History of Marcus Joy Christensen
1 February 1899 Born Brigham City, Utah to Anna Cathrine Jorgensen and Christen N. Christensen
5 March 1899 Given a name and a blessing by C. N. Christensen
18 May 1903 Mother, Anna Cathrine Jorgensen, dies in Brigham City, Utah
28 February 1907 Baptized in Brigham City, Utah by Joseph N. Preece—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
3 March 1907 Confirmed a member of the Church by Don C. Rushton
26 September 1910 Ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood, office of deacon by C. N. Christensen
17 May 1914 Ordained teacher by David P. Burt
5 November 1917 Ordained priest by Hyrum W. Valentine
1918 Graduated from Box Elder High School, Brigham City, Utah
Spent two months in the army, stationed at Fort Douglas
2 November 1919 Ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, office of elder by Frederick Tadje
19 November 1919 Received endowment in Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah
10 December 1919 Departed for Northern States Mission where he spent twenty-two months
29 August 1921 Grandmother Anna Britta Andersson dies in Brigham City, Utah
30 November 1921 Married for eternity to Hazel Johnson in Salt Lake Temple by George F. Richards
3 September 1922 Son Don J. Christensen born Salt Lake City, Utah
16 July 1924 Son Vern J. Christensen born Salt Lake City, Utah
24 October 1926 Daughter Anna Christensen born Salt Lake City, Utah
1927 Hired as a railroad watch inspector
11 October 1929 Son Carl J. Christensen born Salt Lake City, Utah
1929 Sold life insurance for five months but did not like it. Went back to working as a railroad watch inspector for Union Pacific Railroad
17 August 1930 Ordained high priest by Apostle Rudger Clawson
15 March 1932 Started business in Milford, Utah
26 August 1932 Son Paul J. Christensen born Milford, Utah
7 August 1936 Daughter Adele Christensen born Milford, Utah
2 May 1937 Ordained bishop by Apostle Melvin J. Ballard
18 April 1939 Started business in Las Vegas, Nevada in corner of drugstore on First and Fremont
15 February 1941 Bought store at 225 Fremont
15 December 1947 Bought store in Henderson, Nevada
4 November 1952, Elected to Nevada State Assembly; re-elected 1954, 1956, 1958
1954 Was president of Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce for a year
1956 Was president of Better Business Bureau for a year
1958 Started houses on Lacy Lane, M.J. and Hazel at 706, 4 sons on same street;
Was president of Toastmasters Club for short time;
Was president of Transwestern Life Insurance Company;
Received patriarchal blessing from Martin Bunker
15 September 1960 Opened store in Vegas Village, Las Vegas, Nevada
1 October 1961 Opened store in Charleston Plaza, Las Vegas, Nevada
6 September 1962 Departed for mission to East Central States; Made president of McMinnville Branch by President Frank H. Brown
1 May 1963 Opened store on Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada
31 March 1965 Father Christen N. Christensen dies in Salt Lake City, Utah
24 October 1965 Ordained patriarch by Apostle Howard W. Hunter
1967 Was elected to Nevada State Senate
26 August 1968 Bought Hubbard Denn Store in Salt Lake City, Utah
October 1968 Opened store in Vegas Village West, Las Vegas, Nevada
1970 Sold Hubbard Denn store; Became fine jewelry departments in ZCMI stores in Utah
August 1978 Opened store in the Meadows shopping mall in Las Vegas, Nevada
Summer 1981 Opened store in Fashion Show mall in Las Vegas, Nevada
2 August 1981 Daughter Anna C. Whitney dies in Provo, Utah
1 June 1987 Death of Marcus Joy Christensen at home in Las Vegas, Nevada
4 June 1987 Funeral LDS Ninth Ward Chapel 11:00 a.m. Las Vegas, Nevada
Burial Woodlawn Cemetery Las Vegas, Nevada
10 May 1990 Dedication of M.J. Christensen Elementary School, 9001 Mariner Cove Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada
(This history was written by M.J. Christensen in 1982)
This may be more properly called memoirs, because (as Hazel reminds me) it is from memory, and there could be some things that are not exactly right.
My grandmother on my mother’s side was Anna Britta Jorgensen. Her maiden name was Anderson. She was Swedish and spoke with a Swedish accent. She liked to play cards. (Maybe that’s why I do too.) She was very kind-hearted and not lazy. For example, she washed and ironed clothes, carded wool, sewed carpet rags, made carpets and quilts, dried peaches, and knit socks and stockings to make money.
This grandmother thought a lot of me. I knew her better than I did my mother, since my mother died when I was about four. I wish I knew more about her history. I remember one time my father was sick with small pox and had been out of work for so long that there wasn’t much money. Grandma Jorgensen came to see us. When she left, she left a five dollar gold piece. She didn’t have much either, but we did need it badly.
She used to give me money and other things. She started a bank account for me and turned it over to me a little early so that she wouldn’t use it herself. My dad told her not to give me money because she could better use it herself. She said, “Would you deprive me of the few pleasures I have?”
Grandma Jorgensen had three children: two boys and my mother. When Grandpa left her he took the oldest boy with him. This was Uncle Alf. Alf returned to Brigham City at a later date and married a rather large Danish woman by the name of Johanna. They had several children, some of them staying in Brigham City and some scattering and later returning.
Uncle Lawrence was the other son. He and his wife, Aunt Anna, had a similar situation to Dad’s and Mother’s in that they didn’t have any children for a long time. Then they did have one daughter.
When I left for a mission Grandma held me in her arms and cried and said she would not be there when I came back. While I was on my mission, she was living with her son’s wife, Aunt Anna. I wrote to her and to Aunt Anna. One day I wrote to Aunt Anna asking, “What’s the matter with Grandma?” Aunt Anna wrote me the same day saying that Grandma had died. I’m looking forward to meeting her again. I know I wasn’t appreciative enough. But I know she will still think I’m wonderful.
My Grandfather Jorgensen, Mother’s father, was a very unusual character. He left my grandmother and married again several times. He was a most versatile person. He made a living at shoe repairing, tombstone cutting and on the vaudeville stage. He was an excellent ventriloquist, a sleight of hand performer, juggler and balancer. He could do stunts such as putting a man on a chair and then balancing one leg of the chair on his chin. This grandfather, Asmus Jorgensen, inadvertently frightened me very much when I was a small boy. He had a dummy that he used on stage as Edgar Bergen did with Charley McCarthy, and that is what scared me. He was living in Salt Lake City at the time of his death in 1916. I remember visiting him at his shoe shop there in Salt Lake after riding across town on my bicycle.
My dad told me a story about Grandpa Jorgensen. He said when Grandpa and his companion were on their way to Denmark on a mission, they were in New York without any money. Grandpa said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get money.” So he put on a vaudeville show on the street corner and passed the hat. They collected enough to pay their way to Denmark. Grandpa Jorgensen came from Denmark originally but had a German grandfather. He made a headstone for my mother’s grave with a lamb on top. Dad had it removed and a plainer one put there. The stone was deteriorating anyway.
Axel Christensen, my father’s father, was a very short man. He was called by some, Bitte Axel. (Bitte is a Danish word for little.) He liked to joke occasionally. He and I were always very friendly. I remember sleeping with him and finding out about his truss, worn because he had a hernia. One day we were at the chicken yard some distance from the house. I said, “I’ll run you a race to the house.” So we ran. I got there first and said, “I beat!” He kept right on running and said, “Yes, but I came in second!”
Grandpa left Denmark with his wife and four children when my father was about one year old. He was a cabinet maker and a small time farmer in Brigham City. My grandmother was his first wife, but he later married two more times prior to the time I was born. He spent some time in jail with some other Church leaders for his part in polygamy. This was not a trouble-free situation, living in a polygamous marriage. His youngest daughter by his second wife is about the same age as I am. Her name is Euphrasia. She said to me one day not long ago, “I don’t know why they blessed me with a name like that.”
Grandpa lived to a ripe old age and knew some of our children. Three years before his death he had one of his daughters write to my dad. We don’t know which daughter he dictated it to. We found the note among my dad’s things after Dad died.
Brigham City Jan. 17, 1924
Dear C.N. Am writing this for Father. He wants to give you a sketch of his life. I was born Oct 21, 1836. Five years later my mother died. When I was 8 years old I went out to work. At the age of 14 I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church. At 17 started to learn the carpenter trade, was there five years. After having learned the trade one year more, I traveled from one place to another to get more experience in my trade. I then went from Fredricka to Aalborg where I met my wife. We were married by a Lutheran priest in a Lutheran Church. We belonged to that church and we wished to live as Christian people should.
I was never satisfied with that religion, there always seemed something lacking. I then heard so much about the Mormons, but thought them the scum of the earth for they were so very poor. And a whole lot that joined were bad and had been law breakers and bad people. So I thought I would not join them but remain in the Lutheran Church and live an exemplary life. In 1867 I studied the Bible and prayed for knowledge that I might be able to know the truth.
