July 21, 2018

Scouting: Fun, thrilling, painful and tragic

Well, here are the fifth and sixth parts combined (for simplicity’s sake) of an eight-part series on how I survived multiple life-threatening ordeals in my sojourn through life!

Just remember, our Father in Heaven doesn’t take away all the challenges we encounter but can help us through them – unless it’s our time to go home to Him. The challenges we face are what can serve as refining fire if we turn to God in facing those challenges. Scouting posed a lot of small and large challenges, but also a lot of fun experiences.

Being a Scout was a big deal in my youth. Yes, I worked on acquiring merit badges and advancing in rank, but what was most important was the fun times with my friends – mostly the camping and the Mutual nights at the Magna swimming center.

From Cub Scouts
From CuB Scouts
But before I got into Boy Scouts, I had a couple good years in Cub Scouts. I remember going to a Den Mother’s home regularly, more or less, and enjoyed the different activities. I don’t remember a lot about the activities, but I do recall that I was never able to build a winning Pinewood Derby racer. I don’t recall any help from Mom or Dad on the racers, but I do remember their wheels were the biggest drag and often just fell off. No trophies for me!
I do remember going to a couple of day Cub Scout camps and at least one overnighter. Seems I recall the best part of the Cub Scout camps was the rifle range, though the rifles probably fired BBs.
I have in my scrapbook a Cub Scout Graduation Certificate, Cub Pack 344, signed by H. (Heman) C. Sharp in  February of 1961. Mr. Sharp lived across the street from us at the time. I grew up with his sons Bruce (who was my age), Ralph and Steve.

After turning 12 on Feb. 27, 1962, I graduated from Primary and entered the world of LDS Scouting.

My Star, Second Class, First Class badges from Boy Scouts.
Merrill, my older brother had been in Scouts for a year and a half and was one of the leaders. We had a lot of fun, but I think we spent most of our Mutual time either playing basketball or going to the Magna Swimming Pool where we mostly played water basketball. I didn’t know how to swim much at all when I first started Scouts. On the other hand, Merrill had been a good swimmer for several years and was one of those big guys who enjoyed launching off the diving board. As a Scout in the Magna pool, I finally got the hang of the dog paddle and eventually free-style swimming – after getting control of my fears of water and the threat of drowning.

There's a right way to fold the U.S. flag
One of the first things I learned in Scouting was how to fold the U.S. flag and properly take care of them. For me, the opportunity to serve in the Color Guard at Scouts and at various events was an honor. I remember getting to raise and lower the flag at Monroe Elementary, too.

Now it’s very annoying when I see a tattered flag blowing in the breeze or one on the ground or even just touching the ground, and I get peeved when I see one wadded up on a shelf instead of probably folded and stored inside a protective cover. My blood really starts to boil when I see on the news people desecrating the flag. We all need to remember what the 50 stars represent and what the 13 stripes represent, and how many men and women have fought and so many died under that flag to keep us free in this crazy world.

Explorer Scout camp 1965 in Tooele Canyon with leader
Kermit, Lee, Kirk Curtis and Merrill Hunt.
Camping was probably the highlight of my time in Scouts, though I usually ended up on KP because I knew, better than most of the boys, how to cook and how to wash dishes and get them clean enough to eat off them the next meal. The smell of bacon cooking on the griddle and the anticipation of some fluffy pancakes was a great way to start a day at camp. Then there was the smell of the old Army tents we slept in, the sounds of the night and the feel of the cool mountain breeze.
During those Scout camps, there were always more high jinx than what I preferred – especially at night before lights out.

Merrill, left, and others race down Tooele Canyon in front
of Bryon Johnson's truck that lost rear-end.
When we went on our early spring or winter camps, I remember being sure I was going to freeze to death in my sleeping bag. Even having extra blankets inside and outside my bag was not enough to keep the numbing cold from making my teeth chatter. I remember us trying to get a fire going and keep it going after having to build it on top of several feet of snow. The fire kept sinking lower and lower, and the melt would smoother the fire. I think we just finally gave up and crawled into our freezing sleeping bags.

Scouting was an adventure, but unfortunately, I never recall the camps being that much of a spiritual experience. I regret that, especially after hearing so many stories about girls’ camps and their testimony meetings.

One year early on in my Scouting era, we were able to go to an expensive camp because our leaders had made arrangements for our troop to be helpers of a troop of handicapped Scouts, most of whom were in wheelchairs. I’m sorry to say that I don’t recall being much help to them. Many of the other troops gave us a bad time, not so much because we were helping the handicapped troop but because we weren’t doing very well in any of the troop competitions. I remember us getting together a relay team, which we felt was our best chance at winning a ribbon. I can’t remember who all were on the
Wile Coyote found that speed wasn't always the winning way.
relay team, but I know it wasn’t the slow Hunt runt! However, Merrill was on the team and probably Steve Peterson, but our Ace in the Hole was Lester Mackay, who was a year older than Merrill and a grandson of one of our Scout leaders, Stan Bawden. Lester was a track star at Granger, so we figured that if the first three runners could keep close to the race leaders that Lester could come on at the end and steal the victory!

