In the fall of 1929, I started fourth grade with Miss Eyring as my teacher. So another year, another teacher, but little did I imagine the changes a year would make.
Mother’s health had been bad after the birth of my little brother. She would have fainting spells every time she became excited and the Doctor suggested that a lower altitude might help her. So Father gave up his dream of Bryson and Sons and advertized the ranch for sale. He and Mother had seen two places they had wanted to live, so a quick trip to Buhl, Idaho and then one to Payson, Utah. Father announced one morning that he had sold the ranch and we were moving to Payson. I soon learned that my horses, as well as the rest of the boys’ had been included in the sale and only the three best horses would go to Payson.
|Vern and cousin, Keith Johnson, 1929|
A truck was hired to make two trips and all the family possessions were loaded onto one trip and the horses were brought in the second. Of course, there were great fears and bewilderment in a move for a nine year old. We were loaded into the old Dodge and as the truck pulled out with all the household stuff, we fell in behind and moved down into the valley to Payson, Utah.
Dad had bought the old Pickering place on Utah Avenue about a mile west of city center. Payson then had about 3,700 citizens and that was a metropolis for a boy from a town of less than 100.
The farm consisted of about thirty acres all of it very fertile except about five acres which was lower ground and somewhat alkaline. The road, Utah Avenue, ran through the middle of the farm. There were four fields and 20 acres south and about ten acres in through pieces north of the road. The Union Pacific railroad ran along the west edge of the property. On the north, the land was all irrigatable and there was an extremely good irrigation system built in the area so water was always abundant, but never a drop to waste.
The house was a big old two story brick house. It had a unique roof pattern with the roof being almost vertical a the top and curved outward at the eaves. The second story windows were gabled into this fancy wood shingled upper wall. The actual roof had a solid copper sheet, very slightly peaked, but because of the perspective from the ground, you never saw the metal roof. In front of the house, beside the front gate was a huge black willow tree. The tree overshadowed a row of smaller, assorted trees along the road at the front of the farm. There were several Box Elder trees in the back yard. There were then the usual blacksmith shop, granary, chicken coops, corrals, a large barn, and the ever present two-holer. Between the back of the house and the chicken coop was a garden plot, which was so depleted, it would hardly grow anything.
The fields were somewhat starved for nutrition due to lack of fertilizer, and would produce for the first few years only a mediocre yield from the alfalfa, wheat, barley, and sugar beets that were the usual crops. Generally we raised only enough hay to feed the horses and milk cows and depended on the wheat, barley, and sugar beets for the cash crops.
When Father had sold the ranch in Woodruff, he had money enough to pay all the indebtedness on that ranch and enough to pay for the smaller farm in Payson, but since he wasn’t sure of his operating expenses, he paid only about 60% of the cost and put the remainder of the money in the bank for safe-keeping for the eventual final payment. This was March, 1930. By June the bank had failed, leaving the family completely broke and still owing a final payment on the farm. Of course, the depression was hard on us. But the family worked together and planted the crops and pulled weeds and thinned sugar beets and pulled weeds and pulled weeds—and finally harvested the crops. But there was no market for anything except the beets which were raised on contract for five dollars a ton. From the small check and what could raise or work for, we were able to survive comfortably.
The first year we arrived in town, the school bus ran right in front of our house, but because we lived closer to town than the Union Pacific railroad, the bus would not pick us up. On top of this, although there was a new elementary school just about three quarters of a mile away, they wouldn’t accept me as a student because they were full. I therefore, had to walk two miles, one mile to town and one mile out the opposite side to the school where I finished fourth grade. This wasn’t such a big deal since I had been walking this far at Woodruff. And there wasn’t any new snow this late in the winter. My two sisters, Angie and Luella, had to walk even further to high school.
As I would return from school in the afternoon, I would generally run the last mile or so just for the fun of running. Many times as I would run, I would meet a Mr. Johnson who was night guard at the sugar factory. Mr. Johnson road a bicycle from town to work along Utah Avenue. After a few days, he would talk to me and soon we became friends as we travelled, he on his bicycle and I, running. He thought I had a talent in running and encouraged me to practice and would gauge his speed to urge me to compete with him. This was the start of a long athletic endeavor.
Things were different in the new school. Instead of two classes per room, there were two rooms per class. There was also no question who was the biggest kid in class. Merl Probsquard stood about six feet tall and weighed like 225 pounds. And no one, I mean NO one argued with him. Fortunately he was a kindly soul and never bothered anyone intentionally. The school ground was very sloping and the ground was very rocky so there was not much room for ball games or even marble games. The building was so old when I started there was in 1930 the school board had ordered it demolished. At my last trip home (1975) the building was still being used and any plans to replace it had been forgotten. The teacher’s name was Miss Huish. She was nice but very strict.
The fall of 1930, Father made arrangements for us kids to ride the school bus if we walked to the bus stop at the R.R. Depot. Not only did we get to ride the bus, but I was enrolled in the Taylor elementary school on our side of town. My fifth grade teacher was Miss Madge Reese. She was also the principal of the school and a very good teacher. She did a lot to help me adjust to the way of life in the new school. The school here was located on a nice level land very conductive to playing football and baseball. When football was in season, we played football. All other times we played baseball. One day not too long after school started, I was on first base as we started the game. One of the other bigger boys came and pushed me off and announced he was going to be first baseman. Mistake. After a few minutes we were both in the principles office, but I had established my place in the pecking order. Here again we had one boy who was so big just no one ever questioned his authority. The rest of us came after Vern Davis. He, too, was a kindly soul. One of the boy’s names was Reed Clayson. He had a beautiful black mare he rode to school although he only came a half mile. He always had money and as we became friends, he would share his candy, milkshakes, or whatever with me. In the winter, he had a one horse cutter he drove the horse on and in fact, I began to believe he had just about everything until two of my brothers, Dick and Merl took over his family’s farm that they had lost to the depression. Reed moved away that year and I have only seen him occasionally since.
During the winter, one of the boys started a gang of select boys in the class. Surprise—I was asked to join. This wasn’t a bad gang, but exclusive—about a third of the boys were invited in. We made rules prohibiting swearing or smoking or drinking and generally held to Church principles. Out of the gang friendships surfaced that lasted for years. We never really disbanded, but slowly after a period one boy would eliminate himself or move away until all contact with that group of boys has been lost.
Because my brother has bought a farm in Payson also, the next year we shared work. Merlon and his family rented the empty house on the farm next door and the two families shared most everything. The other brother lived at home for the first year then pulled out and left home to work in the mines at Eureka.
In addition to working his farm, Merl got a job working on a local chicken farm for $50 a month and Father started working in the sugar factor after the beets were harvested.
Our first crops were mediocre but Father selected Mr. Simmons, our next door neighbor as our teacher and without say so, started copying what ever Mr. Simmons did. He fertilized, we fertilized; when he plowed, we plowed. Mr. Simmons’ crops produced the highest yield in the valley and so we tried to emulate him.
We always had a few milk cows and I became chief milker; also chief cow handler, driver to pasture and whatever else had to be done. It was my job to drive the cows to the neighbor’s bull at the proper time.
In 1932 I started school at the central school. This was a central location where all sixth graders went. It was located beside the new Junior High School but was another old condemned building. We had three teachers in the school and three rooms of kids. Mr. Wilson was my homeroom teacher, but Mrs. Ellsworth was my favorite and you could have Mr. Wiler. The school was across from the road from the city park and we could either play on the school grounds or go into the park. The ball diamonds were on the school side so that is where I stayed. Again, we rode the faithful school bus ever thankful to Mr. Myers, the driver who picked us up even if we lived inside the tracks.