Get ready for a real dose of American life from the 1930s - 50s. Almost nothing in this man’s upbringing resembles that of someone’s today in the slightest. My takeaway from his book is that there are three main ingredients to the makeup of this man:
- Faith: If these stories lead you to believe his upbringing was more beneficial to a person than the upbringings of children today, then at least it’s helpful to know that raising children on the same religious principles of his home can be done just as well today.
- Work: I can’t imagine there’s a single child labor law in place today that his (deeply loving) parents did not violate with him back then.
- Death: It is rare to know people these days with his level of familiarity with death (mostly because of his experience with war). It is understandable, however, that someone as well-acquainted with death as he was would show a life of never once making significant mistakes about his life priorities.
I will end this article with the crowning event of his coming of age - the culminating accomplishment of becoming a man whom cream-of-the-crop Carolyn Edwards would want to marry. His dating and courtship is the near-embodiment of classic chivalry we do not see much of anymore, but it had more to do with his faith, work ethic, and priorities in life (which you could say he mastered in part due to repeated exposure to death).
This has to be the first theme to look at when reflecting on what Grandfather made of himself. Nothing was more defining to who he was than his beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was raised by a bishop and professor of the LDS college that is now called BYU-Idaho. His autobiography gives every indication that his mother actively taught him in the ways of Christ, too. You will see his faith intertwine every other theme here, so for this section I see very little need to pull stories from Glancing Backward. However, there is a special story that does not fit into the other two themes and does highlight a mandatory ingredient to being worthy of a woman like Carolyn Edwards. Grandfather understood the importance of chastity and lived it even when everyone else around him gave in to social pressures.
“We walked the main street to the far end, and then the other two I was with decided to go into a bar. I went in with them. We were joined by three Chinese bar girls. They were there to provide feminine company for feminine company-starved sailors and to encourage the purchase of alcohol. They did this by having you buy them drinks, which you bought at alcohol prices but which were actually tea. It didn’t take long before our lieutenant companion became drunk. It didn’t take much longer before my ensign companion became very happy and before the lieutenant became very drunk. He started to try to take the blouse off of his bar girl. She resisted and he stopped trying for a while. It wasn’t long before he tried again. This time he massaged her breast and pretty much succeeded with the blouse despite her protests. She might have been willing to take off the blouse and even more, but not in this place and not for the price of a few drinks. Things were starting to get tense. I assumed that if the bar owner called the police I would be arrested just for being there. I insisted that he quit and suggested that we leave, so we left. Almost immediately we encountered three or four of the other officers who were on their way to a house of prostitution. My two companions joined them, so I went along. Shortly the top echelon of officers from the ship arrived (all except the captain). Now all the officers had found their desired destination. It had not been my intention to visit a whorehouse when I left the ship, but when the people I was with were committed to going, I was curious to see what one looked like. So I guess it had also become my desired destination. I left immediately while all were in the reception room, because I didn’t want anyone to think I was there for the same reason that they were. I was appalled at the amount of infidelity, adultery, and debauchery that occurred in every port. My opinion is that only two officers of our ship refrained from sexual excursions. They were the captain and me.
“On our return trip to San Diego, the level of fear of being discovered rose with every mile, and it reached fever pitch when we got there. Among the married officers, threats were blatant. “If you tell on me, I’ll tell on you.” The unmarried officers posed a different kind of threat because they wouldn’t care if told on, so the threats were career implications. I was a double threat because people didn’t know how to deal with a virgin who had no career aspirations. Maybe I could have capitalized on my one key to power.”
In my eyes, Grandfather’s work ethic is what makes him stand out the most. I have seen Christ make other great men like him. But I have not known anyone with Grandfather’s work ethic. This man knew grit. Here is how he began his chapter, Work:
“The concept of work is difficult to define. Perhaps one definition might be to be required to do something one did not desire to do. If there were enjoyment in doing a task then it would be fun- not work. But there are those who insist they enjoy working… Maybe I should title this chapter, “Things I Have Done for Which I Received Money or Avoided Punishment.”
In the process of selecting passages from his 200-page book, this chapter is the one I felt was the most dense in answering my questions of who this man was and what legacy he left. I cannot fathom how this kind of upbringing would have defined me, but I can clearly see how his character was built from this. The standard of living for his children and grandchildren shot up multiples ahead of the standard he grew up with because of his work ethic. No matter the financial success I achieve in my life, the reality will be that his success greatly had to do with it.
“When I was young, there were no do-gooder groups protecting children from exploitation. There weren’t even child labor laws so far as I knew. In place of these things there was my mother. She firmly believed that (1) children needed to learn to work, (2) work was actually good for children, (3) it was morally right for children to share the load since they shared the rewards, and (4) she perversely believed boys should be required to do “woman’s work.” In this respect she was a liberated woman. None of my friends, all of whom had sisters as did I, were required to wash clothes, dust, vacuum, scrub the floor, wash the dishes, wash windows, etc. I was spared the indignity of cooking, which I might actually have enjoyed. I think Mother didn’t teach my sister to cook either. She must have enjoyed cooking because she did it all.