Before two years was up I found the truth. I used to go up on Schowbacken among the trees where I could be alone and pray. One day after having prayed I was standing up and looking towards southeast. The veil was rent asunder and a glorious vision was before me. But I asked the Lord to close it for I was unprepared at that time. A few days after this I was all alone working in a ship at eleven o’clock A.M. All at once the air seemed changed and all about was clear and pleasant. There seemed to be two parties of spirits in the room, good and bad. Finally the good told me to go and be baptized for he had been my constant companion for two years and his time was up now so he must go. That same evening my wife and I were baptized. This was in March 1869.
After this we had a great many trials because of our religion and the Priest tried to do all the harm he could. We lost our two children, which was a bitter trial, for people would not help Mormons, and we were all sick so there was no income. But the Lord helped us which gave my wife her testimony. In 1872 we moved to Copenhagen where we were financially blessed and enjoyed life for three years or more. We were able to save enough to take us to Utah. In 1874 you were born. July 18, 1876 we arrived in Ogden. That was as far as the railroad went at that time. So we came by wagon to Brigham the next day. Am still here. You know the rest of my sketch.
My health is good and I feel fine and would like to do some temple work. So as soon as you can, wish you would send me some of my genealogy and perhaps I could go to the Logan Temple. [end of letter]
Both of Dad’s parents spoke broken English. When they talked Danish, they slipped in some English words if they fit better. My Grandmother Christensen always had cookies for her grandchildren. I remember her saying to us in her Danish accent when we went to see her, “Do you want a kike (cake)?”
This grandmother was my friend too. She saw my dad slap me for something I had done, and she told me she didn’t approve of my dad slapping me and was going to tell him, too!
My father and mother were married at an early age. Dad was nineteen and Mother was a little older. As children came, they found Mother had Bright’s disease. Her first two children were stillborn. Mother and Dad were both religious. They prayed and fasted and did other things that might help, and I was born. They were so grateful that they named me Joy. I was known by the name Joy all through my early life and still am by my close associates and relatives, but my first name is Marcus.
Shortly after I was born, my father went on a mission to Denmark. Soon after he came back my mother died with another stillborn child. My mother’s name was Anna. While Dad was on his mission she wrote him letters faithfully. He saved those letters, and I have them in my possession. From these letters I have gleaned that she was very religious, much in love with my dad and also me. She lived with her mother while Dad was on his mission, so my early boyhood was with Mother and my Grandmother Jorgensen. She sent my dad a paper I had scribbled on which was my first letter.
My dad said Mother was very religious, almost fanatically so. She was quite beautiful and had a nice singing voice, although not very loud. She and my dad were very much in love. My father was more active in the Church and had a greater testimony of the gospel than did his brothers and sisters. I asked him once if the reason was just him or my mother. He said, “Your mother had a lot to do with it.” I wish I had known her better.
My father died at about ninety. He has written a little booklet about his life. Dad and I were very close so his history will be included with mine as our lives were interwoven.
Very Early Life in Brigham City
I remember very little about myself before I was six. I was born in Brigham City on February 1, 1899. I have a slight recollection of a funeral. I think it may have been my mother’s. I lived with my Christensen grandparents after Mother died.
My Aunt Ingeborg told me a story about that time. (She was really my dad’s cousin that he baptized while on his mission, but I called her aunt.) She said I got up on a ladder in the backyard after my mother died. I looked up and called for her to come home to me from Heaven.
It could be that all three of my grandparents that lived in Brigham City spoiled me. Dad went to Salt Lake after Mother died. When he came back, I told him I could read. To prove it, I got the book and said, “Baa, baa, black sheep, haf you any vool? Yes sir, yes sir, t’ree bags full.” Then of course he laughed. I was repeating it from memory using Grandpa’s Danish pronunciation of the words.
Dad came back to Brigham with a new wife. She was Edith Rushton. So I had a new mother (stepmother). Though she later had six children of her own, she tried and succeeded in being fair and kind to me. She was not as close to me as my own mother would have been nor as close to me as my dad. I have no regrets. I liked her more than she knew, I think, and maybe vice versa. Mother Edith asked me when she came home with Dad if I would rather call her Aunt Edith or Mother. I chose Mother and I believe wisely.
My new mother had quite a family—a mother, two brothers, and several sisters. Grandma Rushton was much loved by all of her children. She lived at our house for many years before her death. She walked across the plains with the first handcart company. She was a wife of Edwin Rushton of the White Horse Prophecy.
Two Reorganized Church missionaries came into our house one day. Dad asked them about the temple work, which of course they do not have. They said, “That was started by Brigham Young.” So Dad called to Grandma and said, “Will you tell these boys about the experience you had when your mother died, and you were leaving Nauvoo?”
She told them that as they were about to bury her mother they didn’t have a temple apron for her. They tried to find her one, but couldn’t. Someone then gave them an apron for her. They put it on her and were going to thank the lady, but she was gone and they never knew who she was.
I learned to talk Danish as I lived with my grandparents and was a little surprised when a man came to our house and talked Danish to Mother Edith. I could tell she was a little upset. So I asked her, “Didn’t you know what he said?” I have forgotten most of my Danish now.
Hazel tells me she can remember a time when I came to Preston with Aunt Ingeborg to visit. She said I got mad and stamped my foot and said I would never like Hazel because when Aunt Ingeborg cut a piece of candy in two, Hazel got the biggest half.
First Time in Salt Lake City
We didn’t live a very long time in Brigham this time. Dad went to Salt Lake to build some houses for Mother’s brother Don. We lived for some time in part of Uncle Don’s house.
We had a coal stove that was special. It used hard coal called anthracite. I also remember that Mother had a canary here called Dickey. They had a bathtub in the house. Dad used to help me take a bath. Once I was in the tub a long time and when he came in I remember he didn’t wash me. He said, “Well, you’ve soaked a long time, so I guess you’re clean. So I just got out and wiped off.
It was here that Max was born. I was very proud of my baby brother. He seemed sickly, but it was decided that he didn’t get enough to eat. So they fed him more and he got better.
Mother’s other brother was Fred. He was a brick layer so he and Dad decided to build two houses close together. They are still there and I think look pretty good yet. Ours was 975 West 7th South. I remember two things that happened in that house. One was when we played with a ball and broke a dish that was very valuable to Mother. The other was when Max fell with a glass and cut a gash in his head.
While we lived there Dad decided to build a bigger house at 730 South 8th West (now 9th West). The house is still there. While he was digging the basement, he came upon some pea gravel that was just right for cement blocks. They built the house out of cement blocks. They looked like stones except all the same shape and color.
While they were building the house I wanted to help. So they let me carry some bricks on the second story for the chimney. I stepped on the loose end of a board and went through to the ground floor. Dad came down and picked me up and carried me to the 7th Street house, but I only got a slight bump on my head. While Dad was carrying me across lots the stone mason walked right off the second story with a block in his hand. He threw the block from him and landed on his feet. He wasn’t hurt either.
Uncle Fred had two boys; one was a little older than me and the other a little younger. We played together, quarreled together and so on. They had half grades in Salt Lake in school. You could start in the fall or in the middle of the winter. I was put back a half year for misbehavior. I know I was spoiled, but I’m still mad at the teacher. At the time I was glad to get into the same class as the Rushton boys and didn’t raise any fuss.
In the fourth grade we had a really unruly class. We had teachers quit. Finally we had a man teacher. This was unheard of in the fourth grade. He jerked me out of my seat one day and pulled the top off of the desk and sat me in a corner. I wasn’t the cause of the trouble though, just a small part.
We got another new teacher. I told Mother we had a new teacher, Mrs. Porter. She said “Is she kind of old with eyelids that come way down on her eyes?” I said, “Yes, how did you know?” She told me that she had her for a teacher too.
Our house was built, and we moved in. Aunt Minnie (Mother’s sister) had a new baby die so we had its funeral in our house. Rush got into a refrigerator that stood on a platform. It was the kind that you put ice in the top and kept a flat pan underneath to catch the water. He got into the eggs and threw them every way and made a real mess.
The stake president asked Dad to be the bishop. Dad didn’t want to because he had a job offered him that was what he wanted, but it would take him out of town. The stake president in his Scottish brogue said to him, “Well, will you or won’t you?” Dad said he had never turned down a Church job so he was made bishop. He was glad because he got close to many people and particularly he liked President Mac.
One day Dad said to me, “Do you know the Parker boy?”
I said, “Yes.”
“Well,” he asked, “what kind of a boy is he?”
I answered, “He is kind of a rough guy.”
“Well,” he said, “he had sense enough to keep still while we were having the sacrament, but you didn’t.” I don’t talk at that time any more.
