Our Family Legacy
My thoughts and affections go back many years to my father's life. I remember him as one of God's noblemen. He was always close to me--always concerned for all of his children's welfare. He always worried about the money necessary for a family of five children. If he had a fault, I would say he was forever fretting and worrying about getting enough finances to adequately take care of his family. Although he gave his life's effort to heal the sick, no one was ever turned away from his life's work of healing the sick and afflicted because he didn't have the money for his services. He was generous to a fault.
As a child of four or five I can remember my father, (he would have been a young man of 38) light brown massively curly hair which he combed straight up slightly parted. His face was seamed with wrinkles, (a family trait) kindly blue eyes and a very sympathetic nature. I don't remember ever getting a whipping from him, although I remember him pulling my hair or ear on occasion. He loved music and could play any instrument (more about this later). He was good choir director and could sing any part. He had a fair voice and was always in a choir. Some of the earliest recollections I have are of sitting on a bench in front of choirs listening to them sing the old Latter Day Saint hymns. He could unfailingly pick out the proper note and tone.
He loved the church, although his work kept him away a great many times. I have often heard him bear his testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel. He frequently called his family together to have family prayer before he went out on difficult cases. I personally heard him bear his testimony to the truthfulness of prayer as he frequently went into the closet we had at home and prayed to our Heavenly Father. I guess we children were closest to him when we went on our frequent and many vacations. I marvel at his patience and ability. I can remember the many times he loaded and unloaded the car for the trips we took--tents, feather mattress, food, clothing, etc. for a family of seven on tours all over Northwest Canada to California, lasting over a month, changing camps each night for from one to two months at a time. Yes, we sometimes took extensive vacations camping out the whole time. We would leave early in the morning and see the sun come up over the hills and mother sang, "Up in the Morning Early just at the break of day, driving the cows to the pasture, herding the sheep away." The whole family joined in as we traveled along. So many incidents come crowding back over the years; how we used to count cars as we passed, try to tell what kinds they were from a distance, guessing what kind the next one would be, racing the trains along the track, counting the cars, arguing over the number, having to have daddy or mother settle our arguments, letting long strings with paper tied to them out the window, having saved string for that very purpose.
I guess my dad was the most ticklish person who ever lived. You could point your finger at him and he'd go into hysterics. I remember once driving along the road we had just stopped to buy something in a small store; Dad was driving and he had given us a small amount to buy whatever we had stopped for and he had some change coming back. I don't remember which it was but instead of just handing the quarter to him, they flipped it toward him. It went right down the back of his neck. Mind you he was driving the car. He immediately cringed and acted like it was tickling him. Everyone of the older ones in the car made a dive for the quarter which was slowly disappearing down his neck and tickling him. You can imagine what happened when several hands were placed on the back of his neck. The car weaved from side to side. Dad was frantic trying to steer the car. He put on the brake and at the same time tried to get out of the way of the clutching hands. He finally got the car stopped, recovered the quarter and then we all had a good laugh. My he certainly was ticklish.
I remember the many, many times the family was gotten him on the floor and had a free for all tickling contest. He really had to protect himself. He would let the children maul him to death. He loved children, any children and I'm sure I have ridden many miles on his back throughout our home and in my childhood. He was a real playmate, although we didn't get to see him much as he was always gone to some of his patients. We waited for him to come through the door and then we'd all pile on him and wrestle him to the floor--he loved it and never seemed to tire of our everbearing playfulness.
Back to the travels we enjoyed as youngsters--we were the travelingest family in the West. I guess it comes from our heritage of the out of doors type of pioneer families we came from. I can remember the many fishing trips we went on, for our family really loved to fish and mother really loved to eat them. One of the finest fishing trips came on a visit with my Uncle Chet Thompson, who married my mother's sister, Bertha. They lived at Baker, Oregon. This all happened when I was 13 or 14 years old. Uncle Chet had visited this lake called East Lake, south of Bend, Oregon, back in the wilds of Nowhere. He told glowing and fabulous stories of large trout. Daddy had just purchased a brand new Packard, shiny black, a beautiful car and the finest money could buy. We packed up and started out--boy. You should have seen the roads when we finally started in for the car, we went through brush and trees so close together we had to back up in a few places to even get between them. Scratches appeared on the sides of the shiny new car, gouges dented the fender. My dad was fit to be tied, getting madder and madder as each mile went by. When he was about ready for a final explosion, my uncle said it was just a few miles ahead. He could see that my dad was about to the breaking point and said it quietly as they hadn't spoken to each other for miles. As much as my dad loved to fish, I'm sure he thought that this was the wildest goose (trout) chase he had ever been on. Finally after an interminable few miles the lake came into sight--a beautiful lake and beautiful camp ground. My dad didn't even look at the lake. He was examining his expensive car and shaking his head, thinking he would have to go out of there again. I don't believe I ever saw him so disinterested in fishing. Finally we got camp set up. We hired a row boat and went out onto that beautiful lake--you know what? Not a bite. We talked to several other hardy souls and only a few small fish had been caught. My dad was so mad, but really took it all in good fellowship. My Uncle Chet soothed him by telling him he knew where the fish were and how to get them. I thought, what a wild man to have for a relative.