“In addition to house work, Mother required a perfectly manicured lawn and garden. I mowed, watered, and weeded. Weeding was my most detested chore. I was required to weed for one hour every day during the summer if there were weeds, and it seems there always were. So 7:00 A.M. found me practicing my violin. From 7:30 to 8:00 we ate breakfast, and from 8:00 to 9:00 I weeded, or mowed, or trimmed. On school days, only violin practice was required. All the other tasks were saved until Saturday. Saturday was when we cleaned the places no one ever saw such as the transoms above all the doors, the framing underneath the dining room table, the insides of things like clothes closets, above-eye-level cupboards, etc. But by 1:00 P.M. I was free at last for the normal activities of childhood. By the way, I don’t remember my sister, Phyllis, ever doing outside chores. Perhaps Mother was a female chauvinist.
“Every year school closed for the month of October so children could help bring in the harvest. In Idaho this meant mostly the potato harvest. Small children, about seven and older, picked potatoes. The mechanical digger laid the potatoes in a trail on top of the ground. Young children placed the potatoes in a wire basket which, when filled, was dumped into one of the gunnysacks which were laid out along each row. Later a truck came down the row and older boys or men, called “buckers”, picked up the 60- pound sacks and loaded the truck. The truck and buckers took the potatoes to a large dirt-covered pit, dumped the bags into bins, and returned to the field for more potatoes. Picking potatoes was backbreaking, thirst-inducing, sweat-producing work, and the workers were expected to start at daylight and work until dark. We were paid by the number of sacks picked. My memory is that we got two cents a bag. Mother realized it was tough work for little children, and our family did not need the money. But, it was a community norm that everyone helped bring in the harvest. So Phyllis and I worked. Mother always had a large hot meal prepared for us when we returned home. As I recall, the meal often included a giant baked Idaho potato which we had brought home from the field the previous day. Becoming a bucker was a sure sign that the testosterone had kicked in. It was a very important “right of passage” for which I longed, if for no other reason than to avoid the pains of picking. My moment came when I was hired to work in a processing shed. There was a machine setup which washed the potatoes and spread them onto a moving conveyor belt where women sorted the potatoes by removing the number two grades and culls. The number one grades went to the baggers at the end of the conveyor belt.
“My job was to dump the bags that came from the fields into the hopper which fed the process. It was machine-paced and very hard work. One day one of the men who worked on the bagging end of the conveyor did not appear for work, and I was assigned to fill in for him. We were running 15-pound string mesh bags. My new job was to pick up a bag, open it, hook the back of the bag onto two needle-sharp projections, hook the front of the bag onto two needle-sharp projections, pull a slide mechanism which opened the top of the bag into a square, then rotate the large horizontal wheel onto which the bag had just been attached so that the opened bag was in position to receive the potatoes coming off the end of the conveyor. This was the key role for the whole operation. The speed of the line was determined by how fast the two of us doing this could get the bags on the filling device. The potatoes inexorably kept coming.
“I was utterly unskilled at performing this task. Thus I very frequently snagged my fingers or hand on the needle-like bag holders. By lunchtime my hands were bloody and extremely painful. I went home for the hour lunch break. Mother cried when she saw my hands. She tenderly washed them as well as she could. I couldn’t eat, so I lay down on the kitchen floor and rested for about half an hour. Mother cried again as I went out the door to an afternoon of great pain, but she let me go. I was about 14 years old.”
“In the summer of 1942, when I was 14, I obtained a job working as a handyman in the town’s busiest service station. One of my tasks was to prepare tires for recapping. My job was to grind off all the old tread and to create a roughened surface to which the recap rubber was first glued. Then it was cooked both to weld it to the tire base and to create the tread. It was a very dirty job. A man was employed to do the gluing and welding. I also had a multitude of other tasks including waiting on customers, cleaning the restrooms and everything else that needed cleaning, and washing cars by hand. My most skill-requiring work was to lubricate cars. Today most lubrication is built into the car for life. In 1942 there were usually about 25 separate lubrication nipples located in different places on each of the many different models. I had to memorize all the locations. My entire summer consisted of working for two-and-a-half months. For most of that time I covered a shift alone.
“It was demanding work, and when I saw all the other youths my age pass by the station on their way to the Snake River swimming hole, I seriously wondered about the need for me to be working. My one consolation was my imagining that the girls would see me as a “manly guy.”
“At the end of the summer, the owner of the station paid me $100 for my work. He should have paid me $500. When the man who did the recapping learned what I had been paid, he quit his job saying he wouldn’t work for a man who was so unfair. I learned an important lifelong lesson: always establish the rate of pay at the beginning of the job.”
High school track photo
“Because so many young men were in the military service, work opportunities were plentiful. It was because of this phenomenon that I was able to get a very lucrative summer job the year I was 15. I listed my name with the county agent for a farm labor situation, hoping that through his work with area farmers, he might hear of someone needing help. I was not aware that he was, at the time, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to hire men 18 and older to work on a special project to kill crickets in the Idaho desert. Early one morning the USDA truck arrived to pick up the men who had been hired in St. Anthony. One of the men had not arrived and could not be reached. The county agent, thinking I was older than I was, called our house and reached my mother. He explained the situation and said that, if I could be ready in half an hour, the truck would pick me up and I would be gone for the summer. I, as was my daily custom, had gone swimming. Mother sent someone to get me, and in 30 minutes I had run home (half a mile), packed, and was in the back of the USDA truck with about 20 men from Rigby and Rexburg, on my way to Dubois, Idaho.
