During all that summer, and even the next when I had moved on to another part of the park, I often came early to enjoy the luxury of a heated swim. Much advanced from where I had learned to swim as a child in Wayne Smith's concrete reservoir in icy cold artisan well water. The diving boards held an attraction to. It is where I learned to do some pretty fun dives which included a full gainer with a half twist. While working there at the swim, I also learned to juggle oranges, cans, tennis balls, whatever, and even ten pins. It was from a middle aged drifter whose real name escapes me, if I ever knew it.
“Bill” is what I called him. He was working there at Lagoon as manager of the park's maintenance crew. In his off hours he would come to swim and hang with me and some of the other boys. He was a fascinating guy, always had a story about where he had been and worked. He said he had been with a traveling circus for a time and had his own slack wire set up to prove it, which he taught me to balance on. It consisted of a tripod on each end secured by guy-wires to keep it steady. These tripods were four or five feet tall set about twelve or fifteen feet apart. They were connected with a steel cable in length a bit longer than the distance between the end posts. So instead of it being a “tight wire” so typical in balancing acts, it hang slack just a foot or two above the ground. The trick of course was to stand on that wire with only your outstretched hands to balance. The wire tended to swing out from under you so made your perch on it very precarious. Nonetheless, he was able to do it extremely well and taught me to do it passably well. It was from that training I was able to win the “barrel walking” contest while on a camping trip with the explorer scouts later.
As I have said, Bill taught me to juggle ten pins three at a time. But when he wanted me to catch one of the three as he threw it while juggling pins on his end, it didn't work so well because I was also juggling 3 of them. I think I managed it a few times but only clumsily so. Perhaps you have seen it done on stage before. Two guys each juggling the pins six or eight feet apart and in succession throwing one of the three to the other guy so he worked it into his pattern as he threw one out in turn. Pretty tricky and a bit too much for “little ole me.” The pins look like the ones you see in the bowling alleys but hollow, much lighter of course. Nonetheless quite clumsy to handle, much more so than balls. Even balls or other objects are clumsy to handle if they are of different sizes or weights.
Bill was quite a character. Says he worked for awhile as a “stud” in a whore house in San Francisco. You can imagine what kind of reaction that got from a young lad straight off the farm in Centerville. And while he may have been attracted to me for other reasons, he never let on or made advances. Always just a friend who wanted to share his varied life with an innocent such as I.
In December of that sophomore year, my brother Noel and I went to our Stake Patriarch for a special blessing. The calling of “patriarch” in the LDS Church is a special one. It's usually an elderly man of extensive church service with gifts of the spirit. Not expected to be a “psychic” in the usual sense of the term, our Stake Patriarch,Edward Clark was, in my mind, a man of the spirit, a saintly grandfather figure who did pronounce his blessing on my head under the influence of the Holy Spirit. As I sat before him, his two hands placed firmly on the crown of my head, all was quiet in the room but still the sound of rustling silken robes came to me as it were. In reflecting on that unusual sensory perception, I felt it was as a witness of the Spirit. And as I have later read his words, transcribed by my mother for future reference, I can see how they have been fulfilled in my own life.
Nothing like the predictions a “fortune teller” might pronounce while gazing into the proverbial crystal ball, it's all very positive, never any dire forecasts. Latter-day Saints are warned not to treat such a blessing in that way, rather we understand the promises are meant simply to outline potential blessings based on a person's faithfulness and willingness to seek after them. In his preface, Patriarch Clark stated in part the purpose, “that you may have in mind some principles which will be profitable for you to enjoy by listening to the whisperings of the Spirit of the Lord.” He urged me to emulate the example of a noble progenitor... “that you may have the power of resistance that Joseph, the son of Jacob, had in resisting temptation,” saying it would be “accounted” unto me “for righteousness.” He said it would be my “privilege to perform a great service in the day and age in which” I lived. He urged me to honor and magnify the priesthood I had received, saying that if I did so, blessings would come from it to me and to others. He said, “Your voice shall be heard among the nations of the earth, for you shall be able to cry repentance with a mighty voice, and with great power.” I felt a partial fulfillment of that promise came when I served a mission for the Church in France between 1953 and 1956, in a particular instance when my companion and I were invited to tell about our Church on a radio station in Lille, France.