Early next morning, we rowed out to a spot 100 yards from an abrupt cliff that went down into the water. My Uncle Chet pulled out a package from under the seat, opened it and cut chunks of liver the size of a half finger. We put these on our hooks and on instructions from Uncle Chet let out 100 feet of line. He said as soon as we felt a bite to jerk as hard as we could and then start reeling in as fast as we could. What a dreamer. But do you know for a fact as soon as our baits hit the bottom, we all had bites and we did as he said. Before we could get our lines reeled in, the fish were on top of the water jumping for dear life. They were beautiful. Jumping five to ten times by the time we got them to the boat, we fought them for a half hour sometimes. We had fabulous fishing with fish liver taken out of the fish we caught. We caught them all morning as fast as we could haul them in. The largest we caught weighed about 8 lbs. The smallest was 3 lbs. We supplied all the boats in the vicinity and all the people in the camp. What a day. That is the largest trout I have ever caught--slightly under 8 lbs. Silverside and Rainbow, once in a while a Dolly Varden.
While on our way home in the wildest stretch of the road, my uncle turned to my dad and said, "This is the most beautiful highway I have ever traveled on." He often said, "Do you know? I have never had fishing like that!"
When we first came to Long Beach we lived in a tent city at the locality of the Virginia Hotel. We were near the beach and near town. We spent most of the summer on the beach--a real rest for mother! Daddy went into the Heartwell Building at First and Pine opening an office. I can remember it was on the 9th floor. You could look over all the city from my dad's office window. Business was slow at first. It is a good thing we had a little bit saved from Boise. We then moved down on Belmont Shore on Covina, also near the beach and the bay. We went fishing, claming, boating and bathing. We moved to 3rd and Orange in time for school where I entered 9th grade in time to graduate in June. My father was constantly encouraging us in our church activities and our school activities. He attended some of the games at Franklin Junior High School where I won 3 letters in basketball, speedball, and gymnastics in one semester. My father was very proud of my achievements. I also got a special mention award in citizenship.
My father's business increased to where he was very busy. He was doing mostly adjustments at this time and had built up a real clientele of people and was really building his reputation. I can remember visiting at his office when he had time and he would slap me on the adjusting table and give me a real working over. I can remember he converted several people about this time. He would get them on the table and preach Mormonism to them. They couldn't get away from the first treatment and he usually gave them their moneys worth. It was a question of them coming back and getting their moneys worth and having to listen to the gospel. Many usually came back. Daddy used to laugh telling about how the people really got their moneys worth and the gospel too.
He always paid his tithing. For many years I can remember the checks he wrote to the church. I still have the desk he used in his office. It is in my garage and when I open the drawers, I can see phone numbers, writing and doodling on the bottoms of the drawers--some of my own from those days. My father discouraged me in being a doctor because he said I would be like him, take care of everybody and not worry about the money they didn't have or couldn't pay.
Daddy liked to fish but seldom had the time. He was actually working himself into an early grave for his family. Too bad we didn't realize this. He was always a good provider. There were lean times of course, but over all he kept his family well. He went on summer vacations to the mountains. However, not as much as we went on them in Idaho. We were more busy in church in California than in Idaho. He was Gospel Doctrine teacher. I was Jr. M. Men president and played on the church basketball team.