“Dubois consisted of a school, a church, an ancient hotel with restaurant, a bar with lunch counter, a small grocery store, a barber shop, a gas station, a few poor houses, and an abandoned lumberyard building.
“Dubois is located deep in the great Idaho desert. It straddles the highway between Idaho Falls and Butte, Montana. There must be a stream of water nearby because there is farming there, but I never saw the stream. The town is located in a great habitat for “Mormon crickets”. Several years before my acquaintance with Dubois, a mammoth band of crickets invaded the town. They ate everything with cellulose in it. They ate tablecloths off the tables, wallpaper off the walls, and clothes in the closets. They literally ate the town.
“The abandoned lumberyard building was to be my home for not only this summer, but also the next one as well. The truck rolled up to the building, and we were told to find our bunks inside. Because I was the last one picked up, I was on the back of the truck and was thus the first one off. There was no shade, no fans, and the temperature was about 95 degrees. It didn’t require any brains to figure that to be by a window would be a very good idea. I put my bedroll on the best bed in the room. Carl Woodmansi from Rexburg, who was several years older and 30 pounds heavier than I, started to remove my bedroll. I stopped him. He assumed a fighting posture. I knew that since I was several years the youngest and much the smallest person in the group, if I failed to stand up to Carl I would be the whipping boy all summer. I also realized I was in for a beating. Just as fists were about to fly, a fellow who was as large as Carl and was the star athlete from Rexburg stepped between us. He said to Carl, “You can fight this boy but you’ll have to whip me first.” Carl backed down fast, and I was saved. Later I was able to return the favor—sort of. My savior, whose name I can’t remember, got so drunk and sick he couldn’t get from town back to the lumberyard. I half carried him home and put him to bed.
“The night of our arrival I met my second savior of the day, Mr. Noninni. He was a government entomologist and the second in command of the cricket war. He distributed some forms we had to complete to become officially employed. On one of them I had to record my age (15) which I did honestly. When he saw my age, he informed me I couldn’t be employed because I was too young. I pleaded ignorance of the rule and promised to work better than any of the others. He gave in to the practical point that, since the truck couldn’t take me home for a week, he would let me work for a week.
“The first job for the whole crew was to mix a mountain of sawdust with bran and poison to use as cricket bait in the coming campaign. This was done manually with scoop shovels. I worked very hard and made sure I was working where he could see me. The issue of my age never arose again, and I was hired for the next summer, though I was even then too young to be employed.
“The second job was to find the crickets. The crew was taken out into the desert and dropped off the truck one by one, at intervals of about half a mile. We were to walk in one direction and estimate the distance to each cricket band to which we came. We would be picked up at the end of the day on a road some miles distant. I didn’t think of it at first, but when I came to the first cricket band, I found that the band was so large there was no way to walk around it. Mormon crickets are not pretty creatures. They must be about one-and-a-half inches to two inches long and are very fat. Walking through them was crunchy, squashy, sickening. But that was not the worst. They crawled up my pants, got on my bare hands and arms, and I feared they would get on my face and neck. I stuffed my pant legs into my stockings to keep them from crawling up my legs. And did I mention ticks and rattlesnakes? Happily we only did this for one day.
“The two crop duster planes arrived and my job changed. I was placed on a plane-loading crew. The process was for the loading crew to get up at 3:00 A.M. and to ride on top of the filled bait bags in the truck to one of many places in the desert where the sagebrush had been scraped off the dirt to make a crude landing strip. We would unload the bags of bait from the truck in a line along the side of the landing strip. The plane would land and pull alongside the bait. I would run to the plane and climb from the lower wing into the rear cockpit. The other members of the crew passed the bait bags to me, and I opened and dumped them into the front cockpit which had been converted into a hopper for the bait. The hopper was filled in about one minute. Then I quickly jumped from the plane, and the pilot climbed in and took off. All this was timed by a woman. The government paid dearly for the time the plane was on the ground as well as when it was in the air, but the rate was different. There was urgency to minimize the ground time, and I was chosen to be the dumper because I was the fastest. This was the crucial part of the process.
“The plane flew usually 20 to 30 minutes to get to the crickets, drop the bait, and return. During this time the loading crew had nothing to do; so we slept on the bait bags. Early in the summer I learned that, by blanking all thoughts from my mind, I could be asleep within 30 seconds. At first this was extremely hard to do, but I became remarkably proficient at it. I wish I could still do it.
