Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chapter 16

            During my sophomore year, I went back to engineering with more advanced math, algebra, trig, geometry, and physics, with enough outside studies to fill the college requirements. The old gang of kids began to fall apart and only Dickie and I continued to commute to school. We obtained a ride with Keith Perkins, a freshman, and school continued. Var Johnson and Brig Peterson joined the Air Force pilot cadet program and left school. Keith Johnson, my cousin and good friend, started school, but had to drive separately because he had to return at noon to run Var’s service station and eventually bought the station. We took many classes together, but each went his own way. So, the sophomore year came and went.

            During the Summer of 1940, I made an attempt to branch out somewhat. My sister Luella was living in Pioche, Nevada, where her husband, Albert (Pinkey) was working in the mines. He reported they were hiring so I went to Pioche to rustle a job in the mines. I lived with Pinkey and Lou, and their daughter Karen. Each morning, I would go to work with Pinkey and stand out in front of the mine hoping the foreman would hire some. There were about a dozen men each day. Some older men who had worked in the mines, and some were young school drop-outs trying to get a job, and a couple were college students looking for summer work. After the first couple of hours, the foreman would announce no hires today and we would all go home. There wasn’t much work at home either. The house was a small frame home perched on the steep side of a hill overlooking a long narrow canyon which was Pioche. The main street ran down the bottom of the canyon, contained a couple of sycamores and the half-dozen gambling dives. Down at the lower end of town the valley broadened out enough for the Church and the school. All the houses, such as they were, clung onto the hillsides connected by one-lane roads. After a few days, I learned that there was a group of young boxers training under a fairly well-known coach working out each night. So I gravitated to the ring.

            Some of those boys were fighting semi-professional bouts each weekend and, in general, welcomed a pigeon to box with. They had never learned much about boxing and I could easily beat any of them. The coach, of course, wanted me to join his stable, but no thanks, I had better plans. It was fun boxing with the guys, though, and in general, they couldn’t throw a glove on me.

            Later, the town was putting together a baseball team to play in the local league. Of course, I had to try that and after one practice, became the right fielder. The local talent wasn’t quite up to college standards I had been working with. These were fun pastimes, but didn’t make any money for college. By the Fourth of July, it became obvious that there were more experienced miners than jobs, so I went home to Payson. Some of my friends were working at the college doing summer maintenance tasks so I got a job there. It paid 35¢ an hour, but it provided the tuition and books for another year.

            During the summer, I obtained another job helping to remove the smoke stacks from the old sugar factory. The production portion had been unused for several years and the company I worked for had been contracted to pick up the stacks, lay them down on the ground, and then transport them intact to Salt Lake City. They hired a couple of local men, me included, to help. They used a gin pole to lift the stacks and lay them on their sides. The stacks were 110 feet long top of a 45 foot high building. They were made of steel and were about six feet in diameter.

            We laid the first one down with no trouble, and then loaded it onto a truck for transport to Salt Lake. We then lifted the second stack up off the base and cleared the building and put the base on the ground. It was quitting time on Saturday and things had gone so well, they decided they didn’t need the local help and laid off both of us. That ended the best paying job I ever had. I got 70¢ an hour, more than $30 for one weeks work. But then, back to school.

            The Monday after we were fired, the Salt Lake crew tried to lay the stack down—a very simple effort—but a cable broke and dropped the stack right across the roof of the factory. My job had been to secure a cable and play it out from the factory roof right where the stack fell. For once, I was glad I had been fired. The company tried to ship the first one we removed and had an accident on the way to Salt Lake and destroyed that one. They then abandoned the effort before the third stack was removed.

            There was only a few days left before school started and I got a job working with my father loading railroad cars with sugar from the sugar factory warehouse. The sugar was produced in other factories and shipped to Payson for storage. The job now was to ship the sugar from the warehouse to fill the company’s sales. The job paid pretty good, too, and helped considerably with school. After school started, they put on a second shift and I was able to work two or three nights a week for a few weeks.

  When it came time to go back to school, there was no one in town going to drive to school that I could ride with. Dad and I decided that it would be best if I sold two of my cows and bought a car and drove myself, taking riders with me. With the help of my brother, Merl, I bought a 1935 Oldsmobile two door sedan. It was in very good shape and I acquired six riders that paid me $7 per month. It cost me about $20 per month for car costs, and $19 for car payments, so I about got the transportation to school for free. Of course, my two cows were gone.

            This year I was able to pick up the chemistry course I had dropped my freshman year and finished all the humanities required for graduation.

            After about a month, I was hired as a night watchman at the sugar factory. This allowed me about 40 minutes of each hour to study and 20 minutes to make the required rounds. This was an ideal student job. Only it too last a couple of weeks. The manager laid me off and hired his own brother for the job. But two weeks work helped. When the sugar factory went back into production, I got to work on weekends and sometimes at night restacking the warehouse, so my finances were getting very good.

            About November of that year, it was announced that the Air Corps would bring a team of people to BYU to interview and give physicals to any upperclassmen who wanted to join the flying cadet program. I wasn’t much interested, but a large number of my friends were all excited about joining the Air Force. I kidded them and called them little tin soldiers. They retorted that I was just making excuses because I wouldn’t qualify. Just to show them, and since I had to wait for some of them to ride home, I also took the test, then the interview, and then the physical. Of eight of us from Payson, I was the only one to pass. But I still didn’t intend to join the program. Having passed the test didn’t guarantee acceptance so it was not until January I got my letter that Uncle Sam wanted me. I still didn’t intend to go, but then there was the draft law that had just been passed and I would be 21 in the spring, but I still didn’t know. 

            On Sunday an Air Corp plane buzzed the farm and a short while later my cousin, Var Johnson, who had joined the year before and had completed the program, came driving up in his new Lieutenant’s uniform. Var was a good friend and a bit older and I respected him very much. He spent several hours convincing me of the advantages joining the Air Force. The pay sounded good to an old farm boy. I would receive $75 per month plus clothes, food, and lodging. The prestige of being an officer upon graduation with the increased pay appealed to me also. But the regimentation and the strict discipline didn’t appeal to a wild country boy. The fact [was] that the draft was coming up soon [too]. Everyone had to register for the draft when he reached 21 years and my 21st birthday was coming up in May. So, after much consideration, I decided to go. I had before counseled with my folks and they left it strictly up to me. So that afternoon I signed the papers and mailed them in. It was only a few weeks until the appointment came back directing me to report in Salt Lake City on 15 March 1941 to be sworn in.

            While all the excitement of the decision to go into the service was being made, another quarter of school had ended and another year came to an end. The quarter had been good for me and both my grades and finances were in good shape. My call to the Army preceded the end of the semester so I decided to withdraw before the deadline for dropping classes so I wouldn’t be given failure marks and I could recover my tuition fees.

            The last day of school became a traumatic day as many of my teachers tried to dissuade me from leaving school. I remembered Professor Snell’s argument that I never would finish my education if I dropped out of school. I assured him I had every intention of finishing school and eventually becoming an engineer. He was a good friend and teacher and I respected what he said and remembered our conversation as a guide for many decisions later in life.

            I also had an obligation to find rides for my riders but was able to accomplish this in a week or so. I stopped school for the first time I could remember. My idleness didn’t last long and I started working at the sugar factory loading sugar again.

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