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01/21/21 09:42 AM #110    

 

Linda Bailey (Ogden)

Two Paul Eddingtons!? I do remember Paul at Nibley Park very well as I was madly in love with him.


01/21/21 12:15 PM #111    

 

Susan Hemmingsen (Marchant)

Ha Ha, Linda.  And excellent idea to think of two Paul Eddingtons!  Here I had no idea that we at Forest Dale had competition for the man of our dreams.  Why that would have turned my dreams to nightmares!   Hey Paul, do you have an identical twin brother you are not telling us about?

Okay, I know that I am wearing out my welcome here, but as I have been writing and talking with others I cannot also share here how I am beyond over the moon that we have new leadership in the White House!  When I witnessed you know who boarding the helicopter, I so wished it was a rocket that was taking him to unknown places which might be in a better postion than us to offer, in my humble opinion, much needed potent rehab. 

And, how about the amazing young 22 year old inaugurable poet, Amanda Gorman, and her beyond amazing poem!  These 13 words from the many memorable ones in her poem, "....somehow we've weathered and witnessed, a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished," resonated the terror I've felt, but then, turned my despair to hope - the hope and light that youth brings.  Hope and light that as youth at South we can relate to.

 


01/22/21 08:47 AM #112    

 

Gwen Aupperle (Koehler)

A huge "AMEN" to your comments Susan.  I do feel like I can stop holding my breath at last.  I look forward to more stories for us all to share about our lives, thoughts and journeys, but, right now, we can just rest and float in calm waters.  Gwen


01/26/21 09:48 PM #113    

 

Gordon Shepherd

WE THOUGHT THE WORLD WOULD BE BETTER

By Gordon and Gary Shepherd

            Wayne Miller and Mike Ellis were among the five African American kids in our 1961-62 senior class at South High, a central Salt Lake City school that had a total student population of approximately 2,000 the year we graduated. Of the entire student body, twenty-four (1.2 percent) were African Americans. On the basis of these numbers, South was atrociously labeled by some of the kids attending wealthier, lily-white schools in the region as a “n****” school. Gordon especially heard that foul epitaph as sports editor for the South HighScribe when our teams were playing on the fields and gyms of other schools.   

            Both Wayne and Mike were athletes who played for South. Neither is still living. Wayne died of “natural causes” in 2007. We’re less sure about Mike’s exact date of death, but it wasn’t from natural causes, and he was only 25 years old. So, let’s begin with his story first.

            We met Mike Ellis in the 8th grade at Lincoln Junior High. Located on the corner of 13th South and State Street, the block that once housed a neighborhood educational institution named for our greatest president, has today become another thicket of small shops, eateries, business office spaces for lease, and the Salt Lake County Probation Services building. Our vague recollection is that Mike lived with either his grandma or aunt in an older apartment building with stairs, somewhere in the central city area between State Street and 5th East, and 3rd South and 9th South. These street coordinates also unofficially defined Salt Lake’s “ghetto” neighborhoods, where a majority of our African American classmates lived.

            Mike was always a big kid, husky and quick on his feet, with athletic reflexes. He was good at basketball and could throw baseballs a long way too, as well as knock people down in our junior high games of flag football. Gordon learned this when they shared a gym class. But he was also an easy-going, friendly kid with a big grin and a ready laugh.

            His good-natured tendencies notwithstanding, Mike had a few after-school fights—not meanly provoked by him, we would wager. We remember one fight—in “Durmer’s Alley,” across from Lincoln on 13th South. A blondish tough kid had challenged Mike in gym class to meet after school. He was there waiting in the alley with his friends when Mike showed up, alone. Mike wasn’t grinning. The adolescent fighting norms of the day were fisticuffs and no kicking. But if Mike was going to fight a white kid surrounded by his friends, he wasn’t going to just talk tough and play macho games; he was going to whale the hell out of him and get it over with quickly, and that’s exactly what he did.

            At South, Mike threw the shotput in the spring and, in the fall, played left tackle on the football team. He was Big Number 75. On his White, South High Cubs helmet he hand-painted the name of his football hero—“Big Daddy” (Lipscomb), all-pro tackle for the fabled Baltimore Colts—in blue script, South High’s primary color.

            The South High Cubs had a losing season that year, and there weren’t many opportunities to cheer. One game stands out in our memory, though. It was against the Granite High Farmers (coached by future BYU coach, LaVell Edwards) and was played on their home turf in Salt Lake County at 3300 South and 5th East. The Farmers ran an old fashioned single-wing offense and proceeded to ram the ball down South’s throat for a score of 21-0 at half time. As sports editor, Gordon trudged into the locker room with the team to hear the players lambasted by South’s head coach, Dale Simons. “I thought you were real football players,” Simons snarled. “You seniors! You’re letting this junior carry you on his shoulders!” Simons pointed at junior Mike Gold, Mike Ellis’ broad shouldered, strawberry blonde line-mate at right tackle. Ellis sat with his head down, he was sick, he had a temperature, and he had to excuse himself to go throw up.

            The second half was a different game. South scored twice and shut down Granite’s single-wing attack. In the closing seconds South was moving the ball again into Granite territory, but the gun went off and the game was over. Another loss. At least the team could hold up their heads; Coach Simons would have to grudgingly admit that they had finished the game like real football players—especially Mike Ellis, drenched in sweat with steam rising off his shoulder pads, as he wearily boarded the team bus for the short ride home.

            At the end of the football season, Mike Ellis, Big Number 75, was awarded all-state honors by both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, the only one of his teammates to be thusly acknowledged and acclaimed. 

            One weekend night later that year, Mike, in the company of another friend, showed up at our Denver Street Circle home after downing a few beers. They were not roaring drunk, but Ellis was tipsy and had to catch himself from stumbling when they came into the living room. Big Mike was mortified. He straightened to his full height, in his blue and white letter jacket, and remorsefully blurted an apology to Gary: “I’m real sorry, Shep. I don’t mean to disrespect you and your home and your parents showing up here like this.”

            We have another particularly vivid high school recollection of Mike Ellis. Gordon became buddies with another Mike—Mike Mitchell, a white kid and football teammate, who was co-captain of the South eleven and Gordon’s best friend at South. “Mitch,” as everybody called him, was the proud owner of a 1956, two-tone red and cream-colored Chevy Impala hardtop with a wrap-around windshield, which he kept in impeccable condition. Ellis always road shotgun when we cruised Main Street. One Saturday night while cruising, we pulled into Snelgrove’s on 21st South. Painted pink and built in Art Deco style, Snelgrove’s was Salt Lake’s snazziest ice-cream parlor. Inside it looked like a restaurant, with linen table clothes and napkins. And you ordered from a fancy menu, with dozens of imaginative ice-cream dishes from which to choose.

We slid into a plush booth and waited for a waitress to take our order. Other customers were being waited on too, many of whom had been seated after us. We waited some more. Then, Mitch beckoned a passing waitress. She glanced at Mitch, then at Mike Ellis, winced, and kept on walking. Our ears and cheeks started burning. We looked at Ellis, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Let’s leave.” It wasn’t just a hateful waitress that night. We later found out it was Snelgrove’s policy not to serve “colored customers.” Salt Lake City, circa 1962.  

            As with many of our other high school classmates and friends, we lost touch with Mike Ellis after graduation. For us there followed a year of freshman studies at the University of Utah, six months of military basic training in California and Oklahoma for the Utah National Guard, and two years as Mormon missionaries in Mexico. When we got back from Mexico in the summer of 1966, we resumed our studies at the University of Utah and also reconnected with our good friend, Mitch. In 1968 Gordon learned from Mitch who, while stoically blinking back his tears, informed him that Mike Ellis had taken his own life. We can’t pretend to know what drove Big Mike to such a desperate end. According to Mitch, he had lost the cheerful grin that was his trademark in high school and seemed depressed and even angry much of the time. Mitch was asked by Mike’s family members to be one of the pallbearers at his funeral.

            Damn. Damn. Damn. This wasn’t the future that any of us had foreseen. The democratic ideals we uncritically embraced at South High in 1962 didn’t comport with the realities of American society a mere six years later in 1968. Yes, 1968—the year that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis after supporting a rally for Black sanitation workers; the year that Senator Robert Kennedy was shot to death in Los Angeles campaigning for president on a platform that strongly supported civil rights for both black and brown Americans; the year that virulent racism boiled over at home, and a controversial war was being fought by our generation in Vietnam.  

            And Wayne Miller? Well, without pretending to comprehend the various struggles with which he contended while growing up as a minority kid in Salt Lake City, or later as an adult living and working in the city of his birth, it’s apparent that Wayne’s life took a different track than Mike Ellis’. Like Big Mike, we met Wayne Miller at Lincoln Junior High in gym-class intramural sports. Unlike Big Mike, Wayne was lithe and sinewy, with not an ounce of fat on his soon-to-be six-foot frame. And, in contrast to Mike’s gregarious boisterousness, Wayne was quiet, diffident if not downright shy, and a good student. In high school, Wayne played piano in the dance band, was one of eight classmates selected to represent South at Boys’ State in 1961, and subsequently was elected to the South High Board of Delegates his senior year. He was never challenged to an afterschool fight that we know of and, had he been, he would probably have coolly walked away. Even without sports, Wayne Miller was one of the most well-liked and respected kids in the school.

            But, of course, it was in sports that he acquired his chief renown among his classmates. By the time he started high school, Wayne was the fastest kid in the sophomore class. He went out for football and seemed destined to become an all-star running back. But he developed a mild case of Rheumatic Fever and was diagnosed with a heart-murmur. His doctors forbade him from playing football his junior and senior years but allowed that he could run track and play basketball. 

            On the track team, Wayne ran the 100 and 220 yard dashes and anchored the 4 x 220 yard relay team. We remember South’s first track-meet of the 1962 season at Olympus High School, at the feet of Mount Olympus in eastern Salt Lake County. It was a chilly, overcast day in late March. Snow still thickly covered the mountains behind the track and the thinly clad runners were shivering. Since Gordon was the school’s sports editor, he was granted permission to stand on the track at the finish line to witness the first race of the day, the 100 yard dash. He stood there in frozen awe as he watched Wayne Miller—a vision of surging power and grace—storming directly at him, ten yards in front of his nearest competitor. Standing next to Gordon at the tape was his counterpart sports editor from Olympus High, who exclaimed, “Jesus! that Black kid from South runs like Man O’ War” (the fabled racehorse from the Roaring Twenties). 

            South’s 1961-62 basketball team was short, even for a high school team of that era. The tallest senior on the squad was a measly six-two (and he wasn’t even a starter). Wayne was an even six feet. Wayne didn’t play guard, however, and he didn’t play forward, either. He was the center. He was the center because he could jump. He had a short, muscular torso, long legs, long arms and big hands. Did we mention already that he could jump? He was quick; he was fast, and, oh yes, he could jump. Taller centers on opposing teams were too slow to block his short-range jump-shot. And they also discovered that he could spring high enough in the air to swat down their dinky layups inside the paint. Wayne soared for rebounds and, like the big guys, he could dunk.  

            Gordon remembers a game at Granite High again, watching the Granite Farmers in their warmup drill before the game, their big guys lumbering up to the basket and showing off with two-handed dunks. Then he turned to watch Wayne and the Cubs warming up at the other end of the court—Wayne Miller with the ball, loping toward the basket, and then launching upward as though shot from a catapult to hurl a smashing dunk through the net with one hand. Gordon stood in adolescent awe and hoarsely whispered out-loud: “Wayne, you thrill me!” Yep, that’s what he said—it was a spontaneous, heartfelt expression from a kid who idealized sports heroes, but who was not generally known for public displays of expressive feeling.   

            South went to state that year in both basketball and track, playing well enough to win some games against bigger opponents at the state basketball tournament and placing third or fourth at the state track meet. At the end of the school year the South High coaching staff unanimously named Wayne Miller as the school’s outstanding athlete. This is what Gordon had to say about Wayne in a short summary of his achievements on the sports page of the South High Scribe:

            The best senior athlete and the all-around best senior at South High is Wayne Miller. Wayne is a showcase of self-improvement, coachability, desire, and plain hard work. To begin with, Wayne is not a natural athlete. Instead of natural ability he was given a body capable of high achievement. Wayne has taken it from there, practicing, working and molding himself into an outstanding performer. Illness prevented Miller from playing football, a sport that easily could have become his best. Instead, Wayne poured his concentration into basketball and ended up as second high scorer on this year’s team with a 14 point per game average. More important to the team was Wayne’s tremendous rebounding and intangible something that seemed to add fire to the Cub attack. Track comes easiest to Wayne, who is one of the top sprinters in the state. He runs like a smooth moving thoroughbred, picking up speed as he goes. Wayne’s long, sleek legs, dangling arms and hands, broad shoulders, and short, v-shaped torso make him look taller than his actual six feet. Draped around his bones are 175 pounds of slabbed muscle. These physical features, coupled with his willing attitude, have been responsible for making Wayne Miller senior athlete of the year.

            Two years after graduation from South High School, when we were preparing to leave for Mexico on Mormon missions, we sent Wayne a formal invitation in the mail to attend our missionary farewell. He wasn’t a Mormon, but we hoped he would come. He didn’t. But after all, there were other friends from school who were invited who didn’t come either. Had he showed up, though, Wayne Miller’s face would have been the only black one in a sea of white. As the Reverend Martin Luther King used to say, the most segregated places on Sunday morning in America are the Christian churches—regrettably, still true today.

            Years later, Gary, who had been the student body president our senior year, made the following glass half full-half empty remarks about Wayne to an audience at the 10-year reunion for the South High Class of ‘62:

            We listened with faith to Dr. Backman’s lectures on democracy, and we applauded  Wayne Miller with our hands and hearts when he spoke to us at the Award Dinner at the tail-end of the 1962 school year. But, I remember too that Wayne was quietly taken aside during the drawing of dates to attend that celebration and was assigned to escort a black girl who, but for the felt need to arrange for Wayne an “acceptable” partner, would not otherwise have been in attendance.

            As with Mike Ellis, we didn’t see Wayne after high school nor after our church missions to Mexico. Through the grapevine we learned that he became a supervisor over youth sports for Parks and Recreation at the Central City Recreation Center on 6th South and 3rd East—right in the middle of the old neighborhood where he grew up as a kid.

            It came as a shock to learn, in 2007, that Wayne had passed away prematurely at the age of 63. From his obituary we learned that Wayne obtained a Masters’ Degree at the University of Utah and, after retiring from City Parks and Recreation, went to work as a counselor at Valley Mental Health Clinic in Salt Lake. In his spare time, and for fun, he played piano for appreciative audiences at area dining spots and other venues, both public and private. Among other things said in his memory, Wayne Miller’s obituary stated simply, “He was always quiet, dignified, and respectful of others.”

            Amen, brother. Your respectfulness of others was reciprocated by everyone we ever knew who also knew you. Rest in peace, Wayne, and you too, Mike. We fear now that the country we live in today has failed to progress very far in the direction of acknowledging in actions—and not just words—our shared humanity and sense of mutual respectfulness. We hate that. We nonetheless continue to prize our youthful association in a time and place when we thought the world would be better for us than it was for our parents, and even better for our own children than it was for us. And in too many ways, it isn’t. May we renew in the years to come the ideals of equality we were taught and proclaimed at South High, and may we rededicate our personal and collective efforts to align our professed ideals with the way we actually conduct our daily lives in contact with our fellow citizens whose backgrounds and race differ from our own.  


01/28/21 11:13 PM #114    

 

Susan Hemmingsen (Marchant)

Gordon and Gary, the windows you open with your poignant and powerful detailed remembrances and observations of Mike and Wayne both moved and shocked me.  The Snelgrove Ice Cream Store scene which you described was emotional for me to read, yet also making it possible to step, albeit for only a very tiny minute, into the shoes of Mike Ellis.  What a vile, ugly, humiliating incident for him to have in front of his friends, but, what makes it even more disgusting, is the fact that we can surmise from our knowledge of racism, he endured more.  To be exposed to such treatment cannot help but create large, deep holes in one's ability to find enough trust and love in the world to begin to fill those holes up.  Then there is the experience in Wayne's life at his Senior Award's Dinner which was mared by racism like Mikes's - an event which should have only been filled with wonderful pride of his hard work and much sense of accomplishment.  What other disrespect and hate he endured throughout 63 years we can only image.  I thank you for bringing to life these two fellow travelers of ours as I really knew so little of them.

I can remember downtown Salt Lake having separate drinking fountains and bathroom facilities for 
African Americans and Whites.  I also was exposed in my home to racism with certain slang words used disparingly when talking about various groups of people.  Both my mother and father from living in Lark, Utah and near Copperton, Uah were around many different nationalities with racism extremely alive and "well" (?) in this area of the state.  As a young newlywed, I used one of these slurs when telling a story to my husband.  He responded with surprise and disgust as these were words he was not exposed to in his home.

 


02/02/21 08:52 AM #115    

 

Gary Shepherd

Gord and I appreciate your response to our little Mike Ellis/Wayne Miller vignette, Susan.  We share your views exactly on what we didn't know about our friends of color back then, and what we should now all be aware of and try to amend where, when, and how we can.


02/02/21 02:33 PM #116    

 

Susan Hemmingsen (Marchant)

A fitting quote for these Covid days -

"I don't think I get enough credit for the fact that I do all of this unmedicated."


02/02/21 06:58 PM #117    

 

Judy Granger (Bell)

So well said!  Thank you both.  Be safe.


02/23/21 08:17 PM #118    

 

Gordon Shepherd

Dedicated to Janis Yano and all of our Japanese American friends at South High

NATIONALITY AMERICAN

By Gordon and Gary Shepherd

In late January 2018, Gordon got an email from Gary, with the sadly shocking news that Janice Yano—one of our earliest childhood and adolescent classmates from Liberty Elementary through Lincoln Junior and South High schools in Salt Lake City—had passed away unexpectedly of natural causes. Janice Yano?! Of natural causes? No way! At our 55th high school reunion the previous August she had looked younger and healthier than anyone there, including the two of us with our shiny foreheads and short grey beards.

            Gary’s note contained a link to her obituary at legacy.com, which Gordon immediately clicked on. “Janice Yoshiko Yano Aoki,” the top line of the obituary read, “In Loving Memory.” We never knew Janice had a middle name. We were also reminded by the obituary that she had married Bob Aoki, another good high school friend, right after graduation from South. With stars in their eyes they moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where wages were high and work was plentiful. Their youthful marriage lasted long enough for them to have two daughters, Teresa and Cathy, before ending in divorce.

            Gordon’s eyes scanned quickly down the page. Born: December 10, 1943 Hunt, Idaho. Passed Away: January 10, 2018. Wait a minute. Go back. Hunt, Idaho? Where the hell is that? He looked that up too. Here’s what he found on Wikipedia:

            Hunt is an unincorporated rural area north of Eden in Jerome County, Idaho, United States. The area was named after Frank W. Hunt. a former governor of Idaho. It was the home to a Japanese American Internment Camp marked by the Minidoka National Historic Site . . . Minidoka National Historic Site--a Japanese American Internment Camp.  

             Janice was born exactly three weeks before the two of us first sputtered for breath at Salt Lake City’s old Holy Cross Hospital. On the day of our birth, December 31, 1943, our father was in New Guinea as a Field Director for the American Red Cross with American troops, who were mercifully being granted some R & R during the Pacific War with Japan after Pearl Harbor. And on the day of our birth, Janice Yoshiko Yano was a tiny prisoner in the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Hunt, Idaho along with her parents, Mitsuru Yano and Mikiko Sugino Yano and her two older sisters, Irene and Lillian. 

            As adults we learned about the internment camps that were quickly instituted by executive order in early 1942, following the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. There were nearly a dozen of these camps, whose inmate populations ranged between 7,000 and 19,000, and they were spread out in remote spots on the map in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and even Arkansas. A total of 110,000 to 120,000 Japanese American citizens were incarcerated in these camps for the duration of the war. We knew all this but never thought to make the connection between our country’s ruthless security policies during wartime and what that must have meant for the Japanese kids we grew up with and attended school with in 1950s Salt Lake City. We don’t know where Janice’s parents were born or when they became U. S. citizens—whether they were naturalized or American born—but they must have been citizens prior to Pearl harbor.  Non-US Citizens of Japanese heritage—proud parents of three beautiful daughters—would never have named them Irene, Lillian, and Janice.

            We remember Lillian from when we were kids growing up in the early 1950s in Salt lake City. She and her sisters lived then in an old, Victorian, two-storied dwelling on 5th East right across the street from Liberty Park. Lillian was truly beautiful, with straight, shining black hair, gently bobbed at her shoulders. At Liberty Elementary, our older brother Don had a schoolboy crush on her. We remember going with Don to the Yano’s house on more than one occasion, with various excuses for him to get a glimpse of Lillian. As a senior at South High, Lillian was vice-president of the Pep Club, a member of the House of Delegates, the Social Arts Club, the French Club, the Swimming Club, and the Tennis Club. She sang in the A’Cappella Choir and Girls Glee, was awarded Honors at Entrance at the University of Utah, was a graduation speaker at South High’s 1960 commencement ceremony, and performed unpretentiously in “The Mikado”—South High’s musical extravaganza for the 1959-60 schoolyear.

            We don’t recall much about Janis’ oldest sister, Irene until, as sophomores at South, we watched transfixed as she and two other South High alumni girls soulfully sang, in achingly beautiful, three-part harmony, “Sentimental Journey,” at an alumni assembly in the fall of 1959.

***

Gonna take a sentimental journey

Gonna set my heart at ease

Gonna take a sentimental journey

To renew old memories

Got my bag, got my reservation

Spent each dime I could afford

Like a child in wild anticipation

Long to hear that "All aboard!"

Seven, that's the time we leave, at seven

I'll be waitin' up for heaven

Countin' every mile of railroad track
That takes me back

Never thought my heart could be so yearny

Why did I decide to roam?

Gonna take a sentimental journey

Sentimental journey home.

***

            “Sentimental Journey” was a hit song by Doris Day and “Les Brown’s Band of Renown” that coincided with the end of WWII and became the unofficial homecoming song for hundreds of thousands of victorious, American soldiers, returning to their loved ones after the defeat of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany in 1945. That’s when our dad came home too. And, fourteen years later, Irene Yano, who spent two to three years of her young life in a Japanese American Internment camp in Hunt, Idaho, sang her heart out on the stage of Salt Lake City’s South High auditorium.

            Then there was Janice—diminutive, perky, spunky, smart-as-a-whip Janice Yano. In the 5th grade at Liberty Elementary Gordon announced that he didn’t like girls. But the truth was—in secret emulation of his brother Don’s childhood romance fantasies—he had a crush on Janice, which he demonstrated by finding creative ways to annoy her. She was cute and smart and a competitor, even then, with sassy retorts to all of our silliness. Meanwhile, the Yanos had moved from 5th East to another old Victorian house on Edith Ave, between 4th and 3rd East. All the better for us! Janice’s Edith Ave house was an elbow bend down the alley from where our best friend, Lorin Larsen, lived in a duplex on the north side of 13th South. Lorin and the two of us—in the dumb mode of prepubescent boys—routinely raced past her front porch on our bikes, showing off, and then returned to make minor insults and laugh at our own witless jokes, while Janice pretended to be exasperated by Gordon’s clumsy attentions. Gordon says he could be wrong, but he thinks Janice liked him too.

            Later, when we went on to South High, Janice continued to excel at school, both academically and socially. She was elected vice president of our sophomore class, was in the Pep Club, made straight A’s her junior year, and, as a senior, served as the campaign manager for Dave Shiba, who ran against Gary for the office of student body president. Shiba, it turns out, was another one of our Japanese American classmates. He had been elected president of our sophomore class and, in his junior year, was elected again to office as second vice president of the entire student body.

            And what about Bob, Bob Aoki, Janice’s high school boyfriend and husband to be? Bob didn’t attend Liberty Elementary with us and Janice, but we got acquainted with him at Lincoln Junior High and he became what we considered to be a good and loyal friend. Bob and Gordon occasionally met to play tennis on the public courts at Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park. Gordon remembers one occasion when a twenty-one year old blowhard tried to order him and Bob off the court so he could take it for himself. Bob boldly dismissed his bluster as being nothing more than a tired string of “clichés,” and refused to yield the court. “Clichés?” Gordon had to go home to look up the word in a dictionary. He thought clichés referred to some kind of fencing or wrestling tactics.

            In Gary’s sophomore yearbook, Bob wrote: “I've always perked up and listened when I heard the name Shepherd. . .  I think a lot of you and your brother, and don't take it light. A friend is like a candle flame; blow it out, and a smoking wick is all that remains.” Your bud, "The Mikado," Bob Aoki. As seniors, when Gary ran for student body president at South, Bob supported him instead of Dave Shiba, and volunteered to draw and cut a stencil poster of a square-rigged Galleon ship—"Put South in Shep Shape,” it was captioned—that became the single most effective propaganda poster of Gary’s winning campaign.    

            Bob’s stockier brothers, Dick and Larry, both started as linemen for South High football teams in the fall of 1959 and 1962, respectively. The oldest Aoki brother—charismatically handsome, Jim Aoki—was elected South’s student body president for the school year 1957-58, only a dozen years after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

            As kids growing up in Salt Lake during the 1950s, we thought nothing of all this: The Yanos, the Aokis, and Dave Shiba—not to mention Eddie Aoyogi, Matzi and Terry Mayeda, Katheleen Sako, Sue Tohinaka, and Bruce Tokeno, to name just a few—were all good kids, our friends, and obviously active supporters of the democratic principles we imbibed and boasted of at South High. All of them, directly or indirectly through the experiences of family relatives, were exposed as children to concentration camp life in wartime America in the1940s.

            After she and Bob divorced, Janis returned to Salt Lake and worked as a single mom to mother her children and rise through the ranks at Mountain Bell. Her job took her to Denver, Colorado where she eventually retired as a telecommunication manager. In between, she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree from Salt Lake City’s Westminster College.

            Did we mention Janice also was an athlete and played sports? Not in high school, regrettably. Her teenage years were past before Title IX became the law of the land. But as an adult woman she took up tennis, golf, and skiing and excelled at all three. She competed fiercely and won a lot of tournament trophies right up to the time of her stunningly unexpected death. We’re confident that her diminutive stature and soft, demure smile lulled many an overconfident opponent into relaxing when they should have been concentrating, and they quickly found themselves down 40-love before they knew what hit them.

            At our 55th school reunion we suggested to Janice that we’d have to get together some time  and play a little tennis. She smiled demurely and said, “When do you want to play?”

***

Please join us in a toast: To Janis Yoshiko Yano Aoki, of Hunt Idaho, Anchorage Alaska, Denver Colorado, and Salt Lake City Utah: Nationality American.


02/24/21 12:45 AM #119    

 

Nancy Pratt (Moss)

Thank you so much for sharing this - brought back a lot of wonderful memories at Lincoln Jr and South.  Also, thank you for the history lesson - I learned a lot as I read this.

Nancy Pratt Moss

 

 


02/24/21 06:53 PM #120    

 

Gary Shepherd

Thanks, Nancy.  We hope there are some good lessons in these stories for everyone.  There are for us as we write them.

 


02/25/21 03:20 PM #121    

 

Gwen Aupperle (Koehler)

Well, the dynamic Shepherd duo delights again.  Reading about Janice brought back memories of that small, smart young woman.  Also, never commented about your musings about the black students we knew at South. It gave such an unknown, to me, dimension to their lives.  How so much of our character traits were formed all those years ago that remain in us today and are uncovered by the ongoing dynamics of our lives.

I am wondering if the two of you have thought about putting your writings in a booklet form.  I, for one, would snap that up in a minute.  So much of what you have put into your thoughts and musings is so relevant to the times we are living in.  I do yearn for that simpler, kinder world sometimes.  Or, maybe the naivete that was ours when we were young.

I have recently read a couple of books by David Brooks who is a columnist and PBS newshour regular.  "The Road to Character" and "The Second Mountain"  that I would recommend.

I feel that you are helping to create a community among fellow Southerners with an opportunity to share our lives with each other and I thank you for that.  I have always valued life stories---a lense to bring about human understanding and a way to stretch our thoughts and belief boundries.

I want to share just a glimpse into a journey which had me enter into a dark time in my life.  I met my first husband my first week at the beginning of my college career at Westminster College in SLC.  We were part of a group of friends that did many things together during those 4 years and have kept in touch with some of them all these years.  Sam and I were married for 18 years and had one son. my only child.  Sam and I were and remain very good friends.  He "gave me away" at my second marriage (so far we have been married 33 years).  My bride price was 2 chickens and a goat, as my ex told my fiance.  We used small ceramic animals to fulfill the debt. These 2 men had worked together at HP and were good friends.  I was introduced to my present husband, Chuck, by my ex 3 years after we had divorced, (and, there-in lies another tale). It was a very amicable divorce but a wrenching decision to go down that road.  My life since has brought me much love and adventure.  And since my husband and I have gotten our first vaccine jabs we are hoping this crazy virus will not take us down and that we will have more adventures!!

I knew that there was something just not right in the relationship after many years and finally, after a move to Saudi Arabia for a new job for Sam and then a hasty  move back to Colorado after 6 months overseas, a truth was revealed to me. Sam was gay. I had had my suspicions and even asked if those suspicions were correct and I met with an adamant denial.  These were not the times to accept a fact like that as this was pretty hush, hush and most gay people were discriminated against---surely not a "choice" anyone would make as was widely accepted to be the only reason for living a life like that!   We tried counseling and after many heart breaking discussions we realized we had to let each other go with love so that we could go on with our lives in a more authentic manner.  Our son weathered this in the best possible way at the age of 14.  His dad continued to be actively involved in his life and his comment when told why his parents were separating was, "Dad, it is OK, I still love you."  Greg, our son, is now having to deal with the awful situation of his dad's slide into dementia.  He is a patient and loving son and the joy of my life.

A book was written by a friend of mine who faced this same dilemma.  She intereviewed many spouses (male and female) to tell their stories in the hope that it would be a help to the many of us in the population who have faced this situation.  I know I looked and could not find anything to read at the time---it was just not talked about!  My life line was my younger sister who lived in Canada--- my phone bills were outrageous.  Again, the prejudice kept me silent for quite awhile---the old, "must be your fault" was a major hurdle.  Eventually both families and friends had to know and both of us were embraced and supported by them  I still have a letter written by my father-in-law to me that was full of love for us both.

One of the most salient questions that was posed to us when we sought help by a counselor was this; the counselor looked at me and said, "Do you remember when you decided to be straight?"  I was taken aback and said, "I never decided, I just was!"  "Well", he said, "then you must come to believe that your husband did not choose either, to be gay."  The councelor told us he could help us to deal with this fact and how to make necessary decisions but he could not (which is what Sam wanted) make this go away.  The years since this greatly upended my life and our son's life have been filled with much grace for the friendship we have maintained, the understanding of my present husband that a part of my heart would always belong to another man and the change that brought about my understanding and acceptance of anyone who has been ostracized by a judgemental society.  I did hear some comments from my parents as I grew up that revealed some prejudices but I was not "taught" to think I was better than others or that I was not to associate with  folks who were different.

Sam went on to realize his dream of owning and living aboard a sailboat.  He had a beautiful 40 foot sailboat that I, my husband and our son stayed on and sailed on many times.  Sam and I and our son had several sailing adventures aboard large Windjammers in the South Pacific in happier days.

I do not regret that I chose to travel through part of my life with Sam, a man who treated me lovingly and with respect (he never acted on his deep seated attraction to the same sex while we were married). I do regret that because society's conventions forced him to hide who he was and that that led to decisions to live a life that involved a fundament lie about himself.  

Well, maybe not such a brief glimpse as I started it out to be as I told this story it took on a life of its own.  Now you know a new story about a classmate and a detour she had to make on her journey.  Gwen Koehler

 


02/25/21 10:50 PM #122    

 

Susan Hemmingsen (Marchant)

The last week and a half for me has brought highs and lows; not unusual to have highs and lows I realize, but a few of the highs were, you know just way up there in how amazing they made me feel while the lows, two of them, reached places that were heartwrenching and unexpected.  Then, today as I sat down at my amazing gadget, the computer, to catch up on life, I read that once again the United States was involved in yet another ugly aggression overseas.  No! No, and no. Not again.  I was thrown into yet another low, and I was feeling angry and especially HELPLESS at the news.   

So I left that site and read some emails.... and among those emails were those written by Gary and Gordon and Gwen.  These emails contained stories filled with words and thoughts that I knew took time, thought, empathy and courage to write, allowing me to replace my "low" with an amazing "high" feeling because of the new horizons opened up to me from reading these amazing stories.

When I went back to college later in life, determined to get the degree I left unrealized, I decided to change my major from elementary education to anthropology,  I chose this major from the many (and I do mean many) introductory classes in various subjects I took as an education major.  It called to me.  The professor I had in my Anthropology 101 class was close to retirement and his love of the subject filled the classroom.   A lingering question I had pondered forever about life focused on the diversity of humans, where they lived, how they looked, why some had much and others not much at all, etc.  Would I find the answers from studying this subject?   His words seemed to open up this possibility to me.

It didn't take long in my studies to hear this axiom:  We humans are more alike than we are different. I thought I was onto something that might answer some of my questions.  But, what did this mean? Whatever did this mean? Many classes, questions and answers later, the picture began to emerge with the answer drawn in vibrant hues and varying shapes.  All of us humans are "story tellers" etching out the fabric of our lives.....who  are we? why are we on this earth? and what happens when we die?  We all desire love, to love and be loved.  We all have hopes and dreams and fears.  And on and on the similarities grow. 

As my studies unfolded, as I learned story after important story after story, I grew to realize the importance of this statement and what it meant.  That stories told by humans, if we will but listen to and learn from them, connect us all, making us more alike than different, and can give us the tools to see ourselves in others, all others.  And, this in turn, creates the desire to want and work for peace and freedom for each and every human.

 


02/26/21 09:17 AM #123    

 

Gordon Shepherd

Dear Gwen and Susan,

Thank you both for your upbeat, life affirming posts. Given the troubled and troubling times in which we now live, it is soul-refreshing to reflect on and share life experiences with old friends and former classmates that restore and reinforce our connections with one another and our shared humanity.


02/26/21 10:30 AM #124    

 

Gary Shepherd

Amen to what Gordon says.  In addition, Gwen, we have known a number of friends and family members who have gone through situations similar to the one you so eloquently and lovingly open up about in your post.  Very glad that the arc of your life, in spite of the initial downward times you describe, ultimately aimed you in such a positive direction.  And Susan, your compassion for fellow human beings of all stripes, captured in the anthropological dictum that we are more alike than we are different, regardless of where we come from on this planet earth, shines out in every word you write.

BTW, a modest book of the sort suggested by Gwen has, in fact, been on our minds for awhile.  We shall see.

 


03/01/21 11:34 AM #125    

 

Karen Demke (Hansen)

Dear Gary and Gordon,

Thank you again for adding insight into the lives of our friends at South.  I always thought so highly of Janice.  She was so positive and upbeat you would never have guessed where her life began.  Of equal interest to me was to learn that your father spent 2 years in New Guinea during the war.  It must have been so hard for your mom to take care of you on her own.  I sincerely hope your dad was able to share his wartime experiences with you.  It would be so fascinating to interview him now.


03/02/21 08:30 AM #126    

 

Gary Shepherd

When we were kids growing up, we pretty much took for granted our friends. We liked them, but we didn't really know much about them.  Now we realize how privileged we were to grow up with many of these friends, too late in too many cases to know their true stories and the background handicaps so many of them had to contend with. Janice was one who surmounted her obstacles with grace, wit, and pluck.  So sorry she left us so soon.  

Gord and I did manage a few interviews with our dad before he died, but large blocks of his life remain unrevealed.  Same with our mom.  And same, of course with other family members and all our old friends.  We hope the little stories we tell about some of our friends in this forum will fill-in a few gaps--just enough to maybe help us all to think more compasionatley about the struggles of others and more gratfully about the shaping influences others have had in our own lives.

 


03/07/21 08:00 AM #127    

 

Susan Hemmingsen (Marchant)

This last half year has found me at home (a lot!), isolated due to Covid 19 and busitis in the hip area, both limiting my mobility.  Today, I am celebrating gleefully the completion of two rounds of Covid vaccinations and the required 2-week waiting period and increased mobility blessed with less pain!  Hooray!  Hooray! and Hooray!  I am grateful to those in the medical field responsible for my forward journey, and also add to this gratitude a list of family, friends, internet, music, lovely books and wonderful movies and documentaties which filled my body and soul with relief, new insights, beauty, calmness, and comedy.  From my heart, I say Thank You very, very much.

One of the movies I recently rewatched and want to mention is now available on Netflix.  It is called "Invictus", produced by Clint Eastwood in 2009, and based on true events which took place in post-apartheid South Africa.  In this movie "...President Nelson Mandela chases a dream to unite his people through rugby...."   I had watched this movie previously, finding its storyline meaningful, up-lifting, and compeling while also featuring tales of one of my heroes, South Africa's amazing hero Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela came into my world when my second born, a son, chose to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, being picked to serve in the Johannesburg, South African mission.  Because apartheid was still "too alive and too well" in this country, my husband and myself did not feel this to be a safe destiny for two years and pleaded with our son to ask for a change of venue.  Alas, our wishes were not his wishes, and thus began my journey to learn about this diverse, distant intriguing country racked with dangerous racism which would soon lay claim to our son.   And, Nelson Mandela was part of this eduational learning experience.

As mentioned, the larger-than-life individual, Nelson Mandela, grew to be a hero in my life.   Able to endure and survive 30 years of captivity by his enemies in the prison of South Africa and then, when finally free, able to forgive those enemies and work diligently day and night for the unification of the now-free-from-apartheid South Africa is worthy of lavish hero worship in my book.  Leaving behind an extensive paradigm for peace for others to emulate, he was truly a great, yet humble person who even managed to cultivate a lively sense of humor.

I want to mention another amazing enlightening movie starring the land of South Africa - it is, Cry Freedom! created by a talented creative producer, David Attenborough.  I place it high on my do-not-miss movie list.  This movie, along with the movie Invictus, and Nelson Mandela, all speak to and resonate with the challenges surrounding the evil, often vile racism our own beloved country is facing - challenges which have been around from America's inception.  And, bringing this around to our lives as Southerners of South High, we, as has previously been discussed on this site, were exposed to such racism in our school attendance, some of us more aware and even party to than others.  Solving such racial injustice and building peace with equality here in our homeland are defintely goals worth working deligently for and will, most likely, present all of us, if so desired, with opportunities to join and work to achieve.

Take care, have a nice week and keep safe out there.

 

 


03/09/21 11:40 AM #128    

 

Gary Shepherd

Pretty powerful South African experiences, with abundant applications, Susan.  Thanks for sharing.  And hip, hip hooray! indeed upon completion of your vaccinations.  Lauren and I (and Gordon and his wife, Faye) all have ours. Big relief; hope all others who understand the importance of doing this and are waiting their turns (family, friends, neighbors, everyone everywhere) will soon have their shots too.  


03/09/21 01:10 PM #129    

 

Gordon Shepherd

Thanks, Susan, for the film recommendations + I join with Gary in appreciation of the tireless work of the medical community  to get people vaccinated so we can finally turn the COVID corner, both in the U.S. and worldwide. When that happens, I look forward to travel once more, including a visit “home” to SLC. I would love to be able to see many of our old friends again.


04/08/21 07:14 PM #130    

 

Gary Shepherd

 During our preteen and early adolescence when hormones first began stirring—you all remember—we shared  several initial girl-related experiences which likely were not nearly as interesting as some of yours’.  Nevertheless,  in the following reminiscence, we recall now with feelings of innocent fun, chagrin, and nostalgic bemusement our own tame introduction to the strange new land of girls

 

SHY AND AWKWARD

The Momentous Discovery that Girls Were Not Just Schoolmates

 

By Gary and Gordon Shepherd

 

On the threshold of puberty at approximately age eleven, both of us suddenly became shy around girls. This was especially true of Gordon, who, more so than Gary, stubbornly asserted his opposition to perceiving girls in a new light that required acting differently. Secretly, however, Gordon was smitten by Janice Yano—a nearby neighbor and longtime school classmate.  Gordon ineptly endeavored to conceal his attraction by showing off and annoying her. At an even earlier age, Gary developed a full blown crush on Carol Jean Christensen, another close neighbor and schoolmate.

Carol Jean (never just Carol) was the smartest kid in our age group at Liberty Elementary, even smarter, we thought, than Philip Starr, Janice Yano, Annette Bowman, or Kathy McClure. And, of course, smarter than either one of us. Carol Jean was also a very good artist, better, we thought, than Lorin Larsen or Lisle Brown. In fact, we conceitedly conceded that her artistic talent was on par with our own. She was cute, also very shy, and she lived just around the corner from us in a small, white frame house at the intersection of Blair Street and Harvard Avenue, directly across from David Lingwall’s house. Even at a young age, Gary felt a little leap in his heart whenever Carol Jean came into view.   

At the end of the 5th grade, Carol Jean’s father received a job promotion with the Social Security Administration. Now the Christensen family could afford a new home, but while it was being built in Holladay (a Salt Lake suburb) the Christiensens temporarily moved to Provo—forty miles south of Salt Lake City.  The jolt of this unhappy surprise departure for Gary was slightly mitigated by vague hopes of seeing Carol Jean again when our parents made periodic trips to Provo to visit some of the friends they had made while briefly living there after the Second World War.

This is a story to which we will later return, but at this juncture in the narrative, let us recount the first time we actually asked girls as our dates to a dance—the 1956 Liberty Stake Gold and Green Ball. In those days, the Gold and Green Ball was an annual, formal dance sponsored by the LDS Church’s Mutual Improvement Association—an organization for youths between the ages of twelve and seventeen. At the age of twelve, both boys and girls commenced attending gender segregated, once a week “Mutual” classes and were consequently eligible to attend the yearly Gold and Green Ball dances in their stakes and wards, as well as participate in sporting activities (softball, basketball, volleyball) that the MIA also sponsored.  Typically featured at the Gold and Green Ball were a live band, an elected Queen and King, and extravagant floor decorations. It was considered a big deal.

Oddly, our introduction to the now antiquated tradition of the Gold and Green Ball occurred much earlier, when we were just five years old.  At that time, our father’s post-World War II business ambition in sales had taken us to Cowley, Wyoming, a small Mormon community that lies just west of the Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming. The two of us—sporting Mom’s home-made gold and green elf costumes—were designated as the “crown bearers” for an inauguration ceremony of the Gold and Green Ball’s Queen and King at the old log stake center on Cowley’s main street. We thought the costumes were cool, but, because we had misunderstood our mother to say that we were going to be “the crown bears,” we couldn’t understand why we ended up as elves instead of bears. 

In any case, the 1956 Liberty Stake Gold and Green Ball was held at the Harvard Ward “cultural hall,” located smack in the middle of the Liberty Elementary School boundaries. Our buddy Lorin Larsen was agitating for the three of us to go. We were now of age, he argued, and should be taking active part in what the older kids were doing. “Besides, man, a real band! Maybe we could learn how to do the bop! Maybe we could even ask some girls to go!”

Gary was okay with this last thought. Since Carol Jean was gone, he had developed another crush on Kathryn Keat, a cute, petite new girl with shining dark eyes whose family had just moved into the Liberty Elementary School district. But Gordon? He wasn’t so hot on the idea: “Ask a girl to go to a dance? learn the ‘bop?’ Are you kidding?”

Gary pleaded: “Come on, we’ll all be together, it’ll be fun. Don’t be such a chicken.”

Gordon finally relented. He would ask one girl, and if she said no, that was it. Egged on by Gary and Lorin, Gordon asked Kathryn Keat’s best friend, Lynell Ipsen—a pretty but ultra-shy girl who was even more socially reticent than Gordon. Lynell said yes.

The Liberty Stake Gold and Green Ball was held on a cold, mid-March night with thin, frozen patches of snow still on the ground. In spite of having promoted the whole idea, Lorin had abruptly fizzled out when the deadline arrived for actually asking a girl for a date. But he still wanted to go. We were annoyed, but also wanted his company to bolster our confidence. So the two of us, with light zipper jackets over our Sunday best shirts, trudged over to Lorin’s house on 13th South and 4th East to pick him up. Then the three of us walked back to the little duplex on the corner of  3rd East and Hampton Ave where Lynell lived. Gordon walked up to the door, knocked, and disappeared inside, while Gary and Lorin stood back like security guards at the edge of the sidewalk. After a few minutes, Gordon emerged with Lynell, accompanied by a parting call from Mrs. Ipsen, “Have a nice time!” Lorin trailed behind the three of us, making wisecracks as we marched four more blocks to Kathy Keat’s house, another tiny duplex on Williams Ave, bordering State Street. This time Gary walked up the steps and knocked while Gordon, Lynell, and Lorin waited on the sidewalk. As soon as Gary was ushered into the cozy living room by her mom, Kathy popped out of a side bedroom with a radiant smile that made Gary feel maybe that evening’s adventure might turn out all right after all.  

The final leg of our nine-block stroll was the Harvard Ward chapel, just a block away from where we had started out at our home on Herbert Ave. Things were already well underway by the time we arrived, with the little dance band blaring, and the gym floor (where on many Saturdays to come we would learn to dribble basketballs and shoot jump shots with neighborhood friends) was jam-packed with dancers. Like Lorin, a number of young people had showed up solo, and then waited on the sidelines for a prospective dance partner to make their interest known. Helen Moody, a tall, cheerful girl we had known at Liberty Elementary since we were five years old, spotted Lorin and startlingly whisked him onto the crowded dance floor. As for us, we didn’t try to learn how to do the bop. Instead we hugged the sidelines until the band played a slow tune and then clumsily tried to execute the foxtrot lessons that Miss Jensen had been drilling into us at school. One thing we quickly learned was that foxtrots didn’t turn out well in a crowded gymnasium at a youth dance with a swing band playing mostly pop music tunes of the day.

An hour or so later, we had another decision to make: Where should we go after a closing prayer had concluded the dance? Lorin, who Helen had returned to us unharmed, proposed Cumming’s, an ice cream and soda fountain venue on Main Street and 11th South. This meant another four block walk from the Harvard Ward chapel in the freezing night air. During summer months, Lorin, the two of us, and other friends would make excursions to Cumming’s whenever we could scrounge a dime or two for pint-sized glasses of iron port—a soft beverage concoction that blended cola, crème soda, and cherry flavors into what we thought was the best tasting drink in the world. But that night we had quarters to pay for high topped root beer floats—the first time we were inducted into the iron-clad custom in those days of boys paying for girls on a date. At least Lorin earned our forgiveness for his failure to get his own date by keeping conversation alive with jokes and amusing banter. As the clock ticked down to 11:00 PM, and with cold root beer and ice cream swirling in our stomachs, it was time for Cummings to close and for us to embark on another chilly jaunt to escort Kathy and Lynell home. Hasty good nights were exchanged with chattering teeth on the girls’ brightly lit doorsteps, and our first, honest-to-Jupiter dates were history.

***

Fast forward five or six months: Our parents had been friends with Carol Jean’s parents through shared church activities in the Liberty and Liberty Park Wards, and when the Christensens moved they kept in touch. About a year after their move, Mr. and Mrs. Christensen invited Mom and Dad for a visit to their new home in Provo, and Gary—only Gary—was invited to come too. Gary was excited but wary: How come only he, but not Gordon, had been invited? Gary sat awkwardly with his parents on a sofa facing Carol Jean and her parents arranged on an opposite sofa. Small talk ensued between the adults and averted eyes between Gary and Carol Jean. Then Mrs. Christensen brightly suggested, “Why don’t Carol Jean and Gary walk downtown to see a movie matinee while we visit?”

Gary never knew for sure if Carol Jean liked him the way he liked her. There was that encouraging homemade valentine she put on his desk the year before. But there also was her subsequent pointed correction of his spelling mistakes on a writing assignment in front of the class to Mrs. Anderton, and the time he made her cry in the 3rd grade with some thoughtless remark. But for now, as they walked together through the neighborhood streets toward downtown Provo, what to talk about? was the only question pounding inside Gary’s paralyzed mind. Carol Jean broke the self-conscious silence: “I wish I were a boy,” she declared, apropos to none of the frozen thoughts inside Gary’s head. 

There was a confused pause, then a clueless “How come?” from Gary.

“You guys get to go almost anywhere you want, do almost anything you want. Girls can’t do this, and we can’t do that. It’s really not fair,” Carol Jean had to explain.  

“Oh,” Gary stupidly said, but with a glimmer of comprehension that had never really struck him before and never thereafter escaped his awareness; “ I guess you’re right.”   

As promising as this conversation started out, it quickly evaporated as they approached the theater marquee and ticket booth. Emblazoned above their heads in block letters were the words: PICNIC, starring WILLIAM HOLDEN AND KIM NOVAK. This was a pretty risqué mainstream movie for 1956—just the thing for two shy pre-teens sitting next to each other alone in the dark, uncomfortably thrown together by well-meaning Mormon parents who hadn’t checked to see what was playing. Both Gary and Carol Jean shrank down into their seats when Kim Novak, in a clinging, scoop-neck summer dress, started slowly clapping her hands at the side of her head and then sensuously swayed her way down a long set of  steps towards an arms-out waiting Bill Holden. Another scene involving Kim Novak and her younger sister changing into swimsuits at a public swimming pool, barely concealed behind half doors, caused Gary and Carol Jean to slink even further down into their seat cushions. The walk back to Carol Jean’s home was strained and virtually mute. 

Gary didn’t see Carol Jean again until the 8th grade, when, once more through mediating parents, Carol Jean invited Gary to be her partner at a girl’s choice dance at Olympus Junior High School, located ten miles away in Southeast Salt Lake where her family had moved after leaving Provo. This time, Gordon was also invited, as a blind date for Sharon Anderson, Carol Jean’s new best friend at Olympus Jr. Despite his recalcitrance about participating in Miss Jensen’s 6th grade graduation dance at Liberty Elementary two years earlier, Gordon was now intrigued but also ambivalent: It was hard enough talking to girls we had known most of our lives, let alone strangers! But, well, “Okay, let’s give it a try,” Gordon thought, “the worst that can happen is that I’ll hate it for a couple of hours, but so what?” 

Dad drove us to Carol Jean and Sharon’s homes, respectively, to pick them up and then dropped us off at Olympus Jr. To Gordon’s immense relief, Sharon Anderson was cute, outgoing, and talkative. Initially flummoxed, his bashful self-consciousness quickly dissolved. At the same time, while Carol Jean was still quiet and observant as an owl, she had grown up and now complemented her unpretentious intelligence with a winsome smile and a biting sense of humor. Gary was still smitten.

Although we had learned some rudimentary ballroom dancing under the watchful tutelage of Miss Jensen, we had also learned two years previously that the waltz and Foxtrot were not exactly the order of the day at 1950s youth dances. Elvis Presley had made his Ed Sullivan debut a year earlier, and rock’n roll was the new dance beat, even in Salt Lake City. But at least we knew how to properly hold a partner and shuffled around to the intermittent, slow tempo tunes, while sitting out the fast ones. Sadly, our dancing skills had not perceptibly advanced since our Gold and Green Ball initiation two years earlier.

Dad reappeared at end of the Olympus Junior High dance and chauffeured us to a near-by ice cream parlor, then vanished for a half hour while we nibbled at fudge sundaes and smiled in response to the amusing chatter generated by the charming Sharon, who single-handedly kept the conversation going all evening. Nothing remotely romantic ensued during doorstep goodbyes while Dad sat behind the wheel of the family car with the engine running, gasoline vapor puffing out the tailpipe, and porchlights shining.

 In retrospect it may seem strange that at our age—going on fourteen at the time—our parents encouraged and facilitated “dates” for us to attend an elaborate dance event.  And needless to say, from our viewpoint, it was more than a little awkward having Dad doing the driving and hovering in the background. But it’s also fair to say that we were too obtuse to realize that Carol Jean and Sharon had exercised their own agency in helping to plan the event and inviting us to join them. Gordon had actually enjoyed the evening and liked Sharon. He thought of her occasionally afterward but never phoned her back, nor in any other way tried to follow up. Gary remained in sporadic contact with Carol Jean over the years, but, like Gordon, took no active steps to effectively reciprocate her tentative overtures. In an era that still idealized male chivalry, our inaugural dating experiences did not prove to be shining, Sir Galahad moments for the Shepherd brothers.


 

 

 

04/12/21 08:12 PM #131    

 

Susan Hemmingsen (Marchant)

Fun read.  Brings up a question though....were kisses ever stolen?  

I also have another question.  Gold and Green Ball - where does the name hail from?  And, did the name dictate the color scheme of said dances?  A weird question you probably say, but I will blame it on one of my latest reads, the Universiy of New York's YouTube online course called Sociologcal Imagination which has been an interesting and delightful find.  I love that there are university courses on line.  This was not my first to follow, but has been definitely one of the most enjoyable. 

Anyway, one of the studies brought up in this course is about names of people which I found fascinating, and most likely, led to my wondering about the name "Gold and Green Ball".  In my own family's history of names,  one of my sisters was given the name Leora Maren Hemmingsen.  She hates both her first and middle names with a passion, and I do mean passion.  When I asked her about the origin of her name, she replied,  "Why would I even care?"  So I did some research on my own and could only come up with the possibility that perhaps she was named after an acting icon of the era named Leora.  My brother inherited family names with English leanings, Lionel Peter Hemmingsen.  My own name, according to my mother, was suppossed to be Suzanne Hemmingsen rather than Susan Hemmingsen, but my dad went behind my mother's back and had the person giving the LDS name baby blessing to me change the name right then and there to Susan.

Too bad my mom did not disown him after this shinnanagan because this was only one of the milder deeds he pulled.  Upon my birth when he came to the hospital AFTER I had arrived  (he was too busy drinking to arrive before), when he found out I was just ANOTHER blankety blankety GIRL, he said to my mom, "Is that all the better you could do?"  If you get the idea from this tale that I did not have respect for my dad, well you win the prize.  The alcoholism that consumed his life during my lifetime I do realize is a complicated thing, but he did turn down help to make changes which certainly impacted how his life, my mom's life, and his kids' life played out.  From what I have been able to dig out, and I do mean literally dig for, he was a man of talent as a baseball player, an entrepreneur, a giving and loyal friend as well as a person of Dannish descent who had a gigantic love of liquor.

My trivia here makes me think of one of you twins' prior posts addressing the various nationalities of us 
Southerers....we were quite the melting pot.  My dad's parents were, as they say, 100 per cent Danish which explains my very looog Danish last name of Hemmingsen.  When people used to ask me if I could have found a longer last name, it created dreams of me changing my name to Jones or James or anything other than Hemmingsen. 

Signing out for now.  Take care everyone.  


04/15/21 02:43 PM #132    

 

Gordon Shepherd

Stolen kisses? Naah. Unlike some of our buddies, at that age we were too bumbling and shy to risk stealing kisses from girls who, we imagined, might slap us and say, “ugh, no thanks!”

As for the Gold and Green Balls of yesteryear, they apparently were introduced in the early 1920s. Gold and green were adopted by the LDS Church’s Mutual Improvement Association as the official colors of the MIA. Gold was supposed to symbolize purity and perfection and green symbolized youth.

As for family names, Shepherd comes from our English ancestors and it’s not too hard to guess what the family occupation was at a certain time in history. As kids we thought Shepherd was a cool name but didn’t care much for our mother’s family surname, Coombs. We had no idea where it came from or what it meant; all we knew was it sounded funny. It turns out that Coombs is Welch and comes from an Old English word meaning valley. Combining our parents’ family names, it seems that our early ancestors were valley dwelling sheepherders—not a bad gig, given some of the other occupations of the day.

As for first names, I always liked the name Gary but cared less for my own. Gary is hard to nickname but the name Gordon can easily become “Gordie” or (God forbid) “Gordo,” which I detested. Both Gary and I answered to and liked the nickname “Shep,” however, which is what almost everybody called our father. Just don’t call me Shep Gordo. 😊


04/16/21 10:44 AM #133    

 

Gary Shepherd

Gord is right up to a point regarding youthful kissing adventures.  My lips were virgin all the way up until winter of my junior year at South, if you can believe. But then, finally, it happened (although in the awkward, bumbling sort of way that Gordon and I typically seemed to be prone to in these sorts of situations).  In any event, I had been flirting quite a bit with Linda Booth in our 7th period Scribe "class" under the very loose tutelege of Mrs. Zarr.  This led to semi-long evening walks from my house through Liberty Park on up 13th South to Linda's house on Harrison Ave at 11th East.  For some reason I had revealed my kissless condition to Linda, and we had jointly agreed that Linda would bestow me a kiss on a particularly freezing Feburary night.  I rang her doorbell, Linda came out, bundled up, and we walked around the block several times trying to maintain small talk with quavering voices through chattering teeth. I was literally frozen and didn't make an amorous move of any sort. Finally, Linda said, "I have to go in now," as we rounded her corner for the 3rd time.  We walked up the steps to her porch, she started to open the door and then turned toward me. I lurched forward and grazed the bridge of her nose with my lips before sliding down to the proper place for my long awaited kiss.  It was a bomb of a beginning, but I walked home whistling and happy anyway.

I appreciated the telling of your several stories regarding names and your father.  I know how much his actions hurt and disadvantaged you and your family.  So it made me admire all the more that you were nevertheless able to also discover and report a few of his admirable qualities.

 


04/16/21 06:46 PM #134    

 

Susan Hemmingsen (Marchant)

More fun reads.  Gold and Green Ball trivia (thanks for this),  name and nick name trivia and stolen kiss info.  (plus the warning that a few of those nick names better not be used).  What more can we ask for this Spring of 2021? 

Or is it REALLY Spring here in the area of Salt Lake City, Utah?  It flips from winter to spring faster than I can hobble around these days.  Yesterday,  when I was shopping at Sam's Club waiting for some help out with my goods, a "no-coated" young college age kid looked outside and then said to me,  "Brrrr".  It was rainy and cold so I followed with the obvious grand-motherly question,  "Oh, where is your coat?".  He replied that he had very recently moved to Sandy from Florida and needed to go shopping....and soon!  Yes, I said you better if you want to survive for long in this here place this crazy time of year.

My first kiss? or kisses, if 6th grade counts, was at a dance studio owned by a friend's family.  One afternoon our dance class followed with the activity of "Post Office", chasing, hiding and stolen kisses.  It was fun, and I so wanted this to happen on a weekly basis but no such luck.  It  abruptly ended.  I never knew exactly why....just heard rumors that the parents who were not around when our Post Officing took place got wind of our escapade and all came to a slamming halt.

In my younger years I had a few nick-names pinned to me which were the garden-variety for Susan - Suzie and Sue.  I put a stop to them because of my dislike and distrust for the two adults trying to make these stick as I felt they also were attempting to accompany the names with a certain image which did not meet with my  approval.  With passing years I've met new people and friends who call me Sue which is okay with me, and a sweet grandchild  who, when he struggled saying my name, came up with Nana Thuzie which I found endearing.  This nick-name has stuck and some in my family use it.

 


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