When the race through camp unfolded, everything was working as planned – the first three runners kept us in striking distance of the leaders. Then Lester took the baton and started flying down the trail. It really looked like victory was in our grasp – but then Lester came to a slope in the trail and went airborne. His legs were still churning, and his arms were swinging but he couldn’t keep his balance and crashed head first on the trail. Just a moment before we were cheering – and the next we were groaning. And Lester was pretty torn up – especially his hands. A painful return to earth. “If only he had slowed up to get down the hill,” I remember thinking, “he would have won even if he had slowed down.” 

W. Lee Hunt in Granger 1963 at age 13.
One of the best Scout camps I attended was up somewhere in southern Idaho during the summer of 1963 when I was 13 years old. I was really nervous before going because my left shoulder wasn’t completely healed from a complete dislocation I had suffered a few weeks prior. My camp goal was to earn the canoeing merit badge, but even to get a crack at it would require first earning the swimming merit badge. I hadn’t been able to pass the swimming requirements in previous attempts in a warm swimming pool out in Magna where our Scout troop went once a month – and now I was going to have to swim those laps in a cold mountain lake – and with a bum left shoulder.

Though I had a lot of pain before the camp, I went to work and did the best I could.
I remember praying to my Father in Heaven to help me make the long swim and to help me not drown.

I took a lot longer than normal to do the laps, but there was no time limit. During most of the laps, I did the backstroke, my favorite stroke. When they told me I had completed the laps and passed the requirements, I was relieved and actually quite surprised! After conquering the cold water, I went on and earned the canoeing merit badge, which included the requirement to swamp the canoe, then right it, and get back in. After completing the requirements, I was able to do all the canoeing I wanted.

I had a wonderful camp – then everything turned crazy on the way home.

Generic nature pond
DeVaughn Kershaw,
Merrill's future
I and several other younger Scouts had to ride in the back of DeVaughn Kershaw's truck – going up and coming back from camp, and there were no seats and no padding. The pickup had a shell over the back, but that was all. On the way home, we stopped just outside the camp at a nature lake and did some exploring for a few minutes. I picked up a bug of some sort on the lake shore and it bit me and I reflexively tossed my left arm up in the air to get the bugger off my finger. When I did that, I heard my left shoulder crack, snap and pop. It felt like my shoulder had broken in a bunch of pieces. I started crying and moaning, but Merrill and everyone else figured it was just more of Lee's showboating about his bad shoulders. They had gotten used to my injuries and become somewhat unconcerned. The bad part was that Kershaw didn't realize how bad it was either, so Merrill and Gene, the oldest and biggest kids sat in the cab with Kershaw while I was left in the back – bouncing all around all the way from Idaho back to Granger – all the while trying to hold my left arm motionless.

When I arrived home, Mom and Dad immediately took me to the hospital, and I was admitted for the surgery that was already scheduled for the next day. The doctor was shocked when he got a look inside my shoulder: The left shoulder socket had cracked in half, and the socket had cracked away from my shoulder. My arm basically was just dangling there as I bounced around in the back of the truck all the way home from Scout camp. I don't remember if I was given any medicine on my way home. I don't think so. Everyone couldn't figure how I could hurt my shoulder by just swinging my arm in the air to get the bug off.

The surgeons used several staples to pull all the bones together and then tightened the ligaments to limit how far my shoulder would move inside the socket. The idea was to limit the movement and prevent any more dislocations. The left shoulder never did get back to full strength in comparison to the right shoulder. The worst part in the years after was the left arm’s limited range of movement, then eventually bursitis became another burden. The left shoulder has been prone to slipping out partially -- and it's gotten worse with age and lack of exercise.

Merrill & Warren Hunt, Gene Openshaw, Stephen & Danny Peterson,
Bruce Sharp, Dennis Paxton, Lester Mackay, Stan Bawden at HAFB 1964.
A little less than a year after that Scout camp, when I turned 14, I entered the Explorer program. Scouting was now in the rear-view mirror. I had earned a slew of merit badges, but I was still lacking a few that were required for an Eagle. I ended my Scout advancement with the rank of Star. Dad was the Explorer leader and Merrill was one of the leaders, so I was excited to get started on that level of Scouting.

One of the first things I was asked to do was to set up an overnighter at Hill Air Force Base. I think I ended up with the task because I suggested the idea (Dad had been working at HAFB for years), and I told them it couldn’t be that hard to arrange. Well, Dad gave me the job. I corresponded through letters with the Base PR office and made the arrangements. During the Christmas break of 1964, Dec. 27-28, we went to the military base and spent a night there in the barracks, watched airmen films, ate chow at the base cafeteria and toured a lot of the base and saw a lot of warplanes. I still have the wood scrapbook that we made of the adventure.
My patch from 1967 conference.

