Saturday movies included rustlers, fist fights, gunslingers, and the ever present danger of growing up

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

I always wanted a horse. I got bitten by the cowboy bug early. I’m not sure why; Roy Rogers mostly. Gene Autry was ok, but he sang kind of funny; more appropriate for the mega hit song he later wrote and recorded,Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

For me Roy was just what his press agent said, “King of the cowboys.” And whoever named his horse “Trigger” should have gotten a raise and his name on the marquee.

But though Roy was the best, he wasn’t the only. Any hero with four horse shoes thundering under him got my undivided attention. I even liked the white hats in the cheapo B westerns; guys like Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Lash Larue dressed in black, and his white clad copycat Whip Wilson. Make that almost any. I could never get past the name with Hopalong Cassidy. Does the English language contain any word less heroic than “Hopalong?” What were the Hollywood name gurus thinking? Where was the guy who named Trigger?

Lash Larue was cool because he had this marvelous whip. When he whirled it around his head it was like a modern day electronic shield. Lash could flick that whip and keep the enemy at bay. He could wrap it around the wrist of a bad man, flip the gun out of his hand, and hog tie him with his whip. Nobody ever explained to me why the bad man didn’t shoot Lash while he was swinging his whip around. Actually for all the noise and flying lead in those old westerns, I don’t remember anybody ever dying from a gunshot. Even the chief villain usually got run down in the last horse chase, dragged out of the saddle by the leaping hero, and pummeled into bloodless and bruiseless submission to be handed over to the sheriff.

The top tier cowboys often had a fumbling sidekick for comic relief. Gene Autry’s was Smiley Burnette Roy Roger’s was George “Gabby” Hayes. The low budget heroes apparently couldn’t afford this luxury on the payroll. But we watched them anyway. We would watch anything on Saturday afternoon. You could restock your mind and imagination with a double feature, a couple of cartoons, a “March of Time News of the Day” newsreel and the demise and miraculous survival of Captain Midnight. Every week C.M. would get himself blown up, pushed off a cliff, drowned or shot dead. No problem. Next Saturday you would come for the last rites and burial, and instead see again the final scenes from the one you watched the previous week. You would see a detail you didn’t notice the Saturday before. Mostly because it wasn’t there that week. I remember once his car went flying over a cliff, hit the ground, exploded and burned. That was totally absolutely incontrovertibly the end of Captain Midnight. It couldn’t be any other way. But we came back next Saturday and they showed that deadly scene from a different camera angle. Lo and behold Captain Midnight had miraculously freed himself from the car on the way down, and dived graceful as a porpoise into a nearby stream of water just as his car exploded on the nearby rocks. We all went, “Yeah, right.” But we were back the next Saturday.

All this adventure for us and baby sitting for our parents came at the nominal cost of thirteen cents up until age 12. Then the cost, skyrocketed, more than tripled in fact, to 40 cents. There wasn’t much we could do to resist this robber baron exploitation of our natural aging process. We did all we could. We hunkered down at the window and tried to look small. For those of us who were tall for our age this was not very effective. Monte Montegue and I suffered from this. Max Reece didn’t. He was such a little springy guy I suspect he could still get in for 13 cents if that were still the price schedule.

Actually it didn’t help all that much to scrunch down at the ticket window because even if you did get the coveted 13-cent ticket in your sweaty palm you had to go inside and face the wrath of Ol’ Swede the ticket taker. We always figured he wasn’t Swedish at all. One accent was the same as another to us. We figured he was the Kommandantat of some Nazi prison camp before Mr. Breathwaite, the theater manager imported him to intimidate us. Swede had wormed his way into America and was using the Star Theater as a cover.

He wasn’t fooling us. But neither were we fooling him. He would start working on us tall ones when we were about eight. We would hand him our 13-cent ticket. He would scowl and say, “You are over tvelve.” We would tremble and protest we were only eight, or nine, or ten, or eleven, or eleven and a half, eleven and three quarters, eleven and eleven twelfths.

I had heard about prisoners being tortured for information. The standard advice from the old hardened ones was, “Don’t let the answer into your head or it will slip out under the strain of torture.” I took this seriously. I kept only two words in my head as I went into the theater and stood before Swede at the bar of judgment; “Only eleven, only eleven.” No matter what ridicule or threats or glowering Swede might heap upon me, I would repeat my mantra, “only eleven.”  This worked for months, partly because I had the forces of right and truth on my side. I was in fact, only eleven. But so many grown up things happen to you when you turn twelve. If you are a Mormon boy you get the priesthood. You get socked with a couple more meetings on Sunday, but you also get a little more respect. You go from grade school to junior high school. Now in your school are guys who even shave now and then. It was hard not to feel all of a sudden grown up. Too hard. Standing in front of Swede that fateful day I lost my cool. Swede took my thirteen-cent ticket and grumbled, “How old are you.”

“Twelve. I mean eleven,” I blurted out. Too late. I was 40 cents worth of dead meat. The downside was I had sealed my fate. I was probably bound for some underground railway off to a German Stalag for the rest of my life. At the least my financial future was ruined. I would be paying forty-cent tickets forever.

But the upside was that something happened that day that had never happened before in the Star Theater, maybe in America, maybe in Europe, the entire world for all I knew.

Old Swede’s frozen face cracked. He couldn’t restrain himself. He broke into a smile. It was stunning to watch. It was almost worth forty cents.

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Next Installment If some is good, more may be better—or not, my father taught me

There is a war on

Special Independence Day Message

You wouldn’t believe what it takes to fight a war. Besides guns, tanks, ships and airplanes, it takes cowboy boots, candy bars, baseball bats, fathers, ground up nuts, and handkerchiefs, lots of handkerchiefs.

That’s what I figured out as a young boy walking back and forth on the sidewalk in front of our house in Payson in my new boots. I really liked those boots, but I didn’t love them. They were good, but not perfect. They were English riding boots. They were not cowboy boots. That is what I had been begging and whining for. They were not cowboy boots my mother told me because there was a war on. That was the standard answer whenever we wanted something and couldn’t have it.

Rubber tires, gasoline, I could understand, but how you could fight Germans and Japanese with cowboy boots? Some other things I was also not clear on. We got a baseball bat once for Christmas. It was the only one in the store my mother said. Exactly how the army was going to win the war with baseball bats wasn’t clear to me either. We got a penny balloon once at a church party. We played with it until it was two rubber molecules stretched together because we would never get another one while the war was on. I thought “If we’re trying to whip the enemy with penny balloons we’re dead,”

When we went to the movies at the old Star Theater the only things in the candy counter were cough drops. The soldiers needed the candy bars. Apparently soldiers didn’t get coughs. That was fine. We were happy to do our little part for liberty. I did wonder about the safety of the product. On the box it said they were made with glycerin. On the playground we made our make-believe bombs out of nitroglycerine. That’s what they used in the war people said. I finally guessed it must be the nitro part that explodes since none of our stomachs ever blew up in the middle of the movie.

Nitro or glycerin or whatever, we patriotically spent our nickel on the cough drops. Using the imagination of childhood, we could almost believe they were candy. The Smith Brothers, Trade and Mark as they were known on the box, made cough drops that tasted like licorice on steroids. They were too strong for my taste. I would not encounter that taste again until a decade later when someone gave me the little black pellets known as Sen Sens. They were supposed to counteract halitosis which we were deadly afraid of in our teen age years. I never quite hooked into Sen Sens either. They tasted too much like Trade and Mark Smith, and if you were not careful with your imagination they looked like mouse droppings. I have no idea what mouse droppings taste like. Even during the war we had our limits.

I would suck a box of Smith Brothers if that was the only thing left in the candy (cough drop) counter. But I much preferred Ludens’ cherry flavor if they were available. I ate so many Ludens that I’m surprised I’ve ever had to cough the rest of my life.

Once at the movies they had some little round balls of chewy cherry flavored stuff. These used to be rolled in ground up nuts I was told. But because there was a war going on when we got them they were covered with corn flakes. My parents thought this was very clever of the manufacturers when I brought them home a bite. I wondered why nuts would help defeat the Germans but corn flakes wouldn’t.

I learned later about a famous heroic army unit that was surrounded by the Germans at Bastogne France in the Battle of the Bulge. The German commander sent a message of surrender or death to the American troops. The American General McAuliffe replied courageously back to him, “Nuts!” I thought at the time maybe this was the reason that my cherry candy bars had been rolled in corn flakes. But I could never quite put it all together. If you think about it though, it would have been much less heroic and quotable for General McAuliffe to tell the Germans, “Corn Flakes!”

My father got a notice of the draft but he was never called up. Bad eyes and family kept him out of uniform. I heard him say now and then to his friends, “I wouldn’t mind being in the service. You get to travel and see new places.” He also said, “I wouldn’t mind being killed, but I wouldn’t want to get half killed.” I thought that was a workable philosophy.

His statement didn’t send me into shock. I think I was too young to imagine what life would be without my father. And also the war was a long way away from my world. But that was because my world was confined to me and my little circle of understanding. Actually the war was very close. It invaded our little town as it did every town and city in America. Harley Griggs had lived up the street two blocks west and left up the hill a block and a half. I never knew him, but I remember his name being included in conversations at the dinner table.

One of the stories had it that Harley’s brother Ted was fighting on the ground in Europe. He looked up to see a squadron of B29 Superfortresses heading back to England after a bombing run over Germany. One of the planes was limping along with half its tail shot away. The Plexiglas bubble in which the tail gunner sat had been shot off. Ted flinched. That was Harley’s spot in the Air Force. He wondered and worried. Later on his worries were confirmed.

War can be capricious as well as cruel. But I didn’t figure that out either until later. I just knew that our next door neighbor Leon Bjarnson was killed in the war. Many years later researching the history I learned Leon survived the war. But Americans were so anxious to get the boys home someone wasn’t quite careful enough. The plane he was coming back in flew into a mountain in France killing everybody.

As I studied the weekly paper The Payson Chronicle researching those years of 1940 to 1945 it seemed every issue had somebody’s son dead or missing. I’m thinking there may have also been a shortage of handkerchiefs for drying tears in our town because there was a war going on.

The world’s greatest playground

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

I’d like to send you the stories and observations as they come hot off the keyboard.  I hope they will give you ideas and inspiration for your own book.

This is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find this interesting.

The book is titled Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

She was a gentle and an elegant lady in her day. Regal in movement with her train flowing behind her. She was sleek and smooth and poised. And she could be exciting sparking along under her overhead electric line. She was a friendly neighbor, stopping by the way for the convenience of all her acquaintances. That’s why it took her two and a half hours to cover the sixty six miles from Salt Lake City to Payson, the terminus of the Salt Lake Interurban Line. Sometimes she would pull a caboose and sometimes she had an open observation car on the back. From here you had the best seat in the world to view the vistas of Utah and Salt Lake Counties as you clacked along at speeds up to 65 miles per hour. No children were allowed on the observation deck. But if your father worked for the train line and your mother was very convincing with the conductor and very strict with you, sometimes on a slow day they would let you and your brother slip on to the deck for the last part of the ride home.

It is probably poor taste to discuss a lady’s personal habits, but to a child they were too interesting to ignore. Environmental concerns in their many forms were decades in the future. And so the Interurban Line restrooms consisted of an open throne of the type to which many of us were accustomed in our own homes. Or to be more specific, out back of our own homes. A portable one holer speeding down the track was a scary but fascinating piece of technology to my brother Gordon and me. Looking down the hole you could see the gravel and the railroad ties zipping by underneath you at supersonic speeds. The thought that one’s personal possessions or one’s personal self might somehow fall down that hole and be sandpapered into individual child molecules on the train bed roadway was a frightening but always intriguing possibility. To my knowledge no watch or pencil or child ever fell through the toilet hole on to the tracks below.

Other things did, of course, but Utah was open country then and so long as you did not use the facility inside the city limits or heaven knows while stopped at the train station, no one but the cows in the trackside pastures would be aware.