I got a job through my father after my Sophomore term at Poly High School. I went to work at a men's furnishing store at 3107 East Anaheim which necessitated my transferring to Woodrow Wilson High School as it was closer to my work. I'd get up early and ride my bike to work, sweep out the store, go to school, back to work at 3:30, home at 7:30 in the evening. It was a rough life earning $5.00 to $8.00 a week. that's the way I got through high school. My father encouraged me in the work. I took subjects in school that helped me in the store--math, commercial law, salesmanship, public speaking, and psychology. When coaches Smith and Gardner came to my parents to get them to give permission to play football, my father refused to sign the waiver of injury because he was treating a young man for an injury he had received playing football. No amount of pleading, crying, or begging could shake them from the resolution of my not playing. I was a good potential athlete, winning all intramural championships in school. Then I became so tied up in the store because I thought it was a good future for me that I didn't have time for such trivial things as athletics. Who knows what would have happened? I was preparing for my mission. My dad held that uppermost in his mind and heart. He encouraged me to save and put away as much money for the mission as I could. I finished school in 1929 and was immediately made manager of a branch Men's Store at 21st and Atlantic--$100.00 per month. I thought I was really going places. I bought a Durant roadster, taking some of my mission money against the advice of my Dad. I'm afraid he thought my mission was going "bye the board". Then the depression hit. Men were out of work. Business slackened and we really had hard times. My dad was determined I was going on a mission. Bishop Nielson asked us if we would be ready. We told him we would. My father was proud and happy when I received my call. I can remember him putting his arms around me, tears running down his cheeks and saying. "Vernie boy, you'll be the best missionary in the Southern States.
Then soon I was ready. We traveled to Salt Lake enjoying our trip together. When I was 15 years old he had gotten me a 22 rifle, a Savage, which I still have. We shot it on the way to Salt Lake, stopping whenever we saw a convenient place. He said he'd clean it and wrap it up for me until I got back and when we'd use it again. We had a wonderful trip, mother, Barbara, Dad and I. It was our last one together. I often think back and I can remember him buying me a song book at ZCMI. I still have it among my cherished possessions. He also gave me a small Doctrine and Covenants he had used in the mission field 27 years before. They stayed in Salt Lake during my first few days training in April 1930. My dad was at my side when I went through the temple. I appreciated this. He also attended the 100th anniversary of the founding of the church. We sat together and took part in the Hosanna Shout with clean white handkerchiefs. He was proud of my going into the mission field. I can remember whenever we went to his friends, relatives and when he would meet someone on the street, he introduced me as his "missionary son".
At last the time to separate came. He had to be back at his work and I about my Father's business. He was proud that I had been put in charge of one of the dormitories, helping to get elders settled, accounting for them and reporting on absences or irregularities. I can remember the last few moments of our departure. Tears running down our faces, great love extending from a wonderful man and father. They left, drove away around the block. Mother said daddy said, "I want to see him just once more." They drove back to the mission home, honked the horn as I was still on the porch. Out to the car I went again, was embraced by my father, told to always say my prayers, watch what I ate and remember those at home were praying for me. I can remember through my tears the last time I saw my father.
During the time of April to October I received regular and inspiring letters from my father encouraging me, counseling me, teaching me the gospel. He truly was a man of God. I was in Charleston, S. C. with Elder Franklin Baldwin, staying the evening with Brother and Sister Tomberlin, the branch president, I received a telegram stating my Father had been taken to the hospital and had been operated on for appendicitis. Gangreen and peritonitis had set in and he was in a serious condition. It was quite a shock to me and I humbly prayed whether or not I should go home. I finally decided to finish my mission. The next day I received a telegram stating that he had died. My mother wanted me to come home for the funeral. It was fortunate that I had decided not to go home as I would have arrived home expecting my father to be alive. As it was, I schooled myself clear across the continent to face the ordeal. Many tears were shed as I had plenty of time to think. My memory and thoughts were flooded with many fond memories of a man of God--dedicated to his fellow men in his profession as well as the gospel.
When I arrived home, great sorrow was manifest among our loved ones for Daddy was truly missed by us all. Mother needed help and consideration and I think my coming and development in the six months I had been away helped her over many a weary and trying time. The funeral was held in Long Beach ward chapel--filled to overflowing--tributes beyond imagination and affection. He was truly a great man. One of the last things he said was, "Tell Vernie we'll both be missionaries. I will be preaching in the spirit world and he will be preaching here." This has always been an inspiration and comfort to me in my church endeavors. I look forward to the time I will be with him. He is worthy of Celestial glory. I pray I may be able to see him then and be with him.
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