LDS Astronaut Don Lind.
Less than a year later, Aug. 20-25, 1965, I, along with a few other Explorers from our ward and stake, attended the Second LDS International Explorer Conference at Brigham Young University.
During one of the assemblies, we listened to a speech by LDS Astronaut Don Lind, born in Midvale, Utah. I’ve remembered that experience my whole life, and it became even more significant when Lind finally NASA flew space missions in 1985.

Explorer leader, Ralph Sharp, Steve Crump, Bruce Sharp
Larry Bunkall at Explorer Conference at BYU in 1965.
During the summer of 1964 or 1965, we did an Explorer camp up Tooele Canyon. We had a lot of fun, but one of the leaders Bryon Johnson, had major truck problem, the truck dropped its rearend. So when it was time to head home, we had to push the truck at to the canyon road and let it coast all the way down. We made it all the way down into Tooele City. A crazy adventure.

On Aug. 18-23, 1967, several of us Explorers from our ward and stake attended the LDS Explorer Ensign Leadership Conference at Brigham Young University. We had a great time at both conferences, and I especially enjoyed exploring the campus, where I would later attend college.

I mentioned earlier about going on winter camps. On one trip, we took tire innertubes and diesel or tractor innertubes (before tubeless tires) so we could tube down a 10-foot-wide trail across from our camp. We lugged the tubes probably 60 yards up the trail, placed one of the six or seven-foot in diameter tubes down first and then put a couple smaller tubes inside. Then we piled a bunch of Scouts on top and went whipping down the trail. We were fortunate that we made several trips before anyone got hurt. The trail, which was on the side of the mountain slope, angled to the left toward the bottom near the road. Each time we careened down the trail, the giant tube with us loaded on top would inch higher and higher up the edge of the restraining bank of snow.

The last time I rode, our tube slid up and over the bank of snow! Many of us were able to bail off, but I was on top in the middle of the pile, and I just went flying – straight toward a large two-inch-thick trail sign that was held in place by two four-inch-round posts.

Did I hit my head on the sign? Obviously not, because I probably would have been killed. Did I hit the sign in the middle of my back? No, or I probably would have been killed or paralyzed! The Lord protected me from those fates.

However, my left leg did smack into one of the sign’s support posts – hitting just above and on the front side of my knee, which violently twisted at an awkward angle. I thought for sure I had broken my leg! I was helped back to camp all the while wailing in pain! Sound familiar!?

After some novice testing, we decided my leg probably wasn’t broken but that I had messed something up in the knee. One of the leaders eventually took me home. My parents may have taken me to the doctors, but I didn’t have any surgery. The knee gradually got better, but every once in a while, I would have issues with the knee.

That close call wasn’t the only traumatic experience at a Scout camp. On May 19 and 20 of 1963, Troop 599 of North Jordan Third Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were camping in Mill Creek Canyon. There was still snow on the ground on the north slope of the canyon, but the snow was all melted on the south slope across from camp. We had a fairly large troop, so we divided the in two. One group headed up
the slope way ahead of the second. Our plan was to work on our signaling merit badge. Gene Openshaw, Merrill and I were in the first group. As we scampered up the side of the mountain, a large bounder, which was later estimated to be 150 to 175 pounds, was dislodged by one or more of the Scouts at the head of our group. The spring thaw was a contributing factor. They tried to hold it back, but when it got away from them, they yelled at us below to watch out.

I looked up just in time to see this huge rock heading right at me. I froze like a deer in a car’s headlights. Suddenly, an angel by my side pushed me out of the way. The boulder just barely grazed my calf muscle on my left leg and continued its rampage down the slope. Though the muscle immediately went into spasms, I couldn’t help but think that I could have been killed if it hadn’t been for Merrill pushing me out of the way!

Merrill and Gene was helping me down the trail when we started hearing screaming coming from the second group of our troop, which had started up the slope way after us. Merrill and Gene left me to go see what was going on. When they returned, they told me about the horror below.

One of the Scouts, Clair Jensen, 14, had been struck in the head by that same boulder that grazed me. He was killed instantly. Everything became chaos. I was helped down the mountainside past his covered body. Eventually the police arrived, and we packed up and headed home. I heard from Scouts in the second group that Clair was taking a separate trail apart from his group and had told them they should come over and join him because his path was better. He was the only one in that group, which included his younger brother, who ended up in the path of that boulder. The funeral was a very sad and somber experience.

Tragedy for one Scout, a miracle survival for another. Why was Clair taken and not me? I try not to think about it too much, but in the hereafter we’ll better understand.

June 15, 2018

The Neighborhood Boys (4th Installment of 8 Close Calls)

Physical activity in the outdoors was the top mission for the boys in our neighborhood, whether playing basketball in the driveway, football in the backyard, baseball in the street and our backyard, