My mother gave me a bag of presents to take home with me. As I sorted through the gifts to leave the ones for my son with him, I saw a real jewel. In the bag she had given me my father’s journal from 1953.
My father was not a journal keeper. But for that one year of his life he kept a journal. It was a requirement to obtain his Master M Man pin. (In the journal he comments on other requirements he was pursuing, such as reading a book–his choice was Talmage’s Jesus the Christ.) If Ardis sees this maybe she can tell us more about the Master M Man program.
Anyway, I read the small book on the plane coming home, and it was fascinating. It was an important transitional year in his life (five years before my own birth). At the beginning of the year he was still in the Air Force and finally he gets discharged after over four years of service. He had served in Korea, Japan and Mississippi, but by this point he hated the service and wanted out. He became engaged to my mother, and they got married in the Idaho Falls temple. He worked for an Idaho starch plant (and hated it), and then he started his college education (he was 22 turning 23 in this year) at Idaho State. And by the end of the year they were pregnant with a baby that would become my oldest sister.
It was interesting to see similarities between his experiences at that age and mine. I got married about a year before he did. While at his crappy job all he could think about was going to school; he had an intense intellectual curiousity and couldn’t stand the thoughtless tasks he was assigned as a laborer. I had a similar experience with my first post-mission job until I was able to go back to BYU.
He never went on a mission. The bishop talked to him about going, but by that time he was already engaged. He still thought about it, but money was a significant impediment. (This wasn’t like in my ward where if a young person wants to go you can count on the ward footing the bill.)
But I was completely flummoxed by the fact that he had been engaged for about a month before he mentioned the fact in his journal. And he first alludes obliquely to his wife’s “condition” at a time which, by my calculation, would have been at least a couple of months after they would have learned they were pregnant. Only a man would forget to mention in his journal that he was getting married or was going to have a baby!
There were interesting cultural things. He was an assistant scout master, but he was also earning merit badges himself; apparently back then you didn’t have to stop being a scout at 18. He lamented that there was nothing good on radio anymore, and TV had not yet come to the valley. Several times he pined for TV to come.
Once he was married, he really enjoyed going shopping with my mother on Saturdays. They worked hard to make their GI Bill money stretch and to build a food storage. As I was growing up, my family had an entire room in our basement devoted to food storage; that devotion to this principle was honed by necessity in the first months of my parents’ marriage.
He commented on lessons and talks that were good, and also those that were boring (more of the latter). He showed especial disdain for talks that were simply read over the pulpit–a sentiment I share.
Anyway, I only knew my father as a highly educated professor of education. To see his innermost thoughts from a time before he had ever set foot in any college classroom, struggling with life decisions, and reflecting attitudes very similar to my own really fleshed him out for me as a human being.
This is the only journal I have from him, and it is a treasure I shall cherish.