Category: Lifelong Learning
From looking into Grandfather’s coming of age, you can see clearly he was a man of action. It did not seem like he needed to convince himself much about what the right thing to do was in each phase of life. In true deeds-not-words fashion from marriage onward, his life purpose was to provide for his family and faithfully serve others. He did not particularly enjoy working with Procter and Gamble - it was what he did to provide. Giving active service at church was never easy - it was just the right thing to do.
For context in the stories below, Grandfather raised his family in Cincinnati, Ohio, then Hingham, Massachusetts, and then Albany, Georgia. This whole time he worked for P&G. For most of that time he was a bishop or branch president of his congregations for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I had done a good job for P&G at Ivorydale, first as an industrial engineer, then as a cost engineer, and last as manager of a bar-soap production operation. I was very pleased to be promoted to group manager. There were over 150 fine managers at Ivorydale. No one had been promoted for four years. Then I was promoted. When my boss asked me where I should like to be transferred as a group manager I said, “the Boston plant.” He looked startled. He asked if somehow I had been told. I had not, but that is where I was going: the Quincy plant on the south shore of Boston. I was delighted.
“Carolyn and I were given a one week house-hunting trip. Prior to going we studied a map of the south shore area. We had one criterion: we wanted to be on the water or very close to it. It looked like Hingham was the right place to start looking. The search was arduous and stressful. We had a very limited time to search, and we soon discovered that water-view property was awfully expensive. As it happened, we were lucky because the giant Quincy shipyard was changing ownership. Many of the managers were moving. It was a buyer’s market.
“In the last two days of our allotted week, we located a house for sale in a perfect location. When we arrived to inspect the house, the owners were returning from a swim at the neighborhood-owned beach which was immediately across the street. The location had everything one could dream of: the private beach and a gorgeous view of both Hingham harbor and the Boston skyline—all in an upscale and settled neighborhood.
“Not only all that, but this small housing area was situated at the entrance to the World’s End peninsula which is a great public nature preserve laid out in the 1800s by Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect of Central Park in New York City. Even the address had class: 15 Seal Cove Road.
“All this was perfect. There were just two little sticking points. First the house itself was not an architectural design that we would have chosen, but it was a New England style house. Second, the price was much more than we had expected to spend. We were thinking $25,000 maximum. We had received only $19,000 for our Cincinnati house. They were asking $39,000. We anguished. We debated. We procrastinated. Then, on our way to the airport, we stopped at a pay phone and accepted their price. I was so happy and so very frightened. I thought, “What have we done?” And Carolyn thought, “What have we done? We were crazy!”
“We had done very well indeed. In eight years we sold the house for $65,000. If we owned it today I am sure we could get more than a million. The best part though was our eight joyous years in Hingham. Glorious, glorious memories are beyond price.
“As we drove up the driveway with our children, one of them (and I’m glad I didn’t detect which one at the time) said, “The house is uuuuugly!” Then all of them joined in. If there had been a coal mine in the vicinity, I’d have put them all to work to help pay for the house. Since there were no coal mines, we settled for a paper route…”
“The children quickly came to love the life in that beautiful place. Swimming, beach combing, sailing, fishing, diving off the cliff on World’s End, exploring World’s End peninsula, visiting the long sandy beach at Nantasket (just a mile from home): these were just some of the wonderful things we did in summer. In winter, World’s End provided perfect sledding places. Church outings for ice skating and ice fishing were delightful. I think no one had better opportunities for a happy childhood.