Parts of the Salt Lake Interurban was designed and built by Mrs. W. M. Smith, of Redlands, California reportedly the only woman railroad contractor in the United States. She was assisted by her daughter Irene. Though Mrs. Smith was described as a “formidable lady,” she and Irene may have some input on the aesthetic side of the trains. They boasted some of the finest interior appointments of any such train line in America. Green upholstery inside, red colors outside made a bold statement as the train wound its way through the city and countryside. Two special guest cars had wood paneling above the upholstery and carpet on the floor.

Few things in the world are perfect, however, and to us children the Interurban was never quite a train because it didn’t blow smoke, go chuga chuga and hiss out steam. The electric motors that drove it were a little too civilized for our liking.

Once they parked it in the yards across the street from our house, however it was a train of the old west. Cowboys, bandits, sheriff’s posses and outlaws inhabited it. Even Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and the Pinkerton Detective Agency did battle back and fourth across the tops and through the corridors of this train. At least in our minds they did.

I don’t care how rich, favored, pampered or advantaged any child in the world may have been. The Rockefellers, the Kennedys, the young Princess Elizabeth, the children whose parents owned Lagoon Amusement Park, nobody had a playground to match the one at the east end of Utah Avenue in Payson, nobody.

Forget your toy trains and miniature cars. We had the real thing. One day they dumped a pile of fine coal next to the tracks. The word went out through the neighborhood grape vine and we were there on the heels of the train crew to play King of the Mountain in that wonderful slippery, black dusty coal.

The train repair crews would kindly leave out big pieces of trains which we could convert to submarines and space modules. They left acres of abandoned train cars we could hide in and run back and forth across the tops of. Ore and coal cars with their slanted floors, became the Himalayas for climbing and sliding with a little imagination. Sets of iron wheels on axles we could roll down the track and burl on them like a logger until with a mighty clang they would hit together. At that point we had to take off running because that would draw the attention of the train people.

The blue-collar workers would just holler at us and waive a hand. We would skitter away until they left and then come back. Everybody knew the game and played it. But there were serpents in this child’s Garden of Eden, specifically Old White shirt. When you saw Old White Shirt appear it was time to run for the house, hole up and start making up your alibi in case White Shirt came pounding on your door. He never did, but he might we told each other.

Sometimes you could see two White Shirts or more walking around the facility, poking around here and there, talking about who knows what. White Shirts were the executives from the Salt Lake office and they took our shenanigans more seriously than those who worked in the yards did. But nothing short of posting armed sentries shoulder to shoulder around the place would have kept us out of there. I think the company; the workers and even the White Shirts knew that. I suspect they even sympathized with us. Maybe the white shirts weren’t working there at all. Maybe they just liked to play in the trains too.

We would occasionally peak into the windows at the plush interiors of the rolling stock. But it was out in the back where the outlaws, the aliens, and the enemies of goodness, truth and the American way hid out. There was a war going on in much of the world. The war outside was horrible. Even little towns like ours were touched. Every week the Payson Chronicle had a story of another of our sons dead or missing in action. But we kids wouldn’t find out about that ghastly aspect of war until we got older. In the train yards war was an adventure. We did battle with the Germans and the Japanese. They were known then by terms that would not be polite or appropriate to use today.

Whatever the enemy, he wouldn’t have stood a chance against us. In the train yard we had not only our battalions of land troops. We had a naval armada as well. Peteetneet Creek drains from off the slopes of Mt. Nebo and other mountains through Payson into Utah Lake. But on its way in those days part of the creek would pause and make a big puddle on the lower end of the train yards. In summer it dried up to the great relief of the mothers, home owners and mosquito swatters. But in the spring it could be a couple of feet deep.

If you took a small loading pallet from the train yards and you and three or four friends dragged two abandoned railroad ties down to the frog pond as we called it—Lake Inferior would have been more appropriate—but we didn’t think of that. Anyway you put a small pallet on top of two railroad ties and launch them into the pond and you had yourself a pretty speedy PT boat. It would hold up a crew of one, powered by a pole from the grove of willow trees that grew next to the pond.

If you needed a cruiser, a battle ship, or heaven knows an aircraft carrier all you had to do was drag down more ties and find a bigger pallet to put on top of them. Now three or four friends could man this worthy vessel.

But we learned in actual combat the same lesson the Spanish learned when the English destroyed their armada in 1588. Spain had monstrous Men of War battle ships. The British had their small but nimble ships that could sail around and attack the Spanish in their vulnerable spots and then speed away before they were under the big guns of the Spanish Men of War.

That’s what happened in the battles of the frog pond. Not only were the big ships unwieldy, but the crews were shamefully undisciplined. Some people would push from one direction with their poles, others from the opposite direction. The captain’s orders went totally unheeded. This was because every member of the crew thought he was the captain. Before long the worthy vessel would show some engineering flaws. The main one was that the pallet was just sitting on top of the railroad ties. In the heat of battle all the crew would gather on one side and it would start to tip. We would run back to the other side and tip it the other way. In the process the railroad ties would slip out from under the pallet and float away. The wounded warship would try to limp off to dry dock, but it was too late. She would sink with all hands aboard. Or tip and leave us standing knee deep in our school shoes. Then for us the war was over. We were all POW’s sentenced to house arrest just as soon as our mothers heard our squishing shoes come through the back door. Monte Montegue would get the longest sentence because his parents were the most strict. Mine were in the middle. Max Reece would get off with a scolding. Partly because his parents were more lenient, mostly because he was a genius in negotiation. He might even end up with a new pair of shoes. Before we faced the inevitable we would wade in our soggy Levis and squishy shoes, and go lie on a rock on the bank and see how much the pollywogs had grown since we did this last.

That was what the Utah Interurban Line meant to us. Our beloved playground and training ground for life. We learned mechanical engineering, excavation, military science, marine biology, and penology when we got home.

We knew it was a dangerous place. For one thing there was a sign nailed to the wall of the big brick shops where they worked on the trains. The track went close to the building. So posted on the building was a sign. In black and white letters with rust around the edges it said, “Warning. Will not clear man on side of car.” I knew the words, but I couldn’t understand what the message was. I learned later it meant that a person holding the ladder and riding on the side of the car had better get off before he got to the building because there wasn’t room to clear him. But this was a little complicated for me to figure out. Fortunately Mildred Bjearnson who lived a vacant lot and a house down from us was smarter and older than we were. And she knew everything. She mentioned that to us occasionally. She carefully explained to me that the sign meant if you got squashed on the side of the railroad car the company would not come and scrape your remains off. That is they would not “clear man on side of car.” Apparently your friends, family and loved ones would have to come with a shovel, a paint scraper, a sponge and bucket and clear you off and take you home.

Eventually even the gentlest of ladies grows old and so did the Salt Lake Interurban railroad line. They began to call her The Red Heifer or Leapin’ Lena. The automobiles took away her passengers. The trucks made off with her freight, and soon instead of 22 trains a day they were down to 12, then six. Her roadbed got less attention. It got so bumpy and out of alignment that they said you could buy a ticket to Salt Lake and get twice your money’s worth. Instead of 66 miles straight to Salt Lake you got double your travel for your dollar (actually a cent and a half a mile) by the journey from side to side and up and down on that wiggly train bed. In 1946 she pulled her last string of cars through the Peteetneet hill cut and off to Salt Lake. They shut her down.

Fortunately for us it took a few years to get all the junk out and then the city took it over to maintain their equipment, so it wasn’t a total loss.  Eventually it went away. But our train of the old west still has its memorials. One is the cow barn turned tool shed in the Hiatt’s back yard. This was made out of wood from a boxcar that my father negotiated with them. We and the neighbors tore it down, hauled the wood away and built our chicken coop which later became a cow barn, then a shed. We were recyclers before it was fashionable. Good thing, otherwise they would have burned it up as they did the other box cars; a spectacular fire, but a loss of valuable wood in those post-war days.

And even more impressive than our cow barn memorial was landmark to the name of the eastern financier who put up the money to build the line. He wasn’t quite sure he wanted to do it, so the fruit growers on Provo bench sweetened the pot. They wanted to carve a city on that cold, windy, rocky hillside above Prove and they proposed to name it after the financier railroad man. He took them up on it. His train died in 1946. He died in 1951, but his name just keeps getting bigger. Pushing past fifty thousand people now write his name on their return address. The name of Walter C. Orem.

Orem is a fitting memorial for a sharp businessman and a lovely lady of the rails. But there really should be another big brass plaque somewhere saying, “Here was the greatest playground any child ever had.”

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is:  Saturday movies

Being born and childhood home

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

I am the second child and second son. On my birthday my parents were visiting my mother’s parents in the hamlet of Benjamin north of Payson. I was born in a hurry. My mother told my father the time had come. He bundled her into the car and hurried off to the hospital three miles away in Payson. He carried my mother in holding my head at the same time. Holding my head was no small accomplishment. I know. I have been doing it all my life, and it is a big head, always has been. I take something above a 7½ but I usually settle for that since that is the biggest size most stores carry. My football helmet in high school was too small, but the next size up was the water bucket. Forget using two holes on adjustable caps. Apparently the “One size fits all” means fits all but one, me. I use the last hole, jam the cap down and when I take it off I have a Frankenstein mark across my forehead.

Soon after I was born my mother was cradling me in her arms in the hospital. Her maternal grandmother Rosetta Peay came in to see the new baby. She looked at me, assumed I was hydrocephalic and said, “You’ll never raise that child Gladys.” The new mother didn’t take that comment well. The pioneer stock of my Grandma Rosetta’s generation was long on work, short on tact.

Grandma Rosetta came to take care of us occasionally when Mom was not feeling well, and when my two sisters were born. Mom attempted to sell us on the idea by reminding us that Grandma Rosetta put raisins in the morning oatmeal she cooked. We liked this delicacy, but the appeal was dampened somewhat by the name Grandma Rosetta put on it. Like most of her generation in our part of the country, she called it “mush.” Even in childhood I thought, “Surely a less appetizing word does not exist in the English language.” If Wheaties© was the breakfast of champions, which I firmly believed, then mush was the breakfast of Alaskan sled dogs and people who enjoy a hot bowl of wall paper paste.

I was born in the middle of the middle month in the lowest year of the great depression. My father used to joke, “We never worried about the depression. We already lost everything in the prosperity.”

We lived on the wrong side of the tracks. I guess that was more embarrassing to the railroad company than to us. We stayed. They eventually tore up the tracks, and left town.

The little white house at 450 East Utah Avenue, Payson, Utah was my home from about age two until I left for college at Brigham Young University. My father Ferron Edmond Hiatt, my mother Gladys Wride Hiatt, the children in order of birth Gordon Ferron, me, Adella Diane, LuJean, (We were permitted to call her Jeanie, but never Louie.) J. Richard and Roger Lynn lived in a loving and generally peaceful environment.

We might have been even more generally peaceful if we had followed the custom of the Tongans. I learned from my mission there that the first daughter presides over the siblings. Even the king keeps close tabs on his sister’s approval ratings of his performance I was told.

In our family we would have been well advised to consider the counsel of our sister Diane. She was the most level headed, got the best grades of any of us, and in her adult years was a respected teacher and educational administrator.

She was also a good hearted little sister who, among other things, fetched socks. This was no small service in our home. We outgrew the space in our little house, so we sawed a doorway under the roof at the back of the house, and built a bedroom for Gordon and me. It had almost enough head room to stand up if you walked straight down the middle of the floor which was the peak of the roof. The usable space inside was limited, but the stairway to our penthouse was roomy. In fact there was all outdoors. We nailed the stairs to the back of the house.

Since the bathroom was downstairs, and we didn’t want to get out of bed, dress, hike down to the rest of the house, undress, shower, do our other bathroomy things and get dressed again. We usually jumped out of bed, grabbed an armful of clothes, and hustled down in our whatevers, especially in the winter. We were also usually late for where we were going, and often getting dressed, found we were short an article or two, most frequently socks.

Diane would cheerfully fetch the forgotten clothing, and seemed to enjoy helping her big brothers. A small service perhaps, but multiplied many times; of such are the gold crowns in heaven burnished.

A few years later the family built on to the back of the house, enclosing the stairs, eliminating our bracing morning run and Diane’s benevolent sock service. By then I was in the Tonga islands serving people whose coconut palm huts made our house look like a mansion. Like our family, the house had grown over the years with ingenious adaptations and quirky add-ons. The original two rooms never vied for the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but they were shelter from the storm, and coincidentally purchased by way of a storm.

“It is an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody some good,” as the saying goes. An ill wind brought us our little house. The wind came just as Earn Francom was planning to harvest the grain on his farm at the foot of West Mountain, west (obviously) of Payson. The ill wind flattened his field and made harvesting the grain impossible. In the economically tenuous days of the Depression one stroke of bad luck could sink you. The bank foreclosed. Earn had to move.

Meanwhile in Benjamin, an unemployed, confused young husband and father sat on the grass under a big cottonwood tree contemplating his bleak future. Down the dusty or muddy lane (depending on the weather) to the farmhouse sped a car. Out jumped Thomas Wride my great grandfather.

“What are you doing wasting a perfectly good day. You should be working providing for your family,” he barked.

“No place to work. No job,” my dad replied.

“Get in,” Tom said, and the two roared away.

They pulled up at the bank in Spanish fork.

“George in?” Tom asked the receptionist.

“He is sir, but he’s busy right now,” she answered.

“He’s not too busy to see me,” Tom said brushing past her desk and bursting into the office with Ferron in tow.

“George this young man needs a home for his family. You’ve got the Francom place on West Mountain. Let him take his family and stay there until they can get settled.”

“Tom I can’t do that. It’s a foreclosure,” the bank president protested.

“Yes you can. It’s better than having it empty for kids to break out the windows and steal whatever isn’t nailed down. You know me. You can trust me. It will be fine. Now fix up the papers and we’ll be on our way.”

“So let it be written, so let it be done,” as the pharaoh spake in the movie The Ten Commandments.  We had a home at least for now.

Spring came. The blown over stalks had dropped their seeds on the ground where they sprouted and grew. The windfall crop brought in a hundred dollars from the mill. With the money Dad bought a house in Spring Lake just south of Payson. Later a mover with a big wagon and hulking horse team happened to be headed our way, and agreed to transport the house to the foundation and small basement Dad had carved by hand out of the hard pan Payson ground. We were settled for the rest of my parent’s lives, and the growing up years of mine.

Most of those years were with the four of us children. Richard and Roger were two little welcome surprise cabooses on our family train.

I guess we lived in the industrial part of Payson if there was one. Our front window looked across the street to big brick buildings housing big iron machinery. But they were also the home of the most fascinating neighbor any boy ever had. She was a woman of adventure from the big town, Salt Lake City. She visited several times a day, and she had a backyard any imaginative child would die for, (and almost did as our parents sometimes warned us.)

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

The Wride side

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

The Wrides, my mother’s family were considerably better off than the Hiatts, making Ferron’s project of courting Gladys a bit of an uphill climb. Thomas Wride, Gladys’ grandfather was a successful farmer and cattle rancher. He was the first person in the little town of Benjamin to buy a car. He was plain spoken, hard driving, and influential.

Denzil, my grandfather was a gifted cattle man. It was said could tell a good cow from a bad one a mile away. His skill, and honesty caught the attention of a big time cattle marketer who had plans to make Denzil a partner and a very rich man. Denzil was a driving force in establishing the Spanish Fork livestock auction which made a number of men in Spanish Fork, Benjamin and Payson wealthy. Among them was not Denzil Wride however. Just as his fortunes were turning he died of a heart problem.

I vaguely remember Grandpa Wride as a quiet sober man. This made him a counter point to my grandmother Florence Beck Wride who had a great sense of humor, and later on in her widowhood would enjoy practical jokes that made even some of her descendants wince a little.

Occasionally she would go to Salt Lake City to shop and also try out her jokes on a more unsuspecting crowd than the home folks had become. She would stand on a street corner and stare intently at the sky. Soon passers by would notice her strange behavior and look up searching for what she saw. Seeing these people others would join to discover the black helicopters, approaching asteroid, or the Second Coming, whatever heavenly event was portending. Grandma would quietly slip away chuckling.

Once she was surprised and entertained at a brazen titillating advertisement in the window of a large department store. Laughing hilariously, she called it to the attention to others who joined in the merriment. In the staid and respectable streets of down town Salt Lake this was a sight not to be missed. She addressed the crowd, “Let’s go see what’s going on, or coming off.” Thousands of people had passed that window, but none with Grandma’s flakey perspective. The punch line to her joke was a big sign in the window proclaiming, “Men’s pants, half off.”

As a widow, she loved to test out her suitors, of which she had several notable men. If they survived her dribbling water glass dripping drink down their chin and her hidden whoopee cushion grandma figured they were stable enough to enjoy her company.

Several of them, among them a Mr. Ivan Hamilton passed the tests and got fairly serious. But Grandma despite encouragement from some family members never married Mr. Hamilton or anybody else. The one true love in her life, according to his own account was Charlie Douglas Payson’s self appointed prankster. Charlie’s tousled hair, deep wrinkles and bushy eyebrows danced to the tune of his animated voice as he spun his latest yarn on the unwary listener.

More than once he would spy Grandma and her friends the proper ladies of our little town enjoying a quiet malt at the drug store ice cream and soda pop bar. Charlie would tap her on the shoulder and announce, “Flossie, I know that I’m a handsome man, and you are a lonely widow. But you’ve got to control yourself. I saw you throwing those come hither glances a me just now. I’m a respected member of the community, and having you always chasing after me is embarrassing. I know I would be a great catch, but get a grasp on your hormones now and stop stalking me around town every time you see me. This doe eyed gazing and heavy breathing when I’m around is making people talk, and wrecking havoc with my reputation.” Charlie exited his stage with dignity but haste lest Grandma should get a word in edgewise. Her feigned embarrassment entertained her friends and other customers in the store, and set the stage for Charlie’s next appearance.

Charlie’s antics may have even added to Grandma’s already popular appeal with the town teenagers as she cruised Main Street on Saturday nights with her granddaughters my sister Jeanie and her cousin Lynette.

Grandma made a little money and received a king’s ransom of joy from her job at the city hospital caring for the new born babies. She was the first to receive and bathe several of our children. She traveled some, including a trip to Europe, served a mission to Colorado and brightened all our lives until her eighty-first year. Given her skill behind the steering wheel, some of her descendents were surprised she lasted that long, and died in bed. She drove a Chevrolet stick shift, although she rarely shifted. She would start off in high gear jerking and lurching away from stop signs and traffic lights while cars passed on either side of her.

“Ferron, my car doesn’t seem to have much pickup,” she often told Dad. But once up to speed, she made up for the slow start with her lead foot on the accelerator. She was stopped at check points several times by highway patrolmen looking for car or driver infractions. Once they were checking specifically for people driving without a license. They waved the sweet little old lady through, saying, “Go right ahead maam, we’re just checking driver’s licenses.” She thanked them and jerked away. Her smile and happy greeting made up for the driver’s license she didn’t have.

Give her credit, she took the license test so many times people in the office would greet her with, “Morning Florence here is your written test. We’ll have an officer ready when you fill it out.” The explanation was unnecessary. She knew the drill as well as they did. Short minutes later, she would whip through the written part, and step up for the driving test. Short minutes after that she would return with the tester, grateful he had survived another Saturday spin with Florence. Eventually she passed. How? The police department isn’t saying.

“I’ve lived to ride in a horse and buggy, and fly in a jet plane,” she often observed. More amazing to us was she lived to survive her own driving.

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:

“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:

1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: Being born