Our Family Legacy
William Keith Clay was born on Feb 21st, 1930 to Ada Caroline Braeggar Clay, & Thomas Henry Clay. When dad was a year and ½ old his father drown, and his mother gave birth to his brother Tom on the same day, leaving her a young widow with 3 kids to raise during the worst part of the depression. His mother worked hard at odd jobs at the cannery, and elsewhere when she could, but mostly they worked the farm to make sure there was always food on the table. Dad would always tell us stories, of how he only had 2 shirts to his name, which were made out of flour sacks.
Dad got his first job at the age of 8, which was working an onion patch for a local farmer. He would put in 8 hour days and receive a salary of a whopping .50 cents per day. But this allowed him to save up for a couple store bought shirts, which made him feel quite smart. He also was able to save up $26 and purchase a bike, which became his mode of transportation. This robbed us of hearing his cello years later. (told story of his father being a good cello player, and dad having to choose between riding his bike to school, or cello lessons)
Dad said he was a quiet and shy kid growing up…He felt different from the other kids, because he didn't have a father coming to PTA, or athletic events. This always made him feel less important than the other kids. Years later this made him always try hard to be a good father, but he had no role model himself, and mom's father died while she was young, so she wasn't sure how fathers behaved either, and this caused them concern over the time we were being raised. I can't think of a sillier thing for him to have been worried about. Dad was always a good father (told story of dad not any happier with being compared to me than I was him. The point being he was always a father first, and I didn't realize he had his own feelings until late in my childhood).
Dad went on to high school, and found his first true love….football. He was quite good at it, and learned every position on the team except Center. The year dad moved up from junior varsity to varsity, the first day of practice, the coach had dad stand in at defensive tackle while the returning varsity ran the plays to teach the newcomers. Once they started contact, dad started hanging out in the backfield on every play, and the coach was not happy with his offensive line which was double teaming dad, so he chewed 'em out and ran the play again, and the same thing happened. So the coach donned his own set of pads and told everyone to watch as he did the double team block correctly. After the play was over the coach picked himself up and dusted himself off, and as everyone watched in dead silence, the coach said, “there are some people who just won't be blocked, …say hello to our new starting defensive tackle”. Dad also took the job of the offensive lineman that couldn't block him, and played both ways.
After high school dad joined the army one and ½ year hitch, and got his first experience of being away from home and first time riding a train. He did his time in Ft Hood, Texas and was a commo chief for a mech infantry company. He was at first sad to not be line dog, which is more of a hero thing, but as time went by, he saw the difference between what he had to do, and they had to do, and he cheered up about his situation.
After he got out of the army, dad was recruited by and received a 4-year scholarship to play football for the University of Utah. He played defensive end and they won their conference championship both years dad played for them, and got to go to a bowl game in Hawaii. He got some serious interest from the Green Bay Packers, but he received a serious knee injury the next year, and football was done. (Story of game film).
During his time at the U, dad met the second love of his life, and married Lillie Ida Condie, on Aug 28, 1951 in the Idaho Falls temple. (Told story of dad being thrown out of Arizona State Game).
After college dad started 2 full time jobs, the first being a timekeeper for Ryan Aeronautical. The second was being father to what was to become 11 children. The timekeeper job only required a high school diploma, but dad was glad to get a foot in the door. He soon was moved up to the budget office, and eventually became a Budget Analyst. This is what started our nomadic lifestyle, which lasted until 1975 when we move to Bristol. What dad would be assigned to do was when one piece of a larger corporation was going bad and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, they would send dad in as a trouble shooter (dad preferred to call himself a hired gun) to either fix the problem and get them back on the right track, or if the problem was past the point of return, to close it up. This moved us from San Diego California, to Nashville TN, to Houston TX, to San Antonio, back to Nashville, to Oregon, and finally to Bristol.
Now that was his first full time job, but during this time, as I said before he had a 2nd job as father, and as I mentioned before there were 11 of us, and if you do the math there was not a whole lot of time during this period that mom wasn't morning sick, or was staying up late to nurse a newborn, so getting the kids up and fed and off to school fell to dad. He had many methods of getting us out of the sack, first came the loud banging on the door and turning on the lights, and yelling “up and at 'em, first call” and moving on to the next room, as he would walk down the hall he would sing at the top of his lungs one of a 2 song repertoire. “Oh, how we love to get up in the morning” which you could find in the primary hymnal at the time, how that song of evil, satanic torture, got in a hymnal I don't know, the second selection was “Oh, what a beautiful morning” which I was convinced dad made up until I was 16 and actually saw Oklahoma. Who writes a song like that with bugs chirping, and corn as high….he then would go down to the kitchen yelling about how people die in bed. You had exactly 3 min to show that you were up by going downstairs, or making noise, or something. If you fell back to sleep, Dad would be obligated to show you “a trick he learned in the army” Which is how he explained any questionable thing he might do, and pull you out from under the covers over the foot board using only his right hand and your big toe. This was the dreaded “Pigmy Toehold”. If you check any of our feet …..
Next came breakfast, which means a bowl of oatmeal, which we lovingly refer to as mush. Now any fool can follow a recipe and make something, but dad wasn't interested in the ordinary he wanted to make each batch different, and original, special, and by special I mean Terrible. One of his most memorable concoctions was a bowl of mush flavored with root beer extract, the idea being that when you add milk it would be like a root beer float, for breakfast….it was not. On St Patrick's day it would be green….on Easter it would have coconut, and jellybeans on it, we would beg him “father, could we just have the jelly beans, and not ruin them with the mush”. The answer was always no, and eating them this way would put hair on your chest. As he would scoop you out a heaping bowlful of the breakfast nightmare, he would proclaim that he learned this recipe from a voodoo witch doctor while in the army. He would then wax on about how we would appreciate him more when he opened up “Mush parlors of America” and people would come from far away to try one of his 101 flavors….
Most of you know that he served in the church as stake president and stake patriarch, and he enjoyed the blessings of these callings immensely, but as a young man he served on more than one occasion as a Boy Scout Master and enjoyed that position a lot. There were stories of him and his explorer scouts hand tying rope ladders to go spelunking, and being the fearless leader he would try them first. It was said to resemble a Wyllie coyote cartoon as dad tried to scramble back up the ladder as it unraveled underneath his feet. Later on that same adventure some of the braver scouts waited until lights out and all was pitch dark in the cave, to try to sneak over and trap dad in his sleeping bag. As they crawled quietly over to get him, they met a grinning Bill Clay crawling over to get them. He told me years later that if his troop wouldn't settle down at night and go to sleep, he would have them pack up and they would hike to a new camp site 5-10 miles away, or sometimes just do a loop and come back to where they started. This seemed to settle them down.
Dad liked the Bristol area a lot so after he closed down Enterprise Fabucators, he quit Black Diamond Industries, to start a business of his own. He moved us to Abingdon and eventually started CBI Insurance where he could be found working up until 4 months ago.
Dad served a few years on the school board and enjoyed all those experiences, He also served a two year health and welfare mission in the Philippines working with the hospitals, schools and improving employment opportunities, getting to work side by side with mom. (wrapped up with Story of Jack Head's opinion of dad, and comparison to Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird …while everyone else is falling apart, he just quietly went about doing the right thing…. I don't remember how I finished exactly, something about if we all try to be more like dad we will be better for it, and the importance he placed on family.)
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