The patriarch also promised that my “testimony of the gospel and the divine mission of Joseph Smith shall be strengthened, that you may know without doubt that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord, and that Jesus Christ is his only begotten son in the flesh.” To this he also made a number of promises based on my “personal faithfulness and dedication to gospel principles.”
At the time I received this blessing I was in the process of reading the Book of Mormon. In doing so, it would lead me to come to such a knowledge. In that sense I was already seeking to have the witness promised in the blessing, to know for myself of the things mentioned in the blessing, for at the end of reading the final chapters of the book, I came upon a passage in the writings of Moroni, one of the latter prophets who kept the ancient record ,which said, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
After reading that passage, I determined to know for myself. So I knelt in prayer in my bedroom with full faith I would receive an answer. Upon asking to know, my whole body was filled with a warming rapture and it was only a moment more before my heart was pounding at full speed and I fully expected to receive a glorious heavenly manifestation of a visual nature. Rather it was in my heart that the conviction came. But I was assured that fuller light and knowledge would come at some time later after I was further tested as to my faithfulness. That passage of scripture from the Book of Mormon is generally brought to the attention of prospective converts as a challenge to read the book and test its authenticity. But it had never been called to my attention before having read it at the end of the book.
Bill, the guy I knew the prior summer, my juggler friend, reminds me as I look back, of a guy I became friends with in Centerville that winter, at about the time I received my patriarchal blessing. Jim Torrey came from the only non-Mormon family in our little town. He was fresh back from his war experience in Europe and was a philosophy student at the U. of U. He often told stories about the war and was able to perform magic tricks. He was sometimes called upon to entertain us in the Boy Scout troop sponsored by our church.
Our town had what we called the Veterans Memorial Hall built after WWI in honor of those who had been in that global conflict. For us it served as a gathering place for town movies every Saturday night so was a very popular place. We also had other programs there and during my Sophomore school year our ward drama director put on some one-act plays for the entertainment of the town folks. Jim Torrey volunteered to play in them for something to do on those quiet winter nights. My sister Barbara liked the idea and talked me into being a player as well. So we spent a number of Saturdays and school nights in the Hall rehearsing. During that time, Torrey and I often talked religion. He was an avowed “atheist” though later admitted he could only claim to be an agnostic. As a philosophy student he could doubt the existence of God., but he could not reasonably know there was no God.
God was often the subject of our conversation while we waited for our part to be rehearsed. He knew I had been reading the Book of Mormon, encouraged by my older brother Spencer who was then on a mission in the Chicago area. He challenged me to point out any redemptive thought found in the book, some idea, concept or principle which was in and of itself of sufficient moral value to recommend it. There came immediately to mind a teaching of King Benjamin. While sermonizing his people prior to his death, he taught them that when you are “in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God.” Thus equating service to fellow men with doing one's religious duty to God. He could hardly argue with that as being of merit, even from a philosopher's perspective. But that didn't keep him from further attempts to persuade me that my “blind belief” in the Book of Mormon was unfounded.
Some months later a few of my high school friends expressed doubts about my witness of the book. The wondered if the experience could be real and Torrey said it was only out of anticipation that my mind had conjured up the response. Accordingly, I prayed for confirmation and got the same response, that same sublime experience which brought great joy and comfort to my being, supporting as it did my hope and expectation of the eternal nature of our existence.
I'm also reminded of an experience which came to me a few years later while serving as a missionary for the Church in Belgium. My junior companion, a true greenie, had just come out as a missionary having never read the Book of Mormon. Elder Young had married his sweetheart just a few days before leaving on his mission, contrary to the advice of church authorities,. One might imagine how hard it was for him, having tasted the pleasure of that ecstatic fruit, even the intimacy of married love, for such a brief time before being deprived of it. Of course he was at his desk every day writing to his much-missed wife and mourning the loss. I recommended he get a “testimony” of the truth of the work if he expected to become an effective missionary and survive the difficult challenge.