Dad was still the bishop when I was made a deacon. I wasn’t quite twelve years old. Our ward building was being remodeled then. We had a Primary group that used to go to the Odeon Dance Hall and practice some dances that were for all over town. I liked going there. I even found a special girl to dance with. This hall was close to the center of town and had a circular floor that was on springs. It would raise and lower a little as we danced.
About this time Dad bought an automobile. It was a one-cylinder Reo. It was bright red and had a lot of brass on it. It cranked on the side and had a rumble seat. Of course it had no top. Frequently we had to get out and push it up a hill. It was a delight to go riding in it. There were fewer than a hundred cars in Utah at that time. One day I was left home, and a couple of the Link girls [Edith’s nieces] were taken for a ride. I had to stay home. It certainly hurt me, but it was the beginning of a realization that I was not the only one in the world.
One day one of the Link girls and I got in an argument, and I hit her. Dad found out, and I got informed in no uncertain language that I must never hit a girl under any circumstances. I said, “What if she hits me first?”
He said, “Move out of the way, but never hit a girl!” I still think that is an excellent rule in spite of the new opportunities for both sexes.
I was quite pally with a boy down the street named Weiter Jenkins. We used to sleep in the yard in a pup tent. One day a couple of older boys told us how we could lick each other in a fight. We fought, and he got hurt because he made his knuckle bleed when he hit a buckle on my overalls. I have often thought since, “What a foolish thing!” Why fight because you can lick somebody? I have been a kind of a coward ever since. Why should anybody ever fight? It’s tough on both of the opponents.
Occasionally I would ride my bike to Aunt Pam’s house to get some butter. I was given the money to pay for the butter before I left. One time I forgot to pay for it and a few days later found the money in my pocket. I spent the money for candy. After awhile they checked up on me, and I told them I had spent it for candy. Aunt Pam said, “Joy, you didn’t need to do that. If you ask, your Aunt Pam will give you some money for candy.” She made the impression.
I also used to read quite a bit. I would go to the library on my bike. I had a place in a tree where I could hide. I mentioned that I also used to go over to my Grandpa Jorgensen’s shoe shop on my bike.
We lived close to a fire station. We used to watch them. A gong would sound. The horses would jump into their place. The men would slide down the pole, hook the collars on the horses, fasten the tongues and they would get going in about three minutes.
Back in Brigham City
Dad was having a hard time financially and felt he had to move back to Brigham. We lived there for most of my growing up years. I don’t remember the proper sequence of the places we lived. Dad built two or three homes in Brigham City. I know we bought or traded for some property from Uncle Parley, Dad’s sister Olga’s husband. It was about two acres. We had some strawberries and peaches on these two acres, but I don’t believe we were meant to be farmers.
Dad built what we called a shanty, and we lived there a short time until he built the house we were going to live in. I went to Primary there, but there weren’t any boys my age. They put me with the girls who were sewing aprons. Needless to say that was the last time I went to Primary.
We thought little Rush was a card. We used to pass a house where an elderly lady must have had a stroke. She sat on her front porch a lot with her mouth open and her head at an angle. One day at the dinner table Rush said, “She sits out like this,” and we all knew who he meant. Another time when Max, who was sort of fastidious, dropped some food from his fork, we all saw it, but of course said nothing. About five minutes later Rush said, “Max, keep a firmer grip on your food.”
We lived in a house close to Grandma and Grandpa Christensen in a house Dad built. One thing I remember about this house is that we used some kind of plaster board for the ceiling. It wasn’t like plaster board is today. It was rather like fiberboard and it had to have strips over the edges.
The next house we lived in was on Forest Street. It was a bigger house and quite nice. We had a big lot, an upstairs, a barn and chicken coop. We had cows at this place. I didn’t like to milk the cows. Dad bought a pony for us once. I tried several times to ride him. Then one time he was running just fine but then stopped right quick and ducked his head. I went flying over him. I don’t like livestock.
We kids had a wire stretched from the front of the lot where it was high to the back of the lot where it was low. We put a pulley on the wire and had a handle (piece of broomstick) fastened on it. We would hang on the stick and go from the front of the yard to the back. We also used to get long sticks and knock down bats that flew into our yard in the early evenings.
Dad’s sister Hannah’s son, Einer, got very sick. They thought it was typhoid fever, and he died. Dad got sick shortly after, and we thought it was the same. But he had an osteopath friend who told him to take a warm bath and put on some warm clothes. He did this and when the regular doctor came, Dad had red spots on him. The doctor told him he had small pox. The rest of us were vaccinated and Dad was not sick too long.
Dad also had appendicitis and had to be operated on. He had run out of money, and we were in a financial fix. That’s when Grandma Jorgensen came to see us and left a $5 gold piece. We knew she couldn’t afford it, but it sure came in handy. Dad had a shop uptown for a time. He went in and out of the paint business and the undertaking business, but always kept the woodworking business. The shop was eventually moved to the basement of our house.
Mother had a young lady helping her with the housework. One day she told Mother she was going to get married. She was a bit young so Mother asked her about it. She said, “Is he the only man for you?”
The girl said, “No, but he is as good as I can get.”
So Mother asked if there was someone else she would rather have. The girl said yes, but she couldn’t get him. Mother, of course, said she should at least try. The girl told Mother that I was the one. She didn’t work for us much longer. Dad told me about this after she left.
I always liked girls. I worked for some farmers picking fruit. I picked peaches, apples, cherries, strawberries and dewberries. I met Elva Knudson while working for her dad. Her brother and I used to go swimming at the cement plant. There was quite a pond there.
Elva and I went together for a while. We even went all day to Lagoon once. I don’t know what broke us up. She married a Smith while I was on a mission. Her son is president of the First National Bank in Nevada. She lived in Las Vegas; she died in 1982.
One of Mother’s old girl friends came to our house with her daughter, Viola. There was a dance in town and Mrs. King had a car which Viola drove. I took Viola to a dance. I told her I would introduce her to some other boys. She said, “No, I want to dance with only you.” She was with us a few days, and I quite fell for her.
Not long after that I went to Salt Lake and went to see Viola. Things didn’t work out quite as well as I thought they should. I worried about it and was a little sick. I went to my dad with my troubles, and he helped me. He didn’t laugh but said these things were serious and that I should pray about it. So I did. I told the Lord to let me know if I was to have her and to please guide me. It might sound funny now but I did get an answer, and I just wasn’t worried anymore.
We had an unusual way to have dates for some parties. All the girls’ names would go into a hat; and we would draw to see who we took to the party. Inasmuch as there were a few more girls in a class than boys, some of us would have two girls. If you drew two you could trade around a little so you could get two that lived close. I got a girl named Muriel Horseley a couple of times. She was nice and we were friendly. We worked together in plays too.
While Dad was on his mission in Denmark, he baptized two of his cousins, Laura and Ingeborg. They both came to the United States and Laura lived close to us with her two boys. Harold was near my age and we used to play and go together quite a lot.
Ingeborg had gone back to Denmark on a mission and her parents were converted and baptized. They also came to Brigham and lived with Laura and her boys. The grandmother was quite old but her hair never turned white. She had lost her eyesight some years before she died.
At her funeral Harold and I were two of the pallbearers. We had some trouble being properly solemn because of some things the speakers said. One was speaking in Danish but we knew enough Danish to know what he was saying. “Yi were i Danmark i Atein Honera.” This meant “I was in Denmark in 1800.” Of course he meant 1900 so Harold and I tittered a little. Then the doctor said, “Ever since I knew this lady, she was blind and when she read about someone dying she would say, ‘Why can’t it be me?’” Harold and I laughed again, thinking about a blind lady reading.
Harold and I were at a ball game one Peach Day when we were called to come home because a missionary companion of Dad’s was at the house. So we went to see them. It was James Johnson and his wife and their daughter Hazel. Hazel appealed to me and I asked her if she couldn’t stay to the dance. The answer was no. Then we discovered that she and Harold were born the same day so we had a discussion about birthdays. The next time my birthday came around I received a note from Hazel saying “I remembered your birthday.” So we began writing to each other. She proved to be very important in my life as we were later married and have spent more than fifty years together.
Jack West was another pal of mine. We would play games at his house. His mother and some other members of the family would play with us. I went with him and his dad and some others to Oregon for a few weeks one summer. They were surveying for new narrow gauge railroad to transfer logs to a planing mill. His dad had two wives. Jack’s mother stayed in Brigham while we were there and his other wife was in Oregon with us. It seems unusual now but not so much then.
Don Jensen and I were also friends. We couldn’t sing very well but we wanted to be in the high school opera. So we made up a Dutch dialogue with the help of a few others and were permitted to put it on between the acts. We also had a turn at administering to the sacrament in the Third Ward.
