horrendous. But, I got through them and got A’s and B’s in everything but Theory where I got a C. I finally talked to Dr. Halladay whose office was across the hall from Dean De Jong’s on Lower Campus. I told him what a traumatic time I had and he said that he knew I was in school to learn, but he didn’t want me to suffer so in a class. He also said that I could get an easy A in any of the other classes, but would learn more from his class. When it came time to register for Winter Quarter, I stood in front of the table trying to decide what to do, but finally said, “Give me Dr. Halladay’s class.” And the next quarter was easier.

The Fall quarter of school ended on about December 17th…finals for the first time. And, probably because of excess worry, I was ill before they were over with. I felt that I didn’t know whether I could face another quarter or not. Learning is wonderful, but the everlasting pressure of homework night after night is almost beyond endurance at time and during the first quarter I felt that I could not take one evening off, no matter what.

Well, it was December, 1950. I faced Christmas without sufficient funds for anywhere near the celebration we had been used to and absolutely no strength either mentally or physically. I went to work at Penney’s on the Monday after vacation started working from twelve noon until nine that night. That meant that I was on my feet constantly for about ten hours because during my lunch hour at five to six, I had to rush around trying to get some shopping done for Christmas. It was usually ten o’clock by the time I had the department straightened up and got home. Finally Christmas Eve came and we just worked until six. After that were the preparations for Christmas and to try and make it as near normal for the children as possible. The Sunday before Steve and I went out and bought a tree. Paid much more for it than I should have, but Christmas memories aren’t made from money. That Christmas we decided to be festive and build a fire in the fireplace in our living room in that downstairs apartment. We had a tree and I had eked out gifts for everyone, but when we lit the fire we found ourselves immersed in black, black smoke and quickly put it out and opened all the doors and that was the last of a fire in the fireplace.

One day Steve came home from school and said that they were having a flower arrangement contest in school and he had to take a bouquet. I didn’t know anything about what they did here in Provo, but assumed that they put flowers in a vase and took them. Since we were in an apartment, we had no flowers but asked the landlady (Mrs. Tucker) if we could have some from her garden. She pointed to the monstrous red ‘Cockscomb” which he might have and also she said she would give him some others. On the morning of the show, we went out to get his flowers and she had given the cockscomb to the Dutch boy upstairs. She gave Steve some smaller ones and other flowers for the show, but he was broken hearted, angry, hurt and in a tempest of fury all at the same time. I tried to smooth it over by telling him that the Dutch boy had a real handicap because he spoke little English, but nothing helped. That evening we went to the show and there were the most gorgeous and elaborately arranged displays that one could ever imagine, none of which, except Steve’s had been arranged by children’s hands. His was shoved off in a corner and there were no ribbons. I was just sick and so was Steve. I have never before or since seen a child so disappointed. We both went home in tears. I didn’t even know that he wasn’t supposed to go and see the flowers that evening. Only the parents were supposed to go and they were not supposed to tell their child whether he had a ribbon or not until at school the next morning.

Steve grieved over that for months and held resentment because the Dutch boy took his big Cockscomb, which, by the way, won a ribbon for the boy. Come the next Fall, Steve came home proudly carrying the announcement about the flower show. We didn’t have enough flowers even to win an honorable mention, but the mountains were just beginning to take on their gorgeous Autumn colors and I believed the answer was there. The next day after school, Steve, his friend Leon and I climbed into the Plymouth and headed for the canyon. We had to climb quite high to get vivid colored leaves. The boys were soon out of sight and Mother had to climb to the branches and pull herself up to where there were beautiful colored leaves. Finally we had armloads of beautiful leaves and headed for home. I found a large flat aqua ceramic bowl which contrasted beautifully with the leaves and we made a hunting scene in it. The edge of the vase was about two inches high and we made a mountain of mud. On this Steve put lawn grass to make a green grassy mountain side. He placed the branches of leaves as trees around and milkweed for pine trees. We went through the Christmas decorations and got two small deer from the mantle piece decorations, and Steve placed them among the trees. I found a toy hunter with his gun and dog, etc., and this was put in the display. It really was quite spectacular. We had leaves left over so we made a beautiful bouquet of them in a tall vast and also took both to the show. When we were finished we were covered with mud and so was the kitchen floor…to say nothing of leaves, branches and other debris. But, Steve was happy. He could hardly sleep and the next morning at quarter to nine we loaded him into the car and took him proudly to school.

The night of the show, Marilyn and I went over and there on the hunting scene was a blue ribbon and even a ribbon on the vase of leaves. We could hardly contain our delight and knew it would be hard to not tell Steve when we got home. He was waiting for us and immediately wanted to know what he happened. We just told him that we couldn’t tell him, but that he would be pleased when he got to school the next morning. Which he was. He cherished those ribbons for years, maybe still has them for all I know. But, they hung on his dresser for many years.

By the time I was well into Winter Quarter, however, I found that if something came up to keep me from studying, I got through the next day without anything cataclysmic happening and by then a couple more days had gone by I didn’t even notice that I had, and by the time I got into Spring Quarter I had learned, not only how to study, and what might be expected of me, but found that if I stopped worrying and just did the best I could from one day to the next, that things turned out alright. During the summer I took 14 hours (just one hour short of what I had been carrying through the Winter) and got excellent grades, but I had learned how to study and what to study and when.

And so we survived out first year in ‘Happy Valley.’ And amazingly enough I had also survived my first year of college and was loving it.

That summer Al decided that he wanted the girls to go to California and live with him. This turned out to be a disaster in many ways. Meantime, Joan stayed with me and worked and I stayed in the Dean’s office. Dean deJong was a wonderful ‘boss’ and I have always felt that I learned as much from him as I did in college. He spoke 8 languages, had his Ph.D., was on the General Board of the Sunday School, was a musician and composer and in general the most learned man I have ever met. Also, he was very kind to me—a wonderful person to work for. We spent many hours in conversation.

Meantime, when the three left for California, Joan and I decided we would move to a horrible little apartment in the basement of where we were living. Meantime, she had graduated in the Spring from Provo High and was planning on the Y in the Fall. So, she went to work for the summer to save money. Joan and I got settled and enjoyed the luxury of having a bedroom to ourselves and were really enjoying the room and the peace and quiet. Summer school was really rough and I took my first uninteresting class from the most uninteresting an incompetent teacher it has ever been my misfortune to meet up with. The course was Educational Psyche. I won’t mention the teacher.

I took piano accompaning under Carl Fuerstner—not knowing that at the end of the session, we would give a concert and I would have to not only participate with the Genius’s of the Music Department, but be performing up in front of the faculty. I knew I would be scared to death and decided I would have to get hold of myself some way. I told myself for days and then finally hours before, that the best thing to think of is that my song was short and would soon be over with and then I could relax. I did a fairly good job of selling myself on that idea until it got to the number before mine and then utter confusion took hold of me. I didn’t have the foggiest notion of how I was going to get up only the platform and really don’t know to this day how I finally managed it. Then when I got the introduction over with and my tenor started to sing, I used every bit of moral persuasion in my soul and forced myself to a little calmness. Then about halfway through, fear took command again and my right leg that was on the sustaining pedal started to shake. I couldn’t press down the pedal until I put the metal through the floor to calm myself because then the music would all run together. I thought surely that everyone in the audience could see it. From then on the rest of the rendition was a battle between me and that shaking limb and the leg won, because when it was all over it was still wobbling like a disjointed leaf. I don’t even remember getting up and taking a stiff bow and getting off the platform, but I do know that I didn’t fall flat on my face because I would have remembered being pick up and carried out of the banquet hall. About three numbers later I was sufficiently back to normal to realize that my part was over and now I could enjoy the sufferings of others. Poor Mr. Fuerstner. He suffered with and for all of us.

Well, the first summer session ended and the second Summer Session started with only two days in between. I had heard in Salt Lake that one of my second cousins who was then living in Enterprise was coming up to go to the second session of Summer School so I gave her mother my address and phone number and when she called I asked her if she wanted to stay with us because we had plenty of room. I was so short of money right then, I felt that maybe someone paying a third of he rent would get me by until next payday, but it was really an expensive undertaking in the long run. She said she would be glad to stay and promptly moved in. We found we were taking one class ‘Modern American Drama’ together and it was very enjoyable to discuss the class work and study together. She was a fiend for studying and I guess it was infectious because I did a lot of reading and studying too and got an A out of the class. I also took Shakespeare which was very enjoyable but rather difficult to study in the way the Professor wanted us to. As we went along, he kept assigning excerpts to memorize. Memorization is something I hadn’t done for ‘yars and yars’ and thought I had probably forgotten hot altogether. I found that I had. I would repeat over and over a few lines from Hamlet or Macbeth and then fifteen minutes later couldn’t remember a word. I worried and stewed and fussed about it, but didn’t get anywhere until I finally gave myself a talking to and decided to buckle down and use a combination of methods and really got it done. Surprisingly enough I didn’t learn. I typed the passages onto pieces of paper and carried them with me constantly…whether I was walking between classes, ironing, washing…even in the bathroom. I kept Shakespeare before me and droned on and on. Then after I had learned six long excerpts, Mr. Young go up in class one morning and said that we would be required to know three for our final examination… Oh well, I wasn’t sorry because I learned to discipline my mind and found I could do it. I got a B in the class.

President Wilkinson was now at the University and beginning to make himself felt. He began changing the entire physical picture of the University and in the next few years buildings went up like mushrooms and he fought for many things from the Authorities in Salt Lake that I guess other presidents didn’t have the nerve to ask for. He had won fame as a tough lawyer for the Indians in Washington, DC and received a million dollars for it, or something like that. He was a short, feisty little man, ill mannered and with no public relations manners whatever, but he was bright, determined and even though I had some encounters with him over the years, I felt he was a great man. He did for BYU what no other person at the time could have done, I believe.

(Marilyn: Mother you must have shaken hands with the man. I think he had a Napoleon complex because if you shook hands with him, he would practically break every bone in your hand. I had that experience twice and would cross to the other side of the road or walkway just to not meet up with him.)

It was a long hot summer and there were times when I thought it would never end. It was lonesome without the children and I was frantic when I learned that Marilyn and Steve had contracted ringworm from a stray cat they had befriended. Steve still has three or four large bald patches on his head and Marilyn couldn’t get two or three spots cleared up.

On August 25th, we finished up and at 5:00 I loaded the car with students and started for Los Angeles. I took Jean and all her paraphernalia as far as Cedar City where her folks met her and then hiked on to California. I left Joan at a girlfriend’s as she was working at Barbizon Manufacturing Company and needed the money so badly, but I should have taken her. She could have gotten her visit out of her system and then come back with me and gone to the cannery to work until school started.

I found the children in indescribable filth and Steve’s clothes in terrible condition when I rescued them from under the beds and on the porches and in the back of closets, etc. spent most of the time cleaning up the house and shampooing furniture and washing and ironing clothes and making over Marilyn’s school clothes. I really didn’t have much time for looking up old friends and came back with a feeling of unfulfillment from the trip and really not ready to stay in Provo for another year. Next summer I won’t go to summer school, but go to California. Anyway, I loaded Marilyn and Steve in the car, had a short visit with Donna and headed back to Provo.

At the end of the summer, we had to have a larger place and somehow I found this little house on 7th North across from Lower Campus.. It had a living room, kitchen, sort of a storage room with two bedrooms and a bathroom. Steve and I had one of the two single beds in it and the three girls had a larger one with two double beds. The living room had a huge coal stove in it that I had to get up and get going every morning early, but it did heat the house quite well.

Today there is a quick cure for ringworm, but at that time about all that helped was purple gentian or something like that. And it was purple and if someone had it on their person everyone knew what the problem was. I had no washer or dryer. The doctor had me boil all of Steve’s sheets, pillow cases and clothes every day. I made him sort of ski caps of white stretch material for his head and put colored pompoms on them. I also went at the beginning of school to his teacher and told her the problem. She explained it to his classmates in a very good manner so they accepted him and his shaved head. It had to be shaved once a week by me. He didn’t get any flack from anyone because of it that I ever knew anything about. But, it was a cold, snowy winter and difficult for me. Marilyn’s spots went away before too long, but it seemed to me that is nearly Spring of 1952 before it finally gave up and left Steve.

Joan wasn’t terribly motivated during first year at BYU and decided to take a business course because she knew that this was always an open door to jobs, but being left-handed, she soon found that shorthand was hard and then started into the next semester and quit without telling me and got a job.. She said that she really didn’t want to go to college, but just went because I wanted her to. I told her that it was her decision to make so she got a job at a lingerie factory on 1200 North and sat at a sewing machine every day for a summer and was bored to death so got a job in the telephone office for about two years and before long found that this wasn’t too exciting either. She worked a split shift and went to school part time and got into Acapella Choir. At that point she decided that she needed an education so applied to get back in school in the Fall. Which she did and began taking her classes over again and she kept with it until she graduated the same year as I got my master’s in 1957.

In this slightly larger place the children always felt they could have friends over and we seemed to have people there a lot. We lived in this house until I graduated from BYU in 1953.

Joan graduated from Provo High the end of our first year there. Two years later Marilyn graduated from Provo High School. She was singing with her sister while still in high school and never felt all that much allegiance to the high school. College guys were asking her out because they saw her singing with her sisters and thought she was in college. She also toured on BYU tours with her sisters. She had always been a good student and when we moved to Utah, she felt the school wasn’t academically what she’d been used to. She looked forward to getting into college where she would feel more at home.

While living on 6th North opposite Manavu Ward, Steve made friends with Jon Parberry, who lived on University opposite us. I also made friends with his mother, Deema, who had come from Scottsbluff, Nebraska to attend the Y. One day just before I went across the street to work, Steve and Jon said they were going fishing on the Provo River. I packed a lunch and they started out with the injunction that they were to be back by 4:00 and no later. When they didn’t come, I started out in the car to find them and here they were coming along 12th north still carrying their big lunch sack. I got them in the car and delivered Jon to his house and he took the big sack. When we got to our place, Steve confessed that there was a big water snake in the sack. I told him how I felt about snakes and that if the snake had gotten out of the sack as I was driving along, that I would have panicked and opened the door and jumped out while the car was moving.

A few years later when we lived on 2nd North, he and Jon called me to the front door. Joan was there and went to the door with me and there was one or the other of them holding a huge blow snake. Joan says that she has never seen fear on a person’s face like mine that day, so she got after the boys and made them take it blocks away and let it go.