So he set off in the quiet of his bedroom to read the book. Day after day, with hardly any interruptions except his letter writing to his wife, he pushed on. I had, of course, shown him the promise which had lead to my personal conviction and proposed he try it the same way I had after a complete reading of the book. The closer he got to the end of his reading, the more doubts flourished. While I felt my experience had been genuine, I had to wonder if the same conditions might apply to him as they had to me. One morning he came out of his room with tears in his eyes saying he had received a witness of the work, even as I had promised. It caused me some little sense of shame I had even doubted. But such is the nature of this life, doubts often plague us even when they shouldn't.
Back to my own initial experience and spiritual witness of the book, I felt somewhat apart from others. I wasn't too sure just how to act, how to conduct my life. For awhile, I thought I should cut myself off from things earthly which might “pollute my soul,” feeling that even listening to the radio should be avoided. It didn't keep me from participating in sports at school and I joined the boxing team. Having seen my older brother, Noel, succeed so well in the sport and having him to coach me on how to move about, how to throw a punch and how to parry punches thrown at me, I got into it with a gusto.
As prior experience with bullies had taught me, it was a good thing to be able to handle myself in a fight. In those days boxing was referred to as the “manly art of self-defense.” With Noel as my mentor, I learned to punch the big bag, to coordinate my punches to make the speed-bag really dance and to jump rope quite impressively. All that with running in the gym built up my body and physical stamina so I could go the 3 or 4 rounds required in a boxing match. When spring came, I went out for the tennis team. Having played the game while still in junior high and summers, I was good enough to make the varsity team as a sophomore.
Nothing of note really stands out from the classes I was sitting through, pretty much bored with all but my participation in sports , except perhaps my shop classes and seminary. A strict construction of the principle of “separation of church and state,” meant religion could not be taught on the campus of a state sponsored school. To avoid such a conflict, the LDS Church would build a seminary building near the high school, usually just across the street or on an adjacent plot. The local school districts in Utah found no difficulty in granting the students “released time” so those wanting to enroll in religion classes and could do so for at least one hour a day. Bible study was of course a part of these seminary classes. Having been encouraged to read bible stories as a boy, I had long since had an interest in such heroes as David, of how he slew Goliath, of the various prophets, Elijah and Elisha, and of the healing of Naaman, the leper, of Moses and the burning bush, of his leading the children of Israel out of Egypt by the miraculous parting of the Red Sea.
Besides the Old Testament, we studied the New Testament as well. One of the 3 years was devoted to a study of what we Mormons referred to as “modern day revelation,” which included the Book of Mormon. As it happened, that year we were studying the Book of Mormon and good old Brother Ensign introduced us to it at about the same time I had taken it up on my own.
Just the walk across the road to the seminary building was a welcome relief from the usual drag of class tedium. Unfortunately most public school students never make the connection between the forced-feeding going on in school and the expectations made of them in real life. Of regurgitating facts and figures for the benefit of taking tests, rather than first establishing a relevance, if there ever was one. Why isn't American history more about the thoughts and feelings of those living in the time drawn from original sources rather than some “historian” spouting time-dates and statistics. But in the case of seminary, that seemed to deal with real people living real lives. Perhaps that is why the story of Samson so appealed to me and became a favorite, because he was a genuine hero, all the while beset with the foibles of human nature, yet imbued with the spirit of adventure, always willing to take his chances for the anticipated rewards.
You might sense the height of my anticipation as my sophomore year ended and I could look forward to beginning another summer's job at Lagoon. It wasn't just the chance to earn money, which was a big part of it of course, but to be free! And jobs at an amusement park, how could any such thing be dull or without some excitement? The summer between my sophomore and junior year at school was really something to look forward to. I was given an opportunity to work on the “midway,” and the games of chance and skill. Even the “fun-house,” with its barrel walk, slippery slide and tilted rooms were a part of the “games.” Those who worked the “rides” had to be a little older because of the danger – such as the roller coaster, the bumper cars, the Ferris Wheel, the flying scooters, and even the merry-go-round.
As the summer began, I was given what was then brand new, “pistol poker.” With rubber-tipped darts the participant shot at a back-lighted board displaying different face cards. What you tried to do was hit the cards which made up the best poker hand, the better the hand, the more points you got to exchange for prizes at the prize center. For a time later I worked on the rifle shoot where the contestant shot live ammunition at moving metal targets at the back of the booth. I also worked the Bingo parlor for a time. That was especially fun since I got to use the PA, public address system, attempting to draw in a crowd. While doing that I assumed the character of radio personalities such as Fibber McGee or “Digger Odell,” the friendly undertaker, or people of classical renown such as Confucius. “Confucius say, you must come to Bingo Parlor to win big prize!” Done in an Americanized Chinese accent it could be pretty funny, at least enough as to get people's attention and draw them in.
Working the Bingo Parlor was especially fun because it was right next to the dance floor. Dancing was offered nearly every night with weekends punctuated by live bands, the likes of “Spike Jones and his City Slickers.” Jones loved to satirize popular tunes using loud whistles, pots and pans, gunshots and other zany sounds, touring in those days under the title, “The Musical Depreciation Revue.” His audience had great fun because he and his musicians were having such great fun.
Another band, whose name I have long since forgotten, had a young female singer as part of the show. She was a pretty young thing, the daughter of one of the band members, which allowed someone so young to go on the road like that. During the intermission she, along with other band members, often stopped during the break to play a game of Bingo. Dolled up as she was on stage, she certainly passed for an older person but since she was in reality about my age, we hit it off and she seemed to anticipate the breaks when we could visit. Can you imagine the fantasies that engendered? If I had had a car, and was old enough to drive it legally, we could have gone on a picnic up the canyon or to a drive-in movie theater, WOW! I had enough grist for my fantasy mill for years to come with that experience. But such bands didn't stay that long and soon she was off and gone, never to be heard of again. But for all I know, she may have become famous under another name.
Because I could be trusted, I was often tapped to do relief so the regular operators of the different games could take a break without having to check the tickets given out against the money taken in. For that same reason, I was also asked to man the booth at the “crazy house,” and take in the pennies charged for admission. Because admission was strictly cash, there was no way for controls to be put in place. So it was I spent the end of that season sitting under a mechanized fat lady who rocked and rolled laughing raucously to advertise the event... which consisted of a glass maze and mirrors which distorted the human frame, making you into a fat broad or an elongated giant.
Because the management trusted me, I was invited to return the next summer as manager of the parking lot. But I turned them down because I was tired of missing my Sunday meetings, and besides, I wasn't sure I'd like being at that lonely gate so much of the time, not anywhere as much fun as I'd had in the midway working the games.
As that year at Lagoon was ending, working part-time on a Saturday, I did something I shouldn't have done and which would have dissuaded my bosses at Lagoon to trust me. When we were putting things away at one of the midway stalls, the balloon dart game, I saw what appeared to be a box of balloons. Thinking of how much fun they would be, and believing they would be too rotten by the next season to be of much use, I pilfered them. When I got home, I saw they were not balloons at all, but darts stored in a balloon box. At that point I truly regretted the theft. What use did I have for 2 dozen darts? We didn't even have a dart board at home. And I knew the darts would be missed that following year. I should have returned them under some pretext or other but didn't have the courage. And I was so ashamed of my action I didn't want to be found out at home so stashed the box of darts in the attic where no one got any benefit from them at all. But I can honestly say I learned a valuable lesson from that experience.
From money I had earned at Lagoon I bought a fine little motorcycle, a Harley Davidson 125, what many called a “one lunger,” meaning it had but a one cylinder engine. This made it much easier to get to and from work. Up to that time, I would usually ride the Bamberger Railroad train that came through Centerville on its way from Salt Lake City to Ogden. But there were times I had to work later than the last scheduled train running. While only about 6 miles from home, that was a long hike on foot and a pretty bad trip on a bicycle, especially at night.
With the motorcycle as transport, I was able to get a paper route that next winter. In the area I was growing up, most of the homes were pretty spread apart and it would have been impossible to do it on foot, and very hard on a bicycle. Getting up before dawn to deliver an early morning paper was hard enough. While it was generally not that dangerous, even on a motorbike because very few cars were on the road so early, I very nearly got whacked one time. It was at an intersection right next to the railroad line at Porters Lane above where we lived. As I approached the corner from a ways back, I saw the car coming down the street but I felt sure I could get onto Porters Lane and make my left turn before the car got there. However, the closer I got to the intersection, the more worried I became, but having made my decision in advance, I didn't slow down or stop, rather pushed on. Luckily the car coming down the street saw my headlight and braked just before crossing the tracks, which gave me enough time to make the turn safely. I have to believe the driver of that car was operating on greater inspiration than I was. Whoever it was, I have to thank for saving my life, or at least keeping me from sustaining some very serious injuries. I did learn a most valuable lesson, and that is; wait till you are closer to the intersection to make the decision and even then keep you options open, don't commit so quickly or too firmly that you can't change your mind.
Another lesson I learned with the paper route was how untrustworthy people sometimes are with the kid who delivers the papers. Collection day each month was the worst experience. I got more excuses than you can believe. It was all too often, “oh, please come back tomorrow or next Saturday.” Of course I found no one home there the next day or on Saturday. And because I was a private contractor, any subscription money I didn't get was a loss to me. I had to pay for my papers even if I never got paid. The newspaper company should have pre-billed the subscribers or at least taken up the collection process on those who were stiffing me. I finally gave it up, discouraged at what I was getting from about 5% of my customers.
In my junior year the main sport I participated in was boxing. I had begun training the year before and felt pretty confident in my abilities. I had a long reach so my left jab was my most consistent weapon. And some time I would get in a right cross after setting up my opponent with the left jabs. But we didn't wear protective head gear as we should have. So sometimes it was not that fun and pretty dangerous. Convincing evidence of that came when one of our boxers put another in the hospital in a coma for a number of days. That guy never fully recovered from his head injuries. Why were two of our own team members fighting each other? We never got all that many matches with other schools so we generally trained with ourselves and sometimes put on exhibition matches at the high school assemblies. It was on one such occasion that the very near tragic event occurred. The result was that Davis High never sponsored the sport in later years.
However before the sport was abandoned, I got a chance to teach that junior high school bully a lesson. It always made me nervous just to have him in the area, Frankie Blackner. He was a freshman now at Davis High and on the boxing team same as I was. Since we were in essentially the same weight class, we got matched up for this particular exhibition. The student body was there to watch. We didn't have a formal “ring” used by prizefighters, which is actually square of course, but only a square mat the size of a ring. Coach Cullimore was the referee and brought us together to tell us the rules of the match, “no hitting below the belt, no kidney punches, when in a clinch, break when I tell you.” There I was, meeting face to face the bully who had made me so uneasy in his presence as a ninth grader. Not in a grudge match behind the school gym but before the whole student body.
The bell sent us out into the ring, sizing each other up, looking for a weakness and watching for an opening. Blackner came at me in a rush, gloved fists ready to connect with my face or chin. Having a reach advantage, I popped him with left jabs before he could get close enough. That slowed him down as I shuffled to the left hoping for a chance to send in a right cross. I knew if I let him get close enough to really mix it, he could do me some serious damage. Frankie was a street fighter, a backyard brawler. With short strong arms he wanted worse than anything to get close enough to hook me with one of his “round-housers.” Not having headgear to protect me from such a hard left or right hook posed a real threat. It was only later that year in another such intramural contest that one of our fighters was knocked out and suffered brain damage, as I've noted above.
In each of the following rounds, it was pretty much the same; Blackner charging me with what he hoped would be a vicious volley of hits, and me standing him off with my effective left jabs to the face. Generally it stopped him short as the hits landed and I circled to the left, still looking for a chance to land that right cross that might end the match.
On one such charge, I counter-charged him to the edge of the mat. As he stepped back, his foot slipped and he ended up on one knee. I was so into it, I just kept on jabbing him in the face. Of course, Coach Cullimore had to break it up, stepping in and sending me to a neutral corner, not sure Frankie wasn't stunned and needed a chance to recoup. He brought him back into the center of the ring, cleaned off his gloves on his shirt and we resumed the bout.
I was pleased not to have been hit by any of Blackner's roundhouse punches and I got some more satisfaction out of our visit in the showers after the match. Frankie complained of how his cheekbones were smarting from the fight. He speculated it was from plaster on the surface of the gloves that was making his skin sting. When we boxers were in the training room some of the boys would attack the white plastered walls shadowboxing. Frankie thought that was a plausible explanation and I had to agree.
I was surprised at how many classmates congratulated me on the fight. Even though there were no judges to declare a winner, it was evident from the number of positive comments my friends were sure I had won the match. And it was pretty obvious that a number of students resented my opponent's cocky attitude and bullying spirit for they were glad I could show him a thing or two. You know though, as I look back on it, I think Frankie and I could have been pretty good friends. And given the non-belligerent attitude he showed toward me in the shower, I think we had already established a basis for such a friendship.
Where I enjoyed boxing and thought I did well, I was disappointed at never having earned my “letter” in the sport. Others got it for just being on a team, whether the team won or not. But when you participated in an individual sport like tennis or boxing, you had to have a match and win it. As a boxer I never got to fight when we had meets with the other schools. The only time I was matched and it looked like I'd have a fight was when we went to Ogden High. Being scheduled to box in my welter weight division, I was pretty excited about the chance to finally earn my letter. My brother, Noel, let me borrow his boxing robe and I was out in the ring shuffling around, doing a little shadow boxing, jabbing and punching at an imaginary opponent. That must have intimidated my opponent because once he stepped out of the dressing room and looked over my way, he went back in and refused to come out. I believe my efforts should have been recognized as as win, since I did in as sense win the bout... by default.
Toward the end of my junior year, someone put up my name for election as an officer in the “D” Man's Club, a club for boys who had earned their letter in sports. But I wasn't even a member, never having yet earned my “letter” despite having participated in three different sports for the individual -- tennis, track and field, and boxing.
Perhaps that is one thing which encouraged me to join the football team my senior year. But I was at a serious disadvantage because the other guys on the team already knew most of the drills and plays. So I never got all that much playing time. I was put on the line as “center.” It was my cousin, Charlie Hatch, who started most games at the center position because he had been playing football every year, so knew all the plays and was better than me. I think I only played in one game and that was as a substitute. I must have had more than one chance to “snap” the ball, but the only one I really remember was when it was fourth down and I “centered” the ball, that is “hiked it” over the kicker's head and he had to run back to get it. But I think he got the kick off just the same.
I did enjoy the practices, however. Especially on defense because the center got to play line backer in those days. It was before the platoon system came into regular use, where a whole different set of players were sent in on defense. As line backer, you could follow the action and move to either side to make the tackles. And it was always fun for me to tackle the runner, except when it was Dick Lewis; he was even bigger and stronger than when I played against him in junior high school.
Playing center was even fun on offense. Since it was me who hiked the ball, I knew exactly when it was going to be hiked. So that gave me the jump on the opponent on the other side of the line. My favorite tactic was to hit him low and knock him off his feet before he could go after our ball carrier.
Once football was over and there was no more boxing team because the sport had been dropped, I decided to go out for wrestling. Most of the other boys had the advantage because they had been doing it on previous years. I seemed to pick it up quite quickly however and was in pretty good physical condition. The only trouble was there never seemed to be someone in my weight class whenever we had meets with the other schools. Finally I was offered a match but it had to be with a guy who weighed more than me. But I was desperate enough to take him on just the same, wanting as I did to “letter” in wrestling as I never had in boxing.
As it turned out, my opponent was not only bigger but stronger too, and much more experienced at the sport than I was. It didn't take him long to get hold of me over the top, so he had me with his arms wrapped around my chest, his head above me while we were still standing on our feet, each facing in the opposite direction. With that hold he simply fell to the rear, flipping me over backward, my feet flying over both our heads. After doing that a couple of times, he had me so dizzy I didn't know which end was up. At that point, he just turned me so I was on my back with him on top and me in a “pin” position. If he held me in that position with my shoulders on the mat for 3 seconds, the match was over. So much for my career as a wrestler!
What can I say about academics that year? Well, I was pretty unique as students went in those days, being the only guy in the shorthand class. But that wasn't all that bad surrounded as I was by pretty girls. It was old Mr. Robinson who taught the class and one teacher from whom I learned some memorable trivia. For example, the difference between a “sod” widow and a “grass” widow. A sod widow is one whose husband was dead and buried while a grass widow was one whose husband was still alive, that is divorced. He also had a useful trick, or so it was rumored. Since he had one glass eye, he would focus it on the girls face and with the good eye, look down her dress. Not having the benefit of a glass eye, I was never able to actually try it out so don't know if it was true or not.
One of the pretty girls in the class was Louise Moss, a statuesque blond and something of a cousin of mine. I was told that a few generations back the Mosses and the Hatches had intermarried. I do know that the two families were in business together and had formed the Deseret Livestock Company when they combined their respective herds of sheep. One story which had come to me from out of that era was one told me by my father, Spencer Hatch. It was of how he had “graduated” from public school at the age of 8 or 9. He had been treated unfairly by his third grade teacher and left the classroom for home. On the way he encountered his father, Orin Perry Hatch, my grandfather. His dad was not happy that he had left school but told him he must join his older brothers in herding the sheep if he didn't go back to school. My dad was quite content at that option so he never went back, not leaning to read until later in life when he married my mother who was a school teacher.
Dad used to brag that he was “smarter” than mother. Why? Because she was dumb enough to marry a barber and he smart enough to marry a school teacher! Perhaps that might suggest what was a point of disparity in their marriage, the substantial difference in their formal education. However Dad had much more street smarts than mother, she was often lost in a fog when it involved practical things. More than once, Mother started to get into someone else's car not recognizing the difference.
While I liked most of the subjects I took in school, it was stifling having to sit there for an hour without much interaction with the teacher. Part of the reason I preferred my woodworking shop classes where I was able to make a fine mahogany bookshelf still in use at my home. A walnut magazine rack and lath-turned lamp my older brother started but never finished was completed by me and is also with me today. Probably my favorite class was in the seminary building where we studied the sacred texts of the Bible and Book of Mormon. My enthusiasm for the religious subjects and general friendliness toward others made me popular enough to be elected student body president of the Barnes Seminary my senior year. English literature was also a favorite, enough so I was skipped classes part of one day while still a junior to attend a Shakespearen play at the University of Utah.
It got me into trouble because only the seniors had been excused from classes that year to attend the play. Even though just a junior, I was excited enough to want to attend. “Taming of the Shrew” was the play being presented and my interest was sufficient to warrant getting into Salt Lake City on my own. The English teacher, Miss Streeper, was from Centerville and a woman I knew well enough since I was her “ward teacher,” meaning I was assigned by our religious leaders to visit her home each month as the bishop's representative. That's why I was pretty sure she wouldn't report me to the principal but she did. She knew I didn't have permission to be there. I was called into the dean of students' office and chastised for sluffing. Hey, since when should a student be punished for going “above and beyond” to see a Shakespearean play? Gotta say it was well worth it though. The “Taming of the Shrew” remains even now my favorite of the bard's many plays.
For even happier thoughts I must turn back to the previous summer before my senior year had begun. I was then working for Farnsworth and Williams, a home construction company. I was learning to build houses from the footings on up. It was a great learning experience and one where we were out in the fresh air and sunshine every day. It was hard work though and you always went home tired, but then for a young man, it also meant being in better physical condition than the day before.
A highlight that summer was the trip our explorer scout troop took to the High Uintas. It was a trip I had missed 3 summers before as a boy scout because of an open wound on my left elbow due to the bicycle accident. Even though Utah is pretty much a desert state, the mountains have some beautiful country filled with evergreen trees and green meadows. This was so evident to me as the vehicles arrived that very early August morning in 1950. Our troop, scouts and leaders, had been packed the night before and left at 3 in the morning. So the sun had just come up as we drove along the edge of a grassy flat, On the far side a golden mule deer buck could be seen grazing. While the anticipation of such a scene had been building for those 3 years, still it couldn't have been any more idyllic than that moment. The air was perfectly calm, there was a heavy dew on the grass and the sunlight coming through a morning haze from the cool night before cast a glorious hew on the entire scene. Still a bit drowsy from having dozed on the drive, I could well have dreamed the whole experience and it not have been more wondrous.
Once the pickups had been unpacked and bonfires made, we got to a robust breakfast of bacon, eggs and pancakes. Then we had to pitch the tents, stretch out the sleeping bags and gather round with our leaders to get instructed on the program: safety rules, camp chores and schedule of activities. Without going into great detail of what we did during that 9-day encampment, I will mention some of what was typical: learning the best techniques of outdoor life and survival skills, merit badge training, knot tying, campfire cooking and hygiene. For fun activities there was the barrel roll contest, where we got atop a 50-gallon drum and rolled from one point to another without falling off. The person who could stay on his feet on the barrel while rolling it the furthest was declared the winner. From having learned balance on the slack wire at Lagoon, it was a snap for me to win. I was still on the barrel well after the mark others had set. I could have gone on for hours but there was no need.
Thee was also swimming in the frigged waters of the mountain lake nearby. We got lessons in the different species of “pine.” What we referred to generically as pine were a large number of evergreens like fir, spruce, balsa, pinion, pondorosa, etc. We also took long hikes into the surrounding country. I will long remember four of us friends back packing into Jordan Lake, a pristine body of water accessible only on foot or horseback. As we didn't have horses, it meant a leg-tiring jaunt of some 8 to 10 miles.
We had worms and lures of various kinds but those beautiful rainbow trout swimming below us in the crystal clear water weren't that hungry I guess. We were so frustrated standing there on a rock above them, wondering what might entice them to take the bait. Finally we decided to trap some of them with our hands. The initial attempts from the rock at water's edge brought no result. So we went to the shallow inlet feeding the lake its cool mountain waters where we could wade barefoot in our swim trunks. As a group, we drove them to one side where we could reach down and grab them or flip them onto the banks. Most of them escaped our dragnet but we did catch enough for our dinner that night.
After a couple of nights camped beside the lake, the gathering clouds in that otherwise deep blue of the sky told us it was time to get back to the main camp. I have recalled the pleasures of that outing many times in the years since, but have not had the chance to repeat it. While I have driven by car through the general area, past the rather well-known Mirror Lake, it has not been my chance to return to Camp Steiner or Jordan Lake to repeat that fabled episode.
Senior year meant taking aptitude tests and interest inventories and college entrance exams. Fresh from that cherished experience in the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah, along the Wyoming state border, my interest inventory suggested the life of a forest ranger might well be one I would be most happy at. But the entrance exams and aptitude tests suggested other skills and abilities. One of my teachers suggested I should apply for some kind of scholarship. She felt I had the ability even though my grades didn't necessarily reflect it, mostly “B’s,” with a sprinkling of “A's” and “C's.” Boys I knew well were getting possible offers to the Naval Academy and West Point. Others, mostly the girls, were getting chances to attend various universities with tuition and fees waived, etc. For me, I was determined to pay my own way at the University of Utah because I could live at home room and board free. It would also give me a chance to work part-time for Clyde Williams in his home building program.