I was in fifth grade when we moved to Brigham. In Salt Lake they had 5th A and 5th B. I was in A. But in Brigham they only had fifth grade. So I went back half a grade. I became a little lazy. I had had the work in Salt Lake already.
The principal came in one day and gave us an arithmetic test. The next day he came in and said there were only two students in both of the fifth grade classes who were up on their arithmetic. I got 99% and a girl got 97%. After he left the teacher said, “The reason Joy got such a good grade is because he wasn’t afraid of the principal.” When Dad asked her one day how I was in school, she answered, “Oh, I can handle him.” I wasn’t one of her pets.
In the seventh and eighth grades I went to the Whittier School. It had four rooms: two up and two down. It was next door to the Second Ward meetinghouse. This was sort of a junior high school. There were three eighth grades and one seventh grade. We had four teachers including the principal. His name was Hansen. He also taught us in religion class after school on some days in the meetinghouse.
Brother Hansen taught math, among other things. One day he gave us a lesson on some new material from a math book. The next day I was the only one who worked the problems. I didn’t work them like the book said, but the answers were right. He asked the whole class to work them my way for the next day. I thought I was Hansen’s pet. But so have others.
One time I decided to try out for a speech contest. I memorized the Gettysburg Address and won second place. In this school we used to have assemblies. Sometimes I was asked to read something in them. One time Brother Hansen gave me a book with a story in it and asked me to give it at the next assembly. Then instead of letting me read it, I had to tell it. It went over like a house afire! I’ve been telling the same story ever since, “Epaminondous and His Aunty.” A couple of my grandchildren found the story in a book and were quite put out. They thought it was my story.
(as told by Joy Christensen)
Epaminondous was a little boy who went to visit his auntie, and his auntie gave him a piece of cake. So he took the cake in his hands and squeezed it tight like this and came along home. When he got home his mammy said, “Epaminondous, what you got there?”
He said, “Cake, Mammy, Auntie gave it to me.”
“Epaminondous, that ain’t no way to carry cake. When yo’ auntie gives you cake, you wrap it in leaves and put it in yo’ hat and put yo’ hat on top of yo’ head and come along home like that.”
“All right, Mammy,” he said.
And so the next time he went to visit his auntie, she gave him some butter. He wrapped it in leaves and put it in his hat and put his hat on top of his head and came along home. On the way home it started to melt and come down over his ears and the back of his neck. When he got home his mother said, “Epaminondous, what you got there?”
He said, “Butter, Mammy, Auntie gave it to me.”
“Epaminondous, you ain’t got the sense you was born with. That ain’t no way to carry butter. When yo’ auntie gives you butter, you wrap it in leaves and cool it in the water, cool it in the water, cool it in the water, then bring it ‘long home.”
“All right, Mammy,” he said.
And so the next time he went to visit his auntie she gave him a little puppy dog. He wrapped it in leaves and cooled it in the water and cooled it in the water and cooled it in the water and the puppy dog near drowned.
“Epaminondous, what you got dere?”
“A puppy dog, Mammy, Auntie gave it to me.”
“Epaminondous, you ain’t got the sense you was born with, you never did have the sense you was born with. That ain’t no way to carry no puppy dog. When yo’ auntie gives you a puppy dog, you tie a string ‘round its neck and lead him ‘long like this.”
“All right, Mammy,” he said.
So the next time he went to visit his auntie she gave him a loaf of bread. He tied the string around it and brought it along home like this. All along the sidewalk he broke a piece off and another piece off, and when he got home he had a little crust of bread left.
“Epaminondous, what you got there?”
“Bread, Mammy, Auntie gave it to me.”
“Epaminondous, you ain’t got the sense you was born with, you never did have the sense you was born with, and you never will have the sense you was born with. That ain’t no way to carry bread. Next time you goes to see yo’ auntie, I goes myself!”
“All right, Mammy.” he said.
So the next time his mammy did go, and before she left she said, “Epaminondous, you see those pies coolin’ on that there porch? You be careful how you step in them pies.”
“All right, Mammy,” he said. And so he was. He stepped right in the middle of each one.
When I went to high school I arranged my classes so I could help Dad in his business. The first year I got an A+ in Algebra. That was the first and last A+ I ever got. Our high school was quite new. Some parts didn’t have any lawn in front. What we had was rocks. So the Holst boy and I got a sign saying “Keep off the grass” and put it on the gravel in front of the school on April Fool’s Day.
There was one thing that happened in the class ahead of me that really impressed me. There was one student that was very good at typing and the faculty used him as a part-time teacher. He drew the name of a certain girl who was not of the upper crust for his date at a party. He didn’t want to go with her so he just didn’t go to the party. The girl waited for her escort that never came.
The next day the class leader thought of a fitting punishment. They caught the boy on the stairs and ran a pair of hair clippers from front to back across his head. The boy objected and went to the principal. The principal called the class together and said he didn’t like what had been done. Just then two boys who were late came walking into the room. The principal then said, “All who think you did the right thing, stand.”
They all stood, including the two boys who had not been in on the discussion. The principal asked, “Why are you standing? You don’t know what we are voting on.” The boys answered, “When our class stands, we stand.”
In my senior year at high school we started to play football. I learned to kick the ball and throw it quite soon, but I was not big and strong and couldn’t get any distance. Our school had a record that year that has never been equaled. Our team never scored once.
Our school won the regional championship in basketball. It had been customary for us to have a downtown celebration on an occasion of this kind. This time, though, the administration said to wait until we won the state championship. We lost the state championship, only by one or two points. So about 90% of the student body went up in the mountains and had a peanut bust. We were promised a reprimand by the principal, but it was forgotten.
In my senior year I was in the school play. I tried for the lead, Christopher Jedberry. After the tryouts the cast was on the blackboard the next morning. I was glad to see my name by Christopher Jedberry. I was bragging about it to someone when he said, “You had better look again.”
I was Christopher Jedberry, Senior. I hadn’t tried out for that part and complained to Rasmussen about it. He said, “I know you didn’t try for it but you read it once when no one else was there. You’re a good character actor.” It may have been soft soap but I took it at that. In our English class the teacher said the best actor of the men was Christopher Jedberry, Senior.
I found a new teacher friend in my senior year. I don’t even remember his name. But he taught about business. In my exam one question was “What is a pool?” I could not remember so I wrote, “Pool is a game.” He got quite a kick out of it and kidded me about my pool game.
I graduated from Box Elder High School. I almost missed graduation because although I was supposed to have 16 credits, I only had 15 1?2. The principal was worried but found the other two. It was seminary and very legitimate.
Back To Salt Lake
Dad got some little jobs in Salt Lake City, and he bought a house at 836 South 8th East. We rented a place to live in until he had the house remodeled. Dad and Mother both lived in that house the rest of their lives; so did the rest of us until we got married or something. We, the descendants, got a little money for many years from its sale.
When we moved to Salt Lake, it was war time. Both Dad and I had to register for the draft. He was almost too old and I was almost too young. I enlisted in the Students Army Training Corps. This got me an opportunity to go to the University of Utah for a year. We had some schooling and some military training and lived at the school.
I thought I would learn to be a high school teacher and teach drama and public speaking, but it didn’t turn out that way. I did play in some plays. I took a class in drama that lasted from noon sometimes till midnight. We put on a show every other week.
We had professionals play the big parts and the students played the bits. In one play my part was fourth bystander in a mob scene. This has since become a byword in my family. When anyone has an insignificant part in anything we say he is “fourth bystander in the mob scene.” I had a little larger part in another show. We took it to Brigham City; I was a colored servant. After the show I expected some of the school or town folks to come up and say hello or something, but none of them did.
One day Mr. Rasmussen came to me and asked if I would try out for the freshman play. I hadn’t any interest in the class or anything, but he said, “Just read it.” Well, I did. I followed the instructions and read the lines. Everybody laughed. I thought I was doing fine.
When I got through, a fellow sitting back of me said, “Did you know you have a hole in the seat of your pants?” I felt back there; I almost didn’t have a seat in my pants! Needless to say I sneaked out and never went near the freshman class again. Before I had gone to school that day I had warmed myself too close to the stove. That was why I had the hole in my pants.
After Thanksgiving Day while in the Students Army Training Corps, I was a little sick and had a fever. I think my trouble was too much Thanksgiving dinner, but there was a flu epidemic and I was sent immediately to the hospital. I had to stay ten days there. I convalesced the whole time.
One day while the others were someplace else, the nurse said to me, “Let’s make some beds French.” We put the bottom sheet halfway up and folded it back, and the top sheet halfway down and folded it back. It was fun to see them try to get into bed.