“The restaurant made sack lunches for most of the crew. To save money, I made my own lunches. This I did by spreading jam on bread. After going through one small jar of strawberry very quickly, I next bought a giant jar of orange marmalade. I didn’t know anything about orange marmalade, but it was cheap and looked good. On the first day of orange marmalade sandwiches, I learned I had made a big mistake. By lunchtime the juicy parts of the marmalade had soaked into the bread and crystallized making the bread hard as if it were very stale. Left between the bread slices were long strips of bitter rind. The sandwiches were terrible, but I was too frugal to throw the marmalade away. My memory is that I ate those bitter, hard sandwiches all summer. It probably wasn’t that long but it seemed like it.
“The main meal of the day (supper) some of the crew ate at the lunch counter in the saloon. The cleaner-living ones like me ate at the restaurant in the hotel. (We were paid a living allowance by the government; otherwise I should probably have eaten orange marmalade sandwiches for dinner as well, to save money.) Choosing the less sinful restaurant did not save me from succumbing to temptation. In the restaurant there was a nickel slot machine. I resisted it for a while, but eventually I dropped in a couple of nickels from my change. Satan wanted me. I know this because I won a quarter. I was hooked. From then on I played the thing quite regularly. It was the third most exciting thing about being in Dubois.
“Sadly this was not the only vice I acquired while on this job. Some of the colorful phrases used by the smoking, drinking, gambling members of our crew gradually crept into my vocabulary. By the end of the first summer I was speaking the language very well. Even to this day, 56 years later, when provoked I can still slip into that gear, much to the consternation of my wife, who never heard these words while growing up. She thinks I am the only one in the LDS Church who uses them. In my heart I keep repenting, but my tongue keeps slipping. It would be much better if I had not started the practice. You now know it isn’t me who does it: it’s just my tongue.
“The crew included perhaps ten young women who were the time keepers and flaggers. Some of the male members of this anti-cricket army had long circulated horrible rumors about the morals of these women. It was said that some of the flaggers, who moved the flags to guide the airplanes in their bait-drop runs, took off their blouses to get suntans while doing their jobs. The overall boss drove a small panel truck with a mattress in the back. Those with overactive imaginations reasoned there could be only one purpose for this bed. I discounted these rumors, but I didn’t dismiss them. They made the women seem sort of exciting even though they weren’t very attractive.
“One Saturday the bosses took the whole crew to a swimming pool some distance from Dubois. The women went too. I was having a wonderful time. Swimming was one of my favorite things. Everyone else seemed to be having a good time also. This was especially true since everyone except Mr. Noninni and I was getting drunk. The big boss and one of the better looking women were sitting on an underwater ledge that ran around the pool at about the three-and-a-half-foot depth. They were openly hugging and kissing. Then the rumor started to circulate that the woman had removed the bottom part of her swimming suit. I didn’t really believe this, but it did give credence to the panel-truck-bed theory, and what if I were wrong. One couldn’t be too obvious about attempting to check it out, thus I didn’t dare to venture very close. I, along with all the other young men, spent most of the rest of the day underwater. I didn’t see anything that would have added a very important facet to my education. I think somebody had a very gullible audience.
“In Dubois I got one bath a week. Many barber shops in those days had a bathtub, and for 25 cents one could get a tub full of hot water, a small bar of soap, and a clean towel. Saturday was the day when people bathed, if they bathed at all. I was one of the few in our crew who bathed, so there was never a line at the barber shop. I loved that bath and how I felt for the rest of the day.
“Saturday was also the day for playing cards and getting drunk. There was no other entertainment available in Dubois, so I would go to the saloon to watch “Ace”, one of the crop duster pilots, play poker with some local gamblers. I was astounded by the amounts of money that passed over the table and the cavalier way the players dealt with it. It was slow moving, but for me, high drama. It was one of the few games in town.
“The other crew members typically went to the other saloon where they played pool and got drunk. I played a lot of pool too, but not on Saturday night. As Saturday night developed, the crew members at the saloon progressed from being jovial and fun, to being ill-tempered and boisterous, to fighting, and to vomiting. After Dubois I was never tempted to drink.
“At first I wasn’t tempted by tobacco either. As the summer wore on, the tobacco temptation started to kick in. It was something to do. For a young Mormon boy it was forbidden, thus daring; and everyone was doing it. The downward spiral to hell started with my buying a bag of Bull Durham tobacco. The objective of this was not to smoke it, but to learn to roll a cigarette. Some of the crew could roll one with one hand. I practiced doing this until I became quite good at it. The last step in the rolling process is to lick the edge of the cigarette paper and to roll the tobacco and paper onto the wetted edge. This glued it and formed a cylindrical hand-rolled cigarette. Getting some of the tobacco in ones mouth was inevitable. I started to leave the small bits of tobacco there. Then I would deliberately place a small amount of tobacco into my mouth. Finally I said to myself, “This has gone too far.” I quit cold turkey.
“As evidence of how desperate the citizens of Dubois were for entertainment, a traveling showman whose performance consisted of demonstrating black light, filled the school gymnasium. I attended. It was a pretty poor substitute for a movie, but the locals seemed really impressed with seeing their shirts glow in the dark. I’m glad I went though, because I felt I was exhibiting an appetite for culture that I was sure the citizens of Dubois did not expect from the cricket-control crew…”
“The big social event at Dubois the second summer was the arrival of a carnival which included a couple of sideshow acts. Dubois did not have the financial power to attract first-class traveling shows. This one was about tenth-class. The most popular act among the intellectual cricket-control crowd was put on by a hermaphrodite. Before I even knew what a hermaphrodite was, I saw the man/woman sitting outside his/her performance tent. Based solely on appearance, I thought this person had descended to the bottom rung of human dignity. Don Coburn, in the effort to expand his store of knowledge, paid the horrendous price of $5 to see the act. Neither Wayne nor I wanted to see it, so Don and most of the cricket controllers went without us. Don reported that for $5 the crowd received a lecture on hermaphroditism. For an additional sum of $5 one could see those parts of this person’s body that made him/her a hermaphrodite. Don paid and saw. For still more money, one could see the person perform a sex act with an animal (a donkey). Don chose not to see this final indignity.
“It is amazing to me, that from such innocent beginnings, such debased situations can arise. I thought we were merely lightheartedly attending a carnival. I would never have dreamed that most of my companions that night would tumble into a mind-branding debauchery. I think that all of my life I have been protected from things like this. That I still remember the event after about 60 years, though I didn’t even attend the show, causes me to wonder what havoc actually seeing these perverted things would have wrought.”
“During the summer between my sophomore and junior years at the University of Utah, I helped my parents refurbish the house to which they had just moved in Idaho Falls (461 4th Street). My father and I (I called him Dad) built two bedrooms and a bathroom in the basement. In addition I oiled the shingles and painted the house.
“My lifetime career was to be a production manager for Procter and Gamble Mfg. Company (P&G). When I started with P&G in 1957, it was probably the most desirable company to work for in the world. To get the job, I first was interviewed by two P&G upper-level managers at the graduate placement office of the University of California, Berkeley (UC). Apparently I did well in that interview, because I was invited to take a four-hour test which was tougher than the graduate school entrance exams I took both at BYU and UC. I later learned that I achieved an amazingly high score on that test. Next I was invited to the Sacramento factory for interviews with the top managers of the plant. These would be the people for whom I would work if hired. And I was hired. I arranged to start work the Monday after my last Friday class. This surprised the Sacramento managers. Everyone takes a break between school and work. Not I.”
It’s difficult to relate to for most, but when near-death is a recurring theme in one’s experience it has a natural affect on how you approach life. No one can argue that Grandfather has had his priorities straight for his entire life, and death had a lot to do with it. It’s why he began his autobiography with the chapter ‘War’. This is how he began it: “Like it or not my life has been profoundly influenced by war. And I liked it…” And then he proceeded to tell lighter-hearted stories to give his book the digestible narrative he apparently felt it needed. Look at the contrast in how he ended the chapter:
“I chose to commence my story with this chapter on war because war has been almost a continuous presence and a major influence throughout my life. In my youth I heard stories of my father’s military training in St. Louis, and of his being a bugler for his company. Uncle Bill told stories of being torpedoed and being in France. These were fascinating stories told over and over from my youngest years. World War II dominated almost every aspect of life during all my high school years. In my freshman year at the University of Utah, I was thrown into competition with 10,000 returning servicemen who were much more mature than I. Graduate schools were filled beyond capacity and entrance was extremely difficult. Korea, my personal war, came. Because of it I withdrew from law school, met Carolyn, and attended Cal Berkeley.
“Not even counting the world wars and all the wars other nations have fought during my lifetime, the U.S. has been in wars in Panama, Granada, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. For 40 years the Cold War penetrated every day with some level of fear. It has truly been a century of war.
“Although I was not personally involved in the Vietnam War, it was emotionally more troubling to me than any of the others. The United States seemed to be coming apart. Young people refused to serve, refused to stand for the national anthem, and attacked the principles which I had fought for and some of my best friends had died for. The drug culture seemed to be the offspring of the troubled Vietnam War times. I was upset for much of the time from 1960 to 1980.
“The first line in this book proclaimed that I liked the influence of war in my life. I lied. War has mercifully pushed me out of paths that I thought I wanted and now know I didn’t. It has put me in places where great opportunities and people existed. It gave me a chance to be part of something very, very big—where I was part of a team with resources beyond my comprehension, and we made things move. Each day, because of war, there has been something to hear and think about that frightened, or inspired, or relieved, or hurt. Some of it has even been fun. However, as I have written this short account, I have reflected more deeply on the subject. I conclude that war for me has been physically risky. It has deprived me of much needed and wanted opportunities. It has been devastating or disastrous in the lives of some people who were very dear to me. It has been divisive for our citizenry; and the cost in human misery and life of all forms has been astronomically high. I now conclude that I should like to try life again without war, but only if I could still find Carolyn.”
Here is one instance in the navy when he was at the brink of death:
“What I should have received a battle star for, but didn’t, occurred when our destroyer squadron and an aircraft carrier steamed from our station off the Korean coast to Hong Kong. The sea was running very high, and on the most direct course to Hong Kong, the waves were coming at us from the starboard side. Any ship will ride a heavy sea best if it meets the waves with the port or starboard bow or stern. The ship rolls terribly if the waves come straight at the side (or beam). We destroyers, being small, were really rolling. The aircraft carrier, being huge, was rolling a little bit. The admiral on the aircraft carrier came up on the inter-ship radio to talk with the destroyer squadron commander, a captain. He said, “How are the small boys riding? Shall we alter course and speed?” The destroyer squadron commander, wishing to perpetuate the myth that destroyers could do anything aircraft carriers could do, said, “Do not to alter course or speed.”
“The die was cast. We would suffer to maintain our honor. I spent the entire night, when off watch, sitting on the floor of my cabin with my feet braced on one wall, my back braced on another wall, with a much-used bucket in my lap. The roll was so severe that I would have been thrown out of my bunk.
“Our destroyer was so designed that it would roll over and sink if it rolled 47 degrees. The next morning the roll indicator on the bridge registered at least one 45-degree roll. I think the squadron commander should have been court-martialed.”
Here’s a hilarious instance of being in great danger with his close friends Delvin and Lloyd:
“Delvin was very spontaneous. One Friday afternoon he said, “Let’s go to Yellowstone for the weekend and see if we can meet some girls.” We loaded his family’s pickup truck, picked up another friend, Lloyd, and took off. This truck happily was not the Spillman’s family car. It was a vehicle his father used for odd jobs connected with his work as a mechanic. The truck many years ago had reached retirement age, and then passed that to reach obituary stage. It was barely alive only because Delvin’s father was a genius at keeping old cars running. As parts rusted, remodeling replaced metal parts with wood. By Yellowstone-trip time, the truck bed was grease-coated planks around which there were no sides.
“There was room for just two in the cab, so one of us was always riding the flatbed part of the truck. On Saturday morning we did some cruising in the park. In those days it was common to see begging bears by the roadside, and almost everyone fed them. We encountered such a bear and stopped to feed it. We didn’t have much food so didn’t feed it very much. We stopped feeding the bear before the bear stopped eating. Delvin and I got in the cab and started to drive away. The bear knew there was food for the taking on the back of that truck. It decided to take it. Lloyd started to pound on the roof of the cab. We looked back and saw the bear about to join Lloyd. Delvin floored the gas pedal on the old truck. The truck moved slowly forward up the hill on which it had been parked. Then it was that Lloyd showed an impressive ability to think in the face of danger. He dropped an egg off the back of the truck just in front of the bear. The bear sucked up that egg so fast you would have thought it had been trained to do it. The pause was long enough to get the truck speed from 10 to 12 miles per hour. Another egg—another two miles per hour. Our dozen eggs bought us about 25 miles per hour, which was just enough to get us to the top of the hill one leap ahead of the bear. We told Lloyd he should have used only four eggs because the other eight were Delvin’s and my breakfast.”
His friends Delvin and Lloyd later nearly died adventuring in 70-degree-below weather. Both experienced severe frostbite, had toes amputated, and Lloyd took away permanently mangled hands from the experienced. Unrelated to his event, Delvin crashed his plane in the Air Force five years later and died.
Grandfather wrote about three other instances in his life where he almost died and one when he saved his son, Stuart, from near death. However, he went into barely any detail at all about the death he witnessed or was affected by during his time at war, or those of the many people he was close to who were involved in other wars. He made it clear, though, that his entire life was affected by it.
This was his crowning achievement after an upbringing of greatness. Several references to his adored wife throughout the autobiography suggest this is how he viewed it, but he was too humble to acknowledge the qualities above as what made him worthy of her.
“My transfer from the U.S.S. Erben DD631 to the Treasure Island Receiving Station occurred about two weeks before Christmas 1953. I knew no one my age in the Bay Area, but I knew enough to go to church. I learned there was to be a Christmas dance at the Berkeley chapel, and I, all alone, attended. I was sort of standing around when I saw a familiar and beautiful woman talking with someone. I recognized her to be Carolyn Edwards. I knew who she was because, during the year I was at BYU (1951-1952), she was what was called a “big wheel on campus.” She was secretary of the student body presidency, attendant to the “Belle of the Y”, and the daughter of the most famous and prestigious professor at BYU. He was also dean of the College of Commerce and later vice president of the University. I was impressed. Had I known her grade point average I would have been even more impressed.
“Actually I had been introduced to her briefly by her father. It happened this way. I attended graduate school at BYU for the summer term before I went into the Navy. Carolyn’s father, being the dean of the College of Commerce, felt that I, a graduate student in that college, should have a close association with him. He hired me to help him write a series of lectures for an elementary economics class he was preparing to teach. During my first meeting with him, Carolyn just happened to come to his office,
and he introduced us. I made such an overwhelming impression that she promptly forgot the incident. She still doesn’t remember it.
“I had seen her once when she was nine, and I was twelve. Her family traveled to St. Anthony to visit the Alton Bramwell family. Alton was her father’s stepbrother. I was a very good friend of Shirleen Bramwell, Carolyn’s cousin by marriage. I had been alerted by Shirleen to watch for her rich relatives from New York. In St. Anthony this was a noteworthy event. So while watching, I saw a young girl get into or out of the car. I can’t remember which. But I, all these 60 years later, still remember her. If Deity Himself had told me I should someday marry that girl, I should not have believed Him.
“I pumped up my courage, polished the battle stars on my Korean service ribbon (I was wearing my uniform at the time), and reintroduced myself. She was polite enough but clearly did not know anything about battle stars. I was able to learn that she attended the San Francisco Ward. That was all I needed to know. From that moment on she did not stand a chance.
“Carolyn had plenty of suitors before that night in Berkeley. I am confident that none of them had even close to the instincts for winning Carolyn that I later proved I had. It was not love-at-first-sight for me. It was not even notice-at-first-sight for her. I decided to assume that her obvious lack of enthusiasm at our first meeting was the result of shyness. I resolved to let her meet the real, wonderful? me, and for me at least to get to know her. The credentials I knew about her made her a prime candidate for my possible affection. I would give it my best shot.
“The next Sunday you know where I was. I learned that Carolyn was involved in some kind of rehearsal that coming Tuesday night at MIA. Tuesday night I was—you know where. I had made the acquaintance of another LDS naval officer who was stationed on a mine sweeper based in San Francisco. I told him I was going to MIA Tuesday. He asked me to pick up his overcoat which he had left at the chapel. This proved to be a real advantage. Carolyn’s rehearsal ran well past ending time for MIA, and I needed an excuse for hanging around for most of an hour. There were two coats left in the cloak room: Carolyn’s and his. Obviously, I had to wait until the person who owned the other coat came (i.e. Carolyn) to make sure I didn’t take the wrong coat. O.K., so it was very flimsy, but it worked. I met her in the cloakroom and offered her a ride home. She accepted I think because at 10:30 P.M. buses would have been very scarce.
“Carolyn lived at the Stanford Hospital nurses quarters. She was attending Stanford to obtain her registered dietician certification. On the way there I greatly impressed her by telling her the story of how I had killed my pet mouse when I was at the University of Utah by smashing it on the sidewalk. I was really rolling now.
“Thursday I called for a date after church. We would go to dinner and then do something afterward. I was very nervous to make the call, but I mentally polished my battle stars and did it. Her answer was something like – wellll uh OOOO.K. I was pleased it had gone so well.
“I chose to take her to the Cliff House, a famous restaurant located on a cliff just at the entrance to the Golden Gate. It has a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. I thought she might be impressed by my wealth (it was very expensive), and with the fact that I had crossed that very ocean twice, once going and once coming. (For our 45th wedding anniversary we went back there for dinner. Things there hadn’t changed.)
“After lunch I drove her in my Hudson Hornet across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mt. Tamalpias. Climbing this mountain presents one with a panoramic view of the entire San Francisco Bay area. You need not climb to the top of the mountain to obtain a perfectly adequate view. I did not know Carolyn. In her paradigm of life, if you start to climb the mountain, you climb to the top of the mountain. This concept of hers has highlighted the lazy side of my nature many times since that day so long ago. We started to climb Mt. Tamalpias, and we finished both Mt. Tamalpias and her go-to church shoes. I confess I was impressed with the gung-ho nature of this girl. After about a month of dating, it became obvious to Carolyn that I was monopolizing all of her time. Since I wasn’t yet the man of her dreams, she started to rebel at this. I had obtained orchestra center-section tickets for the San Francisco Ballet performance of Giselle. When I asked her to go with me, she made the case that we were dating so frequently that all of the other men assumed she was taken (my plan in perfect execution). Maybe we should see each other a little less frequently. I said something like, “That is O.K. with me. What should we do about Giselle?” We agreed to go to the ballet, and then in her words, slow down. In my mind I thought I would just kill this trend very quickly.
“After the ballet Carolyn inadvertently dropped an earring in my car. About two days later I found it, and I mailed it to her without a note thus implying that it might be a long time before I would call again. I knew I was taking a chance, but I also knew that she didn’t want a groveling clinging vine. So I would go completely the other way. It worked. She sent me a card, which she handmade, showing a little girl saying, “I sorta misses you.” That may have been the over-the-top event for me. I knew I loved her, and I would do everything I could to win her even if continuing to play unfair was required.
“I hadn’t won yet. She still thought she should date other men. When I delayed a little too long asking her for a date to the Church’s main social event of the year, a multi-stake Gold and Green Ball, she accepted a date with another suitor. I told her it was O.K., I’d get another date. One of my best friends in the Bay Area was a young, but older than I, LDS chaplain. He had a friend who needed a date to this dance, so I asked her. She was a couple of years older than I, very sophisticated, and absolutely gorgeous. When I arrived at that dance with that woman on my arm, I think Carolyn for the first time in her life, felt a deep and mortal wound of jealousy. From then on I had full access to her calendar.
“We had glorious times together: dinners at the Ku Wah Café in Chinatown, a special trip to Santa Cruz, symphony concerts, and a formal dance sponsored by her class of dietetic interns. For this event I sent her the most beautiful flower that Podesta Baldachi Florists had. At the time this was the most prestigious florist in San Francisco. The corsage I sent was a begonia. They are rarely used in corsages, but this one yielded raptures. On another occasion we went to a concert after eating thousand-year-old duck eggs in Chinatown. Actually Carolyn ate the egg which had been buried in dung for a year. I faked it. Eating the egg was another example of her desire to experience life to the fullest and her inability to taste, a failing that the whole family accuses her of having. She became so thirsty during the concert that every ten minutes she crawled over about eight people to get to water. I pretended she was not with me.
“I was writing home about all the things Carolyn and I were doing together. My parents, as they would have said it, “smelled a rat.” Still having protective parental instincts, they arranged a trip to San Francisco to meet this woman who apparently was trying to take away their only son. They seemed intuitively to know that an engagement was imminent, even though at that time I was vacillating. They even brought the diamond that my father had given Mother when I was born, and which had been dedicated to this use since then. They met Carolyn. She passed. The pathway was open.
“Carolyn’s parents got involved when Carolyn went to Provo for some reason. As I get the story, I was the main topic of conversation during her visit. I think I may even have been the reason for the visit. She and her father made a large chart comparing all of my good and bad qualities and potential with all of the other men she had ever known, plus especially all those currently in the running for her hand. (Thank heaven they didn’t include comparisons with her brothers.) Talk about your romantic flood of emotional love—this was the antithesis. If anyone ever got engaged on the sole basis of scientific analysis, I was that one.
“We had been dating for only about three months when a climactic moment occurred. We had been on a date and were in the process of returning to her dormitory. We parked in front of the nurses’ residence and continued talking. The old bugaboo arose one more time. Carolyn wondered aloud if just maybe she should be dating others. I was getting tired of this subject, and I let it show in a dramatic fashion. I said something about a dagger to my heart and that perhaps our relationship was not to be. Carolyn, not wanting things to slip that far, then uttered the eight most important words in your, our posterity’s life. She said, “Won’t you please take a chance on me?” There have been to date 48 years of debate on exactly what those words meant. I believed then and still believe they meant, “Cliff won’t you please marry me?” She contends they only meant, “Let’s not quit dating completely now.” I then said something like, “Yes Carolyn, I love you, and I will marry you.” She said to herself, “I can back out of this tomorrow if I have to.” But she didn’t.
“The first step in the formal engagement process was to inform the woman’s parents that a proposal had been made and accepted. We were sort of past the asking-the-father-for-the-daughter’s-hand era. Still, there was always the possibility that the woman’s parents would disapprove, and that would be ugly. I had come out on top or at least O.K. on the suitor comparison chart. But Carolyn was young, 22, and another, better suitor could appear as unexpectedly as had I. This communication with her parents had to be handled just right.
“It was a day or two after our “Won’t you take a chance on me” conversation that we decided to call Carolyn’s parents and break the good news. In all the years I have known Carolyn’s parents, they have never shown much emotion, either positive or negative.
“The conversation took place from a pay phone on a busy street in San Francisco. My memory of my part of the conversation went something like this. “Hello. Wonderful news. Carolyn and I are engaged to be married. I know we have known one another for a short time, but I love her deeply, and I will make her happy.” Father’s response was about like, “Yes, Cliff, we understand. This is indeed important news. We shall be coming to San Francisco very soon to meet you. Thank you for the call.” It was clear to me that I had to do something really, really positive before our San Francisco meeting. I decided on a letter.
“I had nothing to do at my job. (Remember that I, at that time, was still the Barracks Billeting Officer.) So I devoted about three full days of Navy time writing the letter. It wasn’t made easier by my knowing that Carolyn’s mother had been an English teacher. I wrote and rewrote, double checked the spelling of every word, and finally sent the letter. There has always been great doubt in my mind about how well the San Francisco meeting went. There is no doubt that the letter hit the bull’s eye. Mother Edwards kept that letter for 40 years or more and referred to it many times, not only in my presence but also in the presence of others. She loved it!
“The parental meeting came and went. Carolyn and I continued our courtship though now engaged to be married. It was a glorious time of achievement for her and for me, with fun times together. One such time was a day-long trip to Santa Cruz. We visited the Winchester Mansion, and experienced one of those houses built on a hill with angles that make you think gravity has run amuck. We saw the town and started home. The one and only thing I had ever found that I thought might possibly need changing in Carolyn was that she seemed to be quite inhibited. On this occasion, very diplomatically and intending to be helpful, I said to her, “Carolyn, you know something, you are way too inhibited.” Right off I could tell that she didn’t think she was way too inhibited. So I said, “All right, I’ll prove it to you.” I rolled down my window and shouted at the top of my voice. Then I said, “I can do that because I am not inhibited. If you wish to prove that you are not inhibited, you will now roll down your window and shout as loud as you can.” She said, “How ridiculously childish. I will not shout out of the window.” I said, “See!” I shouted out the window a few more times just to hear the sound of a human voice. On that same trip I discovered that we were forging stronger-than-dating bonds when I realized we were walking hand in hand to the bathrooms at a drive-in restaurant. Before revealing on a date that I experienced any bodily function other than breathing and swallowing, I would have burst my bladder. Carolyn was the same or worse. Mores were very different when we were young.”
They were sealed for eternity in the Idaho Falls temple in 1954.
Read the next article: 2. A Living Offering.