“There were, along the way, some pretty exciting moments for all of us. One of mine came on a beautiful snowy Saturday morning. It had snowed on Friday, rained on Friday evening, and frozen between Friday midnight and Saturday at 9:00 A.M. when the children and I arrived at the big hill on World’s End. As usual, no one else was there. We climbed to the top of the hill and surveyed the situation. The run was long—perhaps 100 yards—and steep. For the last 20 yards, the run went over an area that was like a bridge. A ten-foot drop to a swampy marsh was on one side, and a ten-foot drop to Hingham harbor was on the other. If one lost control of the sled, he could be badly hurt and in the water all at the same time. We had never sledded this hill when there was a heavy coating of ice covering the snow. I rightly reasoned that the run could be much to fast for the eight, eleven, and twelve-year-old boys to handle. I told them to wait at the top. I would make the run, and if it were O.K., they could do it. To tell the truth I was quite frightened, but I didn’t want to shut everything down before we even tried it. So away I went belly down on my sled. Before I had gone ten yards, I was going faster than I had ever gone on a sled, and I kept gaining speed. After 50 yards I was really frightened, and after 60 yards I was going terribly fast and was out of control. Rather than go off the side of the bridge and land in the water, I decided to bale out. I rolled off the sled to my left. My left elbow broke through the ice crust and jammed my upper arm into my shoulder. The shock stopped me almost immediately. I knew I was hurt, but I just didn’t know how badly. As I was lying there covered with snow and broken ice, and wondering how many bones were broken, I heard in quick succession, swish, swish, swish. All three boys had come down without accident. Later, I scolded them. “Why didn’t you wait until I told you it was O.K. to come?” The answer I got was, “You made it down, so we thought it was O.K.” It was that kind of logic that led to the following kinds of incidents.”
“Moving the family to South Georgia transplanted us into a new and delightful culture and physical environment. The climate is soft. The land is flat and lush. The dirt is red, and the people are warm and genteel. The cuisine is different and most delicious.
“I arrived in Albany, Georgia about four months prior to the family’s arrival. During that time I was eating out often. I found a little out-of-the-way restaurant where the cook was an elderly black woman. She wore a bandanna around her hair, a soiled apron, and old felt bedroom slippers. She spoke a language I could not understand. Despite the many differences between us, I loved that lady. She could flat-out cook. My favorite dish was her wild quail in gravy. The restaurant closed about three months after my arrival. It was a sad thing…”
“Snakes were an ever-present concern in South Georgia. I was told that every kind of poisonous snake found in the U.S. could be found in Dougherty County where we lived. I saw many snakes, among them rattlers, water moccasins, and coral snakes. One needed to be cautious. Remember, “Red and yeller kill a feller.” That is how to tell the difference between a harmless king snake and a coral snake which is deadly poisonous. If the red and yellow stripes abut each other, it is a coral snake.
“While our house was being built and shortly afterward we found many water moccasins on our lot. Clearing the land had routed them out of their homes. I think it was Clifford who found a dead rattlesnake in the road. As a playful and loving gesture, he draped it around Catherine’s neck. At first she didn’t think of it as a playful and loving gesture, but later must have agreed or been coerced into having her picture taken with it. Catherine seemed often to be the object of unique experiences thought up by the boys. These events must have been her fault because they happened to her so often…”
“It was not easy for the children in Albany. Stephen earned my and many others’ respect by a show of courage that I think very few people have. One day, at the beginning of a P.E. class, the coach tossed a volleyball to a group of about 20 students, and then he disappeared. The larger group of black male students (about 16) decided to flex their collective muscle by demanding that the four white boys scatter. All the white fellows left except one—Stephen. At six-foot-five-inches tall and about 200 pounds, Stephen was a potent force but no match for a whole crowd of black students. Stephen stood his ground all alone and started to get “roughed up.” There had to be a lot of admiration by the black students for one who was that brave. But they had issued the ultimatum, and something had to give. What gave was a black basketball player with whom Stephen played on the varsity team. He stood with Stephen. This no doubt saved him from a beating, and it saved the black boys from doing something they really didn’t want to do.
“Interestingly, this basketball player so admired Stephen that he investigated and later joined the LDS Church.
“High school basketball in South Georgia attracted extremely talented players, almost all of whom were black. It was most unusual for white players to be on the varsity team and even more unusual for a white athlete to be a starting player. Stephen not only made the team but also became a starter. Often in the games it would be really easy to find Stephen, because he would be the only white player on the floor.”
Grandfather road tripped all over the country with his family- every summer he took them new places and did so in the most frugal ways. Camping and sleeping in the car as a family was their norm. Sleeping under the car on pavement was even something some of my uncles did. The family road tripped to every part of Florida and went through several routes between Georgia and Utah. Mexico, too. Here’s the story behind his saving Uncle Stu I mentioned in the previous article:
“Going to and from Utah, which we did frequently, gave us opportunities to visit many interesting places in the United States. We saw some astonishing things and had some fun times. One thing that was not fun happened in some Mexican boarder city, probably Juarez. We walked up to a busy intersection. Stuart, about seven, stepped into the street. A medium-sized truck, going five times too fast, came straight at Stuart. I grabbed him by the clothes and pulled him through the air back to the curb. The truck missed him by inches. It all happened in one second. Thank heaven for my young man’s reflexes. Stuart owes me his life.”
Throughout Grandfather’s accounting of memories with Grandmother, there was always this sense that he greatly desired to be with her (and greatly missed her when apart). He said, himself, that she was the best outcome from his war experience. His adoration for Grandmother was a theme of just about all his stories of business trips, raising his children, or health concerns in their later years.
Grandfather ends his Work chapter reflecting on his 30-plus year career with Procter and Gamble saying, “For me, work at P&G was work… Almost always I was in stress… I personally believe I achieved about what I deserved, but I suffered in the process.”
I did not get the sense from reading Glancing Backward that there were any stories in his 30 years working at P&G that were as exciting as getting chased by a hungry bear in Yellowstone or nearly dying at sea in the Navy. It felt more along the lines of working with rednecks during his youth in the Idaho desert. My dad tells me Grandfather never really enjoyed his job. He felt unappreciated at work, he saw less-qualified and -hard-working people use political means to rise the ranks, and the workers on his level or higher were all country club types. Grandfather could never connect on a strong personal level with anyone that would have been advantageous to his advancement. At the same time I get the sense that P&G kept him three decades and during that time only extended to him pay-raises and promotions for the same work ethic of his youth- the same work ethic that landed him his world-class career out of Berkeley. It was also clear that P&G found him instrumental going where, maybe, others of his qualifications would not have been thrilled to go.
It makes a lot of sense that a man with his childhood work life would be the one sent to manage a factory in rural Georgia. And this move happened after working for a world-class business in the intellectual capital of Boston where he served in leadership positions with some of the LDS church’s elite minds. It did not matter much to him. He had every reason to feel above his surroundings, though, considering who he was and who the people were around him. It felt more like his charity for them prevailed. His autobiography does not give the sense at all that he felt rural Georgia was beneath him. The same attitude carried down to his children. My dad says neither he nor his siblings felt that moving to the deep south was a drag.
“P&G gave Carolyn and me a special trip to Albany to decide if we wanted to accept their offer of a transfer to the new factory to be built there. One of the first things we did when we arrived was to purchase some Krispy Kreme donuts. They were excellent, and the one vendor in town was doing a mammoth business. For several years I would occasionally entertain the idea that a second donut shop, like Mister Donut, could probably do well. At one point I even initiated correspondence with two national donut chains. Nothing ever hatched. A year or so later I contacted the federal Small Business Administration manager in Albany to learn about financing a small business. I understood there were low interest loans available. He told me there was a man, who was the baker and manager of Krispy Kreme, who secretly wanted to move out on his own. This man thought there was room for another donut shop as did I. The Small Business administrator gave me the telephone number of Marvin Lott: an ominous moment.
“Carolyn and I went to meet Marvin on a spring evening. The house was in a middle class neighborhood. The house and yard were well cared for. We met Marvin and his wife. Marvin was hyper, not well educated, but seemed smart enough. His wife was a nurse and was sharp. The home was clean. Marvin’s work record was good. He had always been employed, and had been promoted to manager of a thriving donut business. It didn’t look perfect to me, (few things are), but it looked O.K.
“Several years earlier a national chain of hot-dog, fast-food franchises opened an outlet in Albany. The franchise was not doing well either nationally or in Albany. Somehow I learned that the owner wanted out. The newly constructed building was perfect. It was in a great location, close to McDonald’s, KFC, and several other restaurants. I did some studies that showed the other fast-food restaurants were doing well, and there was lots of traffic since the building was on the main road to Sylvester, Tifton, and interstate 75.
“Marvin and I contacted the building owner who wanted a ten-year lease. Realizing this was a highly risky venture, I absolutely refused to sign a lease that would not let us out completely with 30 days notice. Eventually the building owner agreed. Marvin and I were in business. I was to supply the money. Marvin was to bake and manage. This was a sideline adventure for me. I was still a full time executive of P&G. We patented the name “Good Things”, installed some large lighted signs which Carolyn designed, bought a used Hobart mixer and some other used baking equipment, an ice cream machine, an ice cream dispensing freezer, and modified the sales counter to include stools. We relandscaped the yard, and then we were ready to go. We contracted with someone to produce some very good singing commercials. It was 1980.
“The business started slowly but grew steadily. We modified the menu to include a breakfast special, which we served to the late night and early morning shift workers coming to work and leaving from the P&G, Firestone, and Miller factories which were nearby. This breakfast featured a special sausage that was made in a small town west of Albany. People loved it. We had trouble with the ice cream machine, because it lacked capacity, so we stopped making it and bought a special brand that came out of Florida.
“Weird things happened. For example, one very early morning (3:00 A.M.), a man’s leg came crashing through the ceiling tile. The waitress called the police. They arrested a man who, at about 9:00 P.M., went into the men’s room from the outside entrance. He climbed into the space between the ceiling and the roof. It was his intention to wait until Good Things closed and then rob us. His research was poor. Good Things was open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. People rested on Christmas.
“I hired Catherine as a waitress. She looked sweet in the uniform Carolyn designed. I also hired a young black woman who later joined the LDS Church. The last time I was in Albany, she was filling a key role in the ward. The waitress job didn’t last long for Catherine. She was in high school, and the schedule did not work for her. Marvin was the hardest-working man I ever knew. He totally dedicated himself to make Good Things go. He would arrive at 3:00 or 4:00 A.M. to make donuts, and he would be there still at 10:00 or 11:00 P.M.
“The whole thing came crashing down in one day. A young black man came into Good Things at about 10:00 P.M. He asked to speak to the manager. He said he had bought a hamburger that had a live maggot on it, and he showed it to Marvin. Marvin knew this was a shakedown attempt, so he grabbed for the hamburger. The man pulled it away and a scuffle ensued. The young man threatened Marvin and left. He immediately went to the TV station and told a story. It was just the sort of thing the TV station wanted: a local scandal. So they broadcast this “news”. The next day we did no business at all. The next month the business was gone.
“A Good Things hamburger was a frozen patty purchased from a wholesaler, which was fried on a grill while still frozen. I’ve always wondered why the public was willing to accept the thesis that a maggot could survive cooking on a grill. Subsequently we learned that several restaurants were the victims of shakedown attempts. Davis Brothers was threatened with a lawsuit by a man who said he found a fly in his soup.
“We sued the TV station, and in the process, the court attempted to serve the man who found the maggot. At first they couldn’t find him. Later he was located in jail serving a sentence for burglary. He had a long criminal record.
“The trial went very well for us. Our key witness was the doctor in charge of the public health for Dougherty County. The one thing the TV station did that was right was to keep the hamburger and the live maggot. This was turned over to the Public Health Department. The meat was sent to Atlanta for analysis. It was found to be perfectly good with no fly eggs. Among other things, our doctor witness testified that he had written his doctoral dissertation on maggots. He was an expert in this exact area. He testified that maggots only form on rotting meat; the hamburger was not rotten. He also testified that it was beyond any level of probability that the meat would contain only one fly egg that would turn into a maggot. And he testified it takes nine days for a maggot to develop from a fly egg. This could only have happened if the hamburger had been unrefrigerated for nine days, and the meat certainly would have been rotten.
“The TV station’s defense was that the law protects newspapers, TV stations, and public officials from being sued for making mistakes. To find the TV station guilty, the jury would have to find it guilty of malicious intent or gross negligence. We were pursuing the gross negligence aspect. Our lawyer is a fine man, a brilliant attorney, but no trial lawyer. He refused to bring to the attention of the jury the information that the perpetrator was a habitual criminal, on the assumption that such information would not be allowed in the trial. The law seems to think that a person’s past deeds are not relevant to his current behavior.
“At the end of the trial, our attorney interviewed the jurors to find out how, in the name of heaven, they could have come to a not-guilty verdict. The main answer was that they assumed the perpetrator could have been a model student in high school. I feel sure, if they had known the man’s background, we would have won our suit which was for only an amount adequate to cover our lost investment.
“In hindsight, even though I lost $40,000, I’m glad it happened. It forced me out of the fast-food business which is the toughest business I know. I still own the Good Things name. Everything else I gave to Marvin.”
“Other interesting things happened with the P&G crew. For example one morning I arrived at work to be told that one of the women who worked under me had given birth to a healthy baby during the night. Giving birth is not unusual, but in this case no one at work knew she was pregnant. She had gone into full-term labor while loading a railroad box car. She did not understand the P&G sick leave policy or her medical benefits package. She assumed she would be fired if she didn’t come to work, and she had the best-paying job she could imagine. She was not going to lose it.
“Another of my employees, whom I considered to be of above average intelligence, experienced the tragedy of having a baby who suffered a SIDS death. A year or so later, this employee shot a local grocery store manager while in the process of robbing the store. The manager was shot in the spine and is paralyzed from the neck down. Since then I have harbored two thoughts: the baby may have been murdered, and I’m glad I didn’t make this man mad at me.”
“I once found myself in trouble with a different man. This one had great power over my working life. He was my boss. It happened when the LDS Church was the target of much derision over the exclusion of black men from holding the priesthood. Our plant was striving to integrate a workforce comprised of 40-percent black workers and 60-percent white workers, in a Deep South community which was highly racially biased. To achieve integration, we felt it necessary to educate the top echelon managers on the subject of racial prejudice. We hired a radical black consultant, the author of a highly popular book titled Black Rage to lead us through this training process. One of the exercises was a series of individual interviews with this man. In my interview I was told that my boss, John Feldman, felt I should leave the Mormon Church. I must be racially biased to belong to such a church. Not only that, but also I was the leader of the church in all of South Georgia, a highly visible position.
“I told the consultant I would not leave the LDS Church. I told him there were many black members in our church, and especially was this so in the local congregation. I told him that black members all over our church attended in unsegregated assemblies. I challenged him to attend any other “white” church in Albany, and I promised him he would not find a black person in any one of them. I told him I was a fifth generation Mormon, and that my ancestors had been as severely persecuted for their religion as any black person had been for their race. I also told him I personally was not biased against black people and challenged him again to find a single person who would say I had treated him or her in a discriminatory way. I said that if it meant losing my job, I would not abandon my heritage. He said he would not either. That was the last I ever heard about that subject.”
Like Grandfather’s career, most of the decades of service consisted of routine tasks that are not novel. The novelty lies in his stalwart commitment to his Church duties for decades (after coming home from the work he did not find fun) and doing it all because he knew the power of Christ in people’s lives. However, there are still several memorable stories.
“In those ancient days, the Church had adoption placement services available in the Intermountain West, but not in the far-flung outposts like Boston. I learned this when a college-age woman, who was a new convert, returned home from BYU pregnant. She was very confused about the situation and about the rest of her life. She needed counseling, and I was her designated counselor. The first half of the equation was easy. Abortion was out of the question as far as the Church was concerned. When she learned the Church’s position she agreed. The second half was very hard for both of us. She had a non-Mormon friend who wanted to marry her, but not with a baby. She was already attached to the baby emotionally. I didn’t like her non-Mormon friend and advised her not to include his wishes in her decision. I also told her I would help her place the baby in a very good home. I believed she and the baby could have a happy life either if she kept it or if she gave it up for adoption. When pressed, I told her I favored adoption because she was young and not yet well prepared to care for the child as a single woman. Also, it kept open the option of marrying her non-Mormon friend if she loved him. She decided on adoption.
“Next I had to locate a fine family who wanted a baby. I turned to the New York stake president who was experienced in adoptions. He sent two families from Connecticut whom he personally recommended. I interviewed both families at length. It was a heart-wrenching decision which I made over the course of about a week. I did a lot of analyzing and praying for guidance. Both couples wanted the baby very much. When I told the rejected couple, they became very angry at me, and they charged me with incompetence among other things. I agree with the incompetence in this situation, but their behavior confirmed the Lord’s choice.
“Another vignette from a bishop’s life also occurred in Hingham. A family of four joined the church: the parents and two teenaged boys. The father was a well-liked extrovert. The mother and two boys were the most introverted persons imaginable. After about a year, the mother told me that the father was sexually abusing their two boys and had been since their early youth. I advised her to notify the government authorities. This she would not do, and she forbade me from doing it.
“What a terrible position in which to be. This was privileged information, and as an ordained minister I had an obligation of secrecy. She agreed to my holding a bishop’s court. Her husband did not deny the charge, and I excommunicated him. This was a potent eternal punishment, but he didn’t then feel the pain. I wanted him to feel pain.
“Also in Hingham I dealt with the situation of a teenaged girl who came from a disadvantaged family. She was the only member of her family in the Church. In a routine interview with this girl, she revealed she was an ongoing victim of incest with her father. I proffered to arrange for her to live with a member family. She said she would really like that. I confronted her father. He neither confirmed nor denied the accusation but refused to let the girl be removed from the home. I told him it was either I would have the police investigate the situation or he would give up the girl. He agreed to give up the girl. All the time I was a bishop I had to keep reminding myself that, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.”
As an extension of Grandfather’s noteworthy treatment of black employees at work (as written about above), I would like to share my experience hearing his perspective regarding the Church’s old stance on blacks. A few years ago I asked him about living in the South during the great controversy of the Church’s policy not to ordain black members to the priesthood. What I learned from him has always helped me keep perspective on this controversial part of Mormon history. His branch had multiple baptisms of black investigators, he gave them callings, and in every way they were integrated with the whites with the exception of the men participating in priesthood activities. He told me that nowhere in the area were whites allowing blacks to attend their churches, let alone engage in any of their priesthood activities. While the inclusion of blacks was something he was comfortable with and felt right about, not all the white members in his congregation did. Some even said they would leave if he did not change the way he led the branch with regard to the inclusion of blacks. He refused to change this and watched them leave. Grandfather did not even hold resentment toward these racist whites! He said they showed indications of being good people in their personal lives - it was just a different time. While he sustained Church leadership and policy, and likely believed the policy to be inspired of God, he did not fully understand why the policy was in place but he accepted it on faith.
“As I have previously written, I have been privileged to serve in a wide variety of callings in the Church. Therefore I have been released many times. With some releases there was a feeling of relief, with some regret at not being able to continue, with others still different emotions came. Each of the four times I was released as bishop, I had feelings that are hard if not impossible to describe. I could physically, mentally, and emotionally feel the mantle of authority leave me. Bishop Lundquist of the Cincinnati Ward described it as like a coat being removed. When I served as a bishop, I knew I had wisdom and power beyond myself. The day I was released, I knew it was no longer there. I have known released bishops to go into a state of depression when released. We give our bishops much love and adulation. They have a special title; they sit on the stand; we seek them out for advice; we pray for them. To be honest, I did miss all of that. However the sense of loss was much more than just those tangible things. I am convinced that bishops receive an enriched outpouring of the Spirit to help and sustain them in that calling. I am deeply grateful to have had more than my fair share of that rich experience.”
My dad describes Grandfather’s example of work and service to have been personally defining for him. He on several occasions was expected to join his father to serve members of their congregations, clean and maintain chapels, participate in activities, etc. To this day he imagines his father telling him “you did a respectable job today” when he completes days of work or acts of service at church. Throughout my dad’s upbringing, Grandfather was booked all day every Sunday and once or twice during the week. My dad’s interactions with his father were often after his father finished work and between church duties at the chapel or at member’s homes. Grandfather would, on occasion, take him even if it meant my dad would have to wait outside somewhere. The father-son time was important and this was how they got it in.
My dad, myself, Lincoln, and Grandfather (2014):