[As a result of Hazel and Joy’s long-distance courtship, there is a wonderful collection of letters between the two. Find them under letters]
Armistice Day was the ending of World War I. Every-one went downtown. We had street dances and even had a big locomotive come uptown on the street car tracks. When the war was over, we expected to be disbanded from the military service. But it moved so slowly we renamed our Students Army Training Corps (SATC) to Stick Around Till Christmas. School went on, and I flunked a math class. It interfered with the play business.
When Hazel Johnson told me by card that she remembered me on my birthday, it started a correspondence between us. She went to school in Albion, Idaho. My second cousin Harold went up there on his uncle’s farm. I wrote to both of them. Harold thought she was almost his. I wrote telling him it was not so, and he let her read the letter. I went to Preston to see her. I missed the first bus, and she wasn’t there to meet the second. I had to wait till late in the evening to see her. When I left she wouldn’t even kiss me good-bye. I went home a bit disappointed.
Quite some time later she came to Salt Lake with her sister Hattie, and we went out to Saltaire. When we got to where she was staying, we talked for awhile and as a result decided to get married. It was about two o’clock when I left, and I had to walk all the way home. The street cars had quit running.
In the morning I got up early and told my dad that we had decided to get married. I wasn’t so interested about school; I was only interested in getting married. I went to the bishop to get a recommend to go to the temple and get married.
“Who?” the bishop asked me.
“A girl from Idaho.”
“I thought you were going with the Shepherd girl.”
I did go with Emily together and in a gang, but I said, “No, I am going to marry Hazel.”
The bishop said he thought I ought to go on a mission and asked me, “What would your father think of that?”
“You know what my father would think,” I told him, “but it isn’t my father, it’s my girl.”
He told me to find out what my girl would think of a mission. I wrote to her and asked what she thought. Her father was the counselor to the stake president, so she was kind of over a barrel. I went on a mission before we got married. I was called to the Northern States Mission.
Before I left I had a very unusual thing happen. We had a gas water heater in the bathroom under the tank. On this evening several of us were to have our bath, and it was my turn. I locked the door and got in the tub, and was getting clean (I hope) when Ruth, who was sitting in the next room, heard me breathing like a very loud snore. She called me, but got no answer.
She hollered for Max who grabbed a key from another door. It pushed the key out on the inside and opened the door. In the meantime they called Mr. Shepherd who lived two houses away, had Mother and Dad paged in the show they had gone to, and got a doctor. I was lifted out of the tub and put in a bed. I’m told I was black about halfway down. Of course I did not know anything until I regained consciousness in the bed.
The gas heater had used up the oxygen in the bathroom, and there was not enough for me—that was the verdict of the doctor. Coming back to life, the first thing I remember was the voices I heard. Next, I could wiggle my little finger, then gradually my other senses came back. We had never before tried that particular key in the bathroom door. It turned out to be the only other key in the house that would work. Mother said many times that I had a good guardian angel. I’m glad it wasn’t the end of this life then.
Going on a mission then was a little different than now. We all went to Salt Lake and went through the temple, but we didn’t have study classes or particular lessons to learn. A few of us got off the train in Chicago and were housed in a hotel there overnight. As we went to our rooms and got on the elevator, one lad tried to get out as the elevator rose. He had never been on an elevator before.
I was sent to Springfield, the capital city. It was the conference headquarters. I spent all of my mission in the Southern Illinois Conference. I was an extra elder in Springfield for a short while.
I hadn’t been there too long when I was told I was to give a talk in a cottage meeting. I was frightened. I worried, and as a result, prayed that I might not be a perfect flop. My turn came at the meeting; even I thought I did a good job. They all listened. Pretty soon I was assigned another talk in another cottage meeting. I wasn’t worried this time, it was easy. When I started to talk, it was terrible. I couldn’t think of anything to say and sat down. The next time I prayed again.
I kept a missionary journal for at least the first half of my mission but lost it, so I’m not sure of the proper sequence of things. [See Letters for a collection of missionary letters between Joy and his family.]
I did write to my Grandma Jorgensen occasionally, but one day I had a rather unusual feeling. It was so strong that I wrote to Aunt Anna with whom Grandma was living. I asked, “What is the matter with Grandma?” She died that day. Aunt Anna had written me and our letters crossed, I presume. I think Grandma wanted to reach me.
At the next conference (district conference) I was assigned as a companion to Elder Kunz from Bern, Idaho and sent to Quincy. When we arrived in Quincy and began to take stock of things, we discovered that we were both out of money. Between us we had enough to pay for our room that night and breakfast the next morning. I suggest-ed that we get some of the members to put us up. Elder Kunz was acquainted with the people there and said we didn’t have any members who could do that. He proved it by taking me to visit the best member—who had a two room apartment for her and her daughter.
We both could get money by writing to Chicago. But we couldn’t get an answer back in time. Before going to bed that night, we got down on our knees and asked the Lord to help us out of our trouble. The next morning after breakfast we went to the place where the previous elders had stayed to see if there were any pamphlets or books left there. There weren’t any, but as we were leaving, the lady of the house said, “Is either of you named Christensen?”
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
She said, “Well, I have a letter for Elder Christensen.” We got the letter. It was from my Uncles Reuben and Manuel from my grandfather’s second wife. They had sent it to Chicago and the mission had sent it on to Quincy because they knew it was to be my new address. The letter contained enough money to see us through till we got ours from Chicago. This was the first and only time these people wrote to me or sent me money. Elder Kunz and I both knew it was an answer to prayer.
We hunted all day long to find a place to live. Most of the places were only for a man and wife, not two boys. We had almost given up for the day when we walked past a house in a little better location. It had a sign on it—ROOM FOR RENT. We both felt that this was the place, so we went in and inquired. The lady said she would be glad to have us. The room was long, with a bed in one end and the kitchen in the other. We stayed there the rest of the time that we were in Quincy. The lady didn’t join the Church until after I left.
One day while tracting, I felt impressed to go and see some people by the name of Hogge. I reasoned with myself, saying that I had been there yesterday and the day before. Then I recalled a talk that had been given a little while before at a conference meeting. The president said, “Sometime when you feel a hunch, follow it. It may be the spirit trying to guide you, and if you go, you will know whether it is or not.”
So I started for the Hogge place and did know that I was supposed to. I’m not sure even now why I was sent. He had some of his relatives there from the West. We talked about the gospel, mostly about baptism for the dead. I never saw those people again. Mr. Hogge was an invalid. We saw him, his wife, and his daughter quite often. When Mr. Hogge died, Kunz and I went to the funeral. It was at the home and conducted by a Baptist minister. After the funeral the girl said, “What a funeral sermon. I wish we had had you conduct it. You would have done so much better.”
While in Quincy Elder Kunz and I baptized three people, a man, his wife and her mother. They were good members and treated us and the other elders very well. We ate at their places and they were very active in the Church as long as they lived. The man went on a mission. One day when I went to see the older lady, she was crying and wringing her hands. When I had the courage to ask her why, she said, “I haven’t had a smoke for two days and I can’t hardly stand it.” She had been smoking a corn cob pipe since she was fifteen. I don’t know if she quit entirely or not, but I do know one thing. She and her daughter got the message of the gospel.
Sister Seine’s daughter (the two ladies that joined) had a son who married a certain woman. For some reason, the two ladies I’m talking about blamed the girl for the son’s suicide. They wouldn’t speak to her or look at her ever. After they joined the Church, they decided, without any prompting from us, to go and ask the daughter-in-law’s forgiveness.
One day while tracting I met a young lady by the gate. We talked for a while. I thought she was interested in the gospel, so I made an appointment to come to her house one evening. The evening came aroundaround; Elder Kunz and I knocked at the door. The young lady came quite nicely groomed and dressed. When she saw that there were two of us, she excused herself for a few minutes and soon came back with another young lady. They had a piano and wanted to sing and be otherwise occupied, but were not interested in religion.
There was another lady in Quincy who never joined the Church—Mathilda Brosi. She had almost pledged herself to be a Carmelitish nun in the Catholic Church. While away from it all for a short while, she fell in love with a man and got married. We met her while tracting one day and went back several times. She came out to our cottage meetings, fed us dinner frequently. She had two daughters. One day the youngest one said, “I don’t like church. You have to sit down, get up, stand up, and kneel down and all that exercise.”
After I went home we sent cards to each other for many years. She instructed her daughter to let me know when she died. In 1972 her daughter, Agnes Smith, wrote that her mother had spoken of Elder Christensen and his people often and had wanted him notified of her death. She enclosed a copy of the memorial service. I felt that she wanted me notified because she knew about our work for the dead and had in mind that she would like her work done for her. In 1981 I asked my daughter to find out how I could have this done. She was able to contact the other daughter, Luella Howard, and obtain permission and enough information for the work to be done. Agnes Smith, the daughter that had written to me, had also passed away in the meantime.
I hadn’t been in Quincy very long, and we were someplace eating. I got a rather peculiar expression on my face, and I was asked what was the matter. I replied, “Well, you can believe it or not, but I saw a bug flying by, carrying a lantern.” They laughed of course, because they had seen fireflies or lightning bugs before, but I hadn’t.
After Elder Kunz, I had two other companions for a short while. The first was Elder Cranny. He and I rented a place. It was warm, and we slept without many covers. Elder Cranny said that he had felt something crawling on his feet in the night. We set some mouse traps and caught about 23 of them before they were gone.
Elder King and I were in Hoopeston which was a few miles from Danville. We rented a room from a kind of a fortune teller lady. (I was to live a long life, have at least two love affairs and have ten children.) We washed our clothes, and I had to show Elder King how to make the garments white again instead of grey. We were not too awfully busy in this small town, and Elder King taught me how to play checkers.
One day on Saturday he asked me what we were going to have for dinner. I told him, “Beans.” He said that he didn’t like beans, but I knew what I was doing, and I told him he would like these. So as we did at home, I cooked the beans, put them in a pan with ketchup, sprinkled brown sugar over them, and put on a few strips of bacon and baked them in the oven. He liked them. In fact, I saw him several years later in Salt Lake at conference time, and he said, “Do you remember those beans?”
I was assigned a new companion, Elder Blake, and our field of labor was to be Danville. I was instructed to be the senior companion though he had been in the mission field longer than I had. We all wore derby hats. Elder Blake didn’t want to, so I told him to forget it, we would get along anyway, and we did. We were both interested, and we got the branch growing. Not that we did it by ourselves, because we had two other Elders working with us, but we did have a branch, with some members and some investigators.
I had one place that I had left a book called A Brief History of the Church. I went back, and the lady met me at the door with the book and said, “Here is your book. Don’t come back anymore.”
I had had some experience in the mission field by this time and was not that easily put off. I talked with her, and she finally told me why. It seems her son had read the book and told his mother he wanted to join the Church. She was not going to let him because we were not ritzy enough. The boy said one thing that I have always remembered. He said, “This must be true because a young boy couldn’t tell about it as he has if it was not true.”
Elder Blake and I decided to go to conference in Springfield this time by foot and without purse or scrip. We slept under a tree one night and in a barn another night. Then we were at a saint’s place one night and the next just at someone’s place that fed us. The morning after that we discovered that we had bedbugs. I went to hand a tract to a gentleman and found it covered with bedbugs. I quickly slipped a tract from the few I had out of the middle so it would not have bugs on it. Then we went over by a creek and got the rest of the bedbugs off of us. Elder Blake said he had felt them bite him in the night.
Letter from Joy to Hazel dated May 28, 1921, Weldon, Ill.
Excuse the pencil but I’m writing on my knee & I have no ink in my pen. We’ve been in the country since Monday and maybe you’re going to enjoy this letter. The first night we couldn’t get anyone to take us in overnight so we layed down by the side of the road also we had no supper. We went to sleep for about an hour & then got cold so we had to get up and walk a ways. We continued this process all night and at about 6:30 in the morning got some breakfast at a farmhouse.
We walked for 15 hours today and got a dinner & what’s more supper and a bed for which we were very thankful for it rained in the night. We got our breakfast in the morning and on again at about 4:30 she started to rain and we were in it on and off until 9 pm and we finally got one young man to let us sleep in his barn. However we did get our supper from a fellow before but we went without dinner. In the morning we got up wet, stiff, sore, and discouraged and I just had to laugh. The fellow took us into breakfast and his wife was going to give us an umbrella to help us on our way but we decided not to. Doggone these young fellows and their wives they make me so darn homesick. I wish we had a farm way from everybody. But I guess we’ll be just as happy in town.
We went without dinner again today and reached a saint by evening. Oh what a relief. We stayed there, ate supper and they had a whole bunch of kids around which were very nice and well behaved. I slept very sound that night and we started again for some of his sons. The saints are sure scattered around and people know where some of them live. But the president don’t because he sent us way off the track.
We reached Weddon at about 11 today and have located 1 family. They want us to stay tonight but their both working so we’re now waiting on this porch for further orders. And I’ve always wanted some country experience. Now I’ve had it and I’m not awfully anxious for much more. I don’t think it does much good and its sure not much fun. When I took some pamphlets out of my pocket this morning they had bed bugs on them. From now on we expect to take it easy. We’ll travel on the dollar that we have for selling the B of M and then we’ll just visit saints. Maybe we’re not good enough. But my shoes are worn out and my clothes are filthy. But that’s plenty of bad stuff isn’t it. . . .
So goodby for now Dearest girl and God Bless You and keep you well for me soon your true lover and anxious to be Husband, Joy. With Hundreds of tokens of affection X X X
When we got to Springfield, we discovered that President Grant was going to be to our conference. I was quite excited. I asked the Springfield elders what they had done to advertise it. They said, “Nothing.” I then asked if they had contacted the picture show houses to see if they would make an announcement. They said, “No.”
In fact nothing had been done. The next morning at the regular church only part of the members were present—a very poor showing. I spoke to President Smith and said, “If you will hold your next conference in Danville, I will guarantee that we will have twice as many people, and some of them will be investigators.”
He said, “All right, we will hold our next conference in Danville.” At this time Elder Blake and I had each been assigned new companions, but we were both in Danville. I got hold of him and told him what President Smith had said, and we decided to hurry back to Danville and get things going. It was customary for us to stay a day or two after conference and renew our acquaintance with other missionaries. Elder Blake and I let our companions stay, but we hurried back. When we got to our apartment there was a letter for me. It was my release. I hadn’t been there quite two years, but it seems Dad had run out of money, and so they sent me home a little early. I didn’t want to go home. I visited some of the saints, cried most all day and started for home. The trip home was uneventful.
Married and in Salt Lake
When I got home from my mission, I was anxious to get married. I was $500 in debt and had no place to live. Dad fixed me a basement apartment in his house. We lived there. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple on the 30th of November. When I kissed her as man and wife, I missed a little and got her on the nose. We went to Provo and stayed for two nights with Hazel’s sister, then returned home with her folks to Salt Lake.
I suppose a lot of people feel the same way about being married as I did, but to me it’s been wonderful. It’s great when two people get together, tell everything about themselves to each other, trust each other with everything, become partners as well as mates for eternity, each loving the other and wanting to be close and working together. I love Hazel very much for her acceptance of me as I was. We had a hard time making a living, but Hazel never grumbled. She took what we could get and made the best of it.
We were extremely anxious about the first child. Due to an operation Hazel had had before we were married, the doctor told her she might not have children. We had a boy, Don, then Vern. We wondered if we would have only boys. But then we had Anna, named for my mother. Next was Carl, Paul and Adele. We have six children and love them all.
I worked for the most part with Dad for the next few years, but sometimes he didn’t have work, and I tried other things. I worked for a couple of firms for a short while. The one outfit let me go, and I quit the other one because Dad had some work and needed me. I tried selling life insurance for awhile but was not too successful there. I worked as an apprentice for a watchmaker for six dollars a week. I stayed with him for ten months at which time I was getting ten. I worked for Dad until the weather got bad, and then I hunted for another watchmaker job.
We made friends with some people who lived close to us after we moved from Dad’s place. These people, the Stewarts, had children about the same ages as ours, belonged to the Church, and had a lot in common with us. In fact we had the feeling that we were almost responsible for each other’s welfare.
J. B. Stewart had a bad sore on his arm. He had been to the doctor who seemed not able to help it. It got worse. The doctor said that if it didn’t clear up, the arm would have to be amputated. One day J. B. asked me to get someone and come and administer to him. I knew he had some faith. He was my good friend. I got away by myself and prayed that the administration would be efficacious. I argued a little with the Lord, telling Him that J. B. had faith and should be helped. Then I went and administered to him and forgot about it. But the next fast Sunday J. B. Stewart got up and said, “I was about to lose my arm, but Brother Christensen administered to me. My arm quit hurting and is now well.”
Hazel and I prayed together about me finding work to do. I then told her that I was going to work for M. B. Parks who had a little jewelry store on South Temple. Sure enough I worked for him while he went on about a month’s vacation.
While we lived in Dad’s house in the First Ward, I became the deacons’ teacher. I had in my class, among others, Gordon B. Hinckley. Also in our ward lived Mark Peterson and Emma McDonald, who became his wife. Years later (June 25, 1986) an article appeared in The Beehive Sentinel about my life, and it was mentioned that President Hinckley had been in my deacons quorum. The article came to his attention, and the very next day, June 26, 1986, he wrote me a nice letter telling me he appreciated me and my family.
While teaching this class, I was working for Mr. Jolliffe in the Primrose Jewelers supply house. They needed a boy to run errands, etc. I asked the class if there were any boys who needed that kind of a job. I guess they all did because many hands went up, but after class Richard Sonntag came to me and said he needed that job. I hired him. He now owns the joint.
While I was working for Primrose, Mr. Jolliffe drank quite a bit. He had purchased the business from his brother-in-law, Primrose. He was not too good a manager. He spent more than the business was bringing in. Henry Miller offered me a job as time inspector on the railroad.
I told Harvey I was going; he raised my pay and coaxed me to stay with him. I did. One day he asked me to go to Bill Denn and borrow some money from him so he could get a C.O.D. package out. I did. Mr. Denn told me that he was going to hold me personally responsible to see that he got his money back. At that time I was practically running the place, and I did squeeze it out and get it to him, but the firm went broke and creditors took it over.
They tried to sell it, but could get no bidders. I wanted it. Finally they said, “The first one that gets to us with two thousand dollars gets the business.” I tried hard to get the two thousand, but I couldn’t make it. Needless to say, I lost my job. Mr. Primrose came back from Florida, borrowed the money from his sister and bought the business back again.
It was sometime after this that Mr. Miller contacted me again, and I got the job as time inspector from Lynndyl to Caliente. I used to get on the train and ride from Salt Lake to Caliente, work Caliente, come back to Milford and to Lynndyl and home again.
One week I would leave on a motor car with an operator, and we would stay nights in other places like Cedar City, Lund, Modena and the other regular places. A motor car is a small car with an open top that was used to transport officials and others from one place to another using the railroad tracks. We had to watch out for trains. We could do that by the signals along the track.
One time we were close to Salt Lake. It was getting late, and we wanted to hurry, but every once in a while we had to stop and brush off the snow on the track. We were coming around the mountain close to Salt Lake downhill. We saw another patch of snow, but only on one rail. We gave her (the motor car) the gun and hit the snow. The car turned sideways, the brake handle came off in the operator’s hand, and he went sliding down the track. We laughed, turned the motor car on the track again and used a piece of pipe for the brake.
I was on one of these motor car trips, at Delta, just about to leave, when I was called to the telephone. Mother had gotten the railroad company to get through to me. She said, “Hurry home, Joy, Hazel is dying.”
A new baby was due, and for the first time, we had the money saved up for the doctor. It seems there was a bad situation, placenta previa, and Hazel had to be hurried to the hospital. She almost bled to death at least twice. I had to pay for a day-around nurse, two pints of blood, and the hospital.
When I got word, I came back halfway on a motor car and caught a local the other half. Hazel was in bed and the baby was all right. But Hazel had had a very bad time. No one was sure that she would live still. The doctor did an excellent job, I was told, but someone made a mistake, because a piece of packing was left in her. They thought they were sending her home to die, but when she got rid of that packing, she was all right again. I wanted to be sure that we got the right baby, so I looked at his little finger, and he had the distinguishing mark. It was Carl.
Not only did we get a lot of expense, but I also lost my job. We had a woman hired for the time of convalescing, but we let her go, and I did the housework. Mr. Miller had lost the railroad territory, and I had to go. I couldn’t find work. I was going to try to sell life insurance again when Mr. Gordon called me from Cedar City, Utah. He wanted me to take the territory that Miller had. I would have to go to Milford.
I had bought an old shack and remodeled it into quite a nice house, but I couldn’t sell it. I rented it, but I couldn’t collect the rent. I had to give it back to the mortgage company. All I could get from the mortgage company was $25 to keep them from foreclosing.
I went alone to Milford at first, leaving Hazel and the kids to come later. Sunday I found that the LDS people were holding meetings in an old fire hall. It still had the bell in it, and it was rung when meetings were about to be held.
I went a little early to Sunday School. A little old Englishman came up to me and asked, “Air you a Priest or an Elder?” I told him I was an Elder, so he asked me to help administer to the sacrament, and I did.
After Sunday School the bishop introduced himself to me. He asked if I had ever been on a mission. I told him yes. Then he said, “Will you be our speaker tonight?” That was my introduction in the Milford Ward.
When Hazel came we went to Sunday School together. I told her I would soon be the class teacher. She asked, “Why?”
“Well, they don’t seem to know what they are doing,” I replied.
We laughed, and she said, “You sure have a case on yourself.” But they soon asked me to take that class.
I taught the Sunday School class for some time. Later I became the bishop’s counselor. Bishop Miller moved from Milford, and I learned a new way of getting a bishop. We held a priesthood meeting. The stake president said we would have to have a new bishop. He gave us all a piece of paper and had us write the name of the man we would rather have for bishop. A man who had been bishop some time before was chosen. Bishop Bird was a very likable person. He was slow to get things done, but very considerate of everyone and loved by the people. I liked him too. He was very fine to work with.
The bishop told a story once in fast meeting. He said, “There was a lady from Minersville that came to town to be operated on. She called me to come and administer to her before the operation. I told her she would go home and have more children, and not to worry. She did go home, and she has two more children.”
Then the doctor got up and added, “I remember the instance very well. I opened her up and found a growth so large that I couldn’t operate, so I sewed her back up without much hope. But she did go home and have more children.” To me that was a very striking example of administering to the sick.
Dr. Parrish was a good doctor and a pretty good church member. He led the elder’s quorum. After the lesson, as a bonus, we could ask any medical question we wanted, and he would answer. It brought the men out.
One time Dr. Parrish and a couple of others and I were scheduled to give a program in the movie house between the shows. It was to be twice the same night. The Church had a little deal with the movie house. On these occasions we would get part of the proceeds. I used to recite, and the doctor was quite a violinist. One night we had a baby on the way at our house. I said to Doc, “What shall we do? We can’t leave.”
“It will be all right,” he replied. “The baby won’t come for awhile yet.” We went to the show, did our part, hurried home, brought the baby, Paul, and hurried back.
We had a schoolteacher named Lorus Hand that came to Milford to teach music and art in high school. He was also a good Church member. He started a choir in the ward. I was asked to be the choir president. I said, “I do not sing.”
I was informed that I was to be the one to see that the others came. I decided that I might as well try to sing in the bass section, and I did. One time when I was absent, they started a new song. Someone was needed who could sing a solo. All of the male members tried and none had the right range. When we met again, he tried me. I had the right range for the solo.
This started something that I had had a lot of fun with. I learned something about singing. In fact I took singing lessons from Brother Hand and paid him with a watch for his wife. I even gave a concert before he left town. I have sung solos in quite a few places since. This Brother Hand got together a lot of the folks in the ward for various singing groups and some instrumental groups. I met him once since in New York City where I think he still lives.
Because I was the bishop’s counselor, I was ordained a high priest. I was ordained by Rudger Clawson. He was the senior apostle at the time and a friend of Dad’s. Later on I became bishop. Melvin J. Ballard ordained me a bishop. I think he was the choice of the people as an apostle. He could keep people spellbound, and he also sang.
Once Elder Ballard got off the train with me in Salt Lake. He took me to Dad’s house in his car. Another time I met LeGrand Richards on the train. We talked for two or three hours. He told me all about his work in the Church, and how he was called to the various positions he held. Bishop Smith of the presiding bishop’s office was at our house for a couple of hours one time. He told us that his wife died, and he called her back. She had said that things were very beautiful over there.
When I was called to be the bishop, I said, “There are people more capable than I.”
I was asked, “Oh, who are they?” I named Dave Heslington and Alvin Baker. They said, “Fine, choose them for counselors.” I think I picked the best. All three of us were kind of practical people—a couple of schoolteachers and I.
We had an incident of administering to the sick along the latter part of our stay in Milford. The bishopric was contacted by Clint Bond and his sister, Cuma Goodwin, and asked to administer to their father. Brother Bond, the father, was along in years and was a very good Latter-day Saint. He was suffering from shingles and other ailments. His suffering must have been intense, because his children asked us to dedicate him to the Lord.
We had talked about administering to the people, so we went. I do not remember who anointed him, but Alvin Baker sealed the anointing and said something like this, “Brother Bond, this is not your time to die. You are going to live and be an influence for good in this community for several years.”
On our way home, both Dave and I asked Alvin why he said that. He answered, “I couldn’t help it. I knew what I was saying, but not why.” This was one of the nicest experiences we had in Milford. Brother Bond did get well and lived for several more years just as Alvin had said.
As a bishopric we needed a lady to lead the Mutual. We went to the home of a certain lady. She said she couldn’t because of her health. Her doctor had told her not to take on any more responsibility.
We picked out another. This lady was going to change her residence to Salt Lake City. We went to a third. She said, “I should say not. I wouldn’t take on a job of that kind for anyone.”
That kind of hurt our feelings, and we were not getting anywhere. We decided that we had better go to the bishop’s office and pray about it. We did. When we got through praying, we decided to read the names of all the ladies in the ward. When we came to the name of Vera Bond, we all three knew without any hesitation that she was the one. We went to her home and asked her to do the job. She said she would be glad to try. Vera Bond was a daughter-in-law of the Brother Bond we had administered to.
We also built a new chapel for the Milford Ward. It was started while Bishop Bird was bishop, was almost finished, but not paid for while I was bishop, and completed while Alvin Baker was bishop. A great deal of the material used in the chapel came from an old academy building in Beaver. We tore the building down and got half of the material for pay. This provided all the floors, most of the framing, and the rocks with which it was built. We hauled it by trucks, in trunks, and on trailers.
We had many experiences in Milford. Both Paul and Adele were born there. Paul had a hernia, and we had it operated on. We had his tonsils and adenoids out at the same time. I was going to watch the operation, but when Dr. Parrish looked at me and saw that I was green, I was quickly dismissed.
When Hazel’s mother died, we didn’t have enough money to send her to the funeral in Preston, Idaho. Because she had to leave quickly, I went to the bank to borrow money. There was no one at the bank who had the authority to loan money. The officials were out of town. I thought in my mind who might own stock in the bank. I said, “Can Sam Cline authorize a loan?”
She said, “Yes.”
So I called Sam Cline on the phone, told him the situation, and asked if he could fix it so I could borrow the money. He said, “Go right over to the bank. I will call and the money will be there for you.” He didn’t ask when I could pay it back or anything. He just said it would be there.
I always liked Sam after that. He did another thing. He asked me why we couldn’t have a seminary? When a Jew asks why the Mormons don’t have a seminary for the high school, it made us think. We got one.
We had an old truck. Bishop Bird and I went to get wood to burn. He also had an old car. We went for quite a distance where there was wood. We loaded up both of our vehicles and started for home. We had one place where there was quite a hollow in the road. There we discovered that when there was not too much pressure on the tires, the wheels would go around but the tires would stand still. That happened at the bottom of this gully, so we decided to take Bishop’s load home first, and then bring his car back and get ours.
We went a couple of miles in his car, and he ran out of gas. We walked back to our truck and got the gas out of it to fill his tank. We finally got the wood home, but it took two days.
One afternoon the whole family took our truck out to find some wood. We were not very successful, but got some in. We had the whole thing full of kids, some standing up in back and some in front. We were going along nicely on a not too well traveled road when all of a sudden the road had been cut by a stream of water, and we hit a dry gulch. I could not stop the car quick enough, and the nose went right down into the gully. I think Anne bumped her head on the windshield. That was the only damage to the passengers, but I couldn’t move the car. It was dark and getting cold. We gathered up some sagebrush and tried to get a fire started, then I practically ran all the way to town to get help.
We rented a house for awhile in Milford and then bought one. Believe it or not, it cost $1200—twelve dollars down and twelve dollars a month. We were in the midst of a depression. The house was not wonderful, but it had a bathroom, several bedrooms, a living room, a big kitchen and some furniture. It was not too well built, but was a pretty good house for the money.
We lived there for some time, then told the real estate man we wanted a bigger house. We bought what was called the Smithson house. It was on the edge of town—close to the ball park and race track. It was not built by a builder. There was too much wood and the concrete walls were not anchored as they should be. One wall had pulled away from the other in the front room. It left quite a wide crack. We got a couple of long axles welded together, ran them between the ceiling and floor joists, through both walls and put some heavy face plate on them to hold the house together. They were still there when I looked last time I was in Milford for the Bond’s golden wedding reception.
We had some good friends in Milford. The Bond family, the Goodwins and our family used to get together and eat and visit each other. We even stayed out all night with the sky for a roof and quilts on the ground for a bed.
Brother Goodwin was a real friend. We bought a big old Buick and got it stuck. We had to send to Carl for his team of horses to get us out. We also went to conference in Beaver and took the car full. The roads were icy, and when I put on the brakes, we skidded off the road. Soon the Minersville crowd came and lifted the car back on the road.
The first time in my life to go fishing was in Box Elder Canyon. I caught one small trout. But in Milford we went up Beaver Canyon with some of the railroad men and with Don and Vern. We got stuck with the car once but got fish several times. On Puffer’s Lake Don would row the boat, and we would catch the fish.
While we were in Milford I bought a cheap movie camera. It has since gone by the wayside. But we did take some moving pictures there and Paul has a few of these early pictures.
I worked for Bill Gordon for a short time when we first moved to Milford. I was supposed to get salary and a small commission on all I sold over a certain amount. I did go over a little, but because I knew Bill was having a hard time, I didn’t say anything about it. Bill’s business in Cedar City and a small one he started in Caliente weren’t doing so good. He told us we would have to take a cut in salary. I wrote back and said, “I can’t afford to take a cut—besides I didn’t ask for the money I made in extra sales.” He exempted me.
I had done something that put me in good with Bill. When I saw a lot of watch materials all thrown together, I gathered them up and put them in envelopes with labels on as to what they were and sent the surplus to Cedar City. He was quite pleased that I had taken the time to do that. In fact when I told him much later that I was buying a business in Las Vegas, he asked, “Do you need a partner?”
Bill finally had to close up. He sold a lot of stuff to people who wouldn’t pay their bills. He put all the money he could get in the bank to pay what he could after Christmas. When he went to get it, the bank closed, and he had no money. He had to move out and the biggest creditor, Decker, took over.
We had a lot of trouble all over. In Milford the Red Cross and other charitable groups came to our Relief Society president and asked her to take over the whole charity business. They did, and it worked out quite well.
As watch inspectors we were invited to go to conventions. On the first trip, I met another inspector on the train. We rented a room for $1.50 a night (for both of us) and found a place to buy breakfast for $.15. He didn’t need to be that careful, but I did.
I worked a little for those who took over the inspection business, but they were not satisfied. The Ball Company came to me and said, “We don’t have a job for you, but if you want to go into business for yourself, we will let you have a little territory and some credit to get started.”
I started in business. That was the only thing I could do. We had tough pickings for quite some time. We averaged about $50 a month for quite some time. We lived as close as we could. Hazel was extremely cooperative. Her sister Edna sent her some old clothes that her husband Harrison couldn’t use anymore. She made coats and pants for the boys from these. We lived pretty low for some time. Eventually things got better, and we were making $200 per month. It looked as if that was about as far as we could get. We used to go into the woods and get firewood to save on the coal bill.
When I started in business for myself, I couldn’t pay much rent. I rented a corner in front of a building that was a drug store. Mrs. Kelly had the back end as a laundry and dry cleaning establishment. In the other side of the front was a beauty salon. My older boys used to do some delivering for Mrs. Kelly.
The store was sold so I had to move. Mr. Hubbell—we called him Doc—had a drug store on the corner. He asked me to move down there. I did, at no rent. He would take care of my customers when I was gone. He was very nice to me; he got me interested in politics. He was our mayor for several terms. I stayed there until we moved to Las Vegas. He had left and LaMar Owtsen became the new druggist sometime before we moved.
I had a little experience with the Utah Tax Commission. I turned in all sales made in Utah. My territory included Caliente, Nevada, and my sales were almost equal in each state. When I turned in my state income tax report, it showed more sales than my sales tax. I had to go to Salt Lake and explain. They were not satisfied. They thought I should have listed all sales and then deducted the out-of-state sales. I still can’t see the difference. I took proof to them that I had made the sales in Nevada. I was in the process of going through proof when we moved to Las Vegas. I told them to forget it.
R. V. Owens, the head time inspector, asked me one day if I would like to go to Las Vegas. I said I would. I began to get ready when I got a wire saying, “Hold everything.” I held everything.
About a year later he said, “Do you want to go to Las Vegas?” This time I really got ready. I rented a spot in Ferron Drug Store, hired a watchmaker, had a clock installed, got back to Milford, and I received another message.
“Hold everything.” I couldn’t; I had gone too far. I called my brother Max and told him about it. Max, at that time, was on the liquor commission in the state of Utah. He bought all the liquor for the state. It was shipped from various parts of the United States.
I asked him if he used the Union Pacific. He said he did and would go and talk to them. He did, and it certainly made a difference. I got a telegram, “Go ahead as planned.”
When I saw Mr. Owens again he said, “What in hell did you do?” The word went out that it was Church influence that got me in as time inspector. It made it rather rough for awhile because Davis, the previous inspector, had made quite a few friends among the railroad men. The real reason for the change was that Davis and some railroad men had misbehaved, and this was the second time.
I went back to Milford and got Hazel. We went to look for a house in Las Vegas. We could find only one house to rent; it was small. While we were in Las Vegas, it rained in Milford. Vern went out on the roof through an upstairs window, “to see how much it rained,” he said. He fell about 14 feet to the ground and broke his arm. He was determined to go to a picture show that evening, but decided that his arm hurt too much. We heard about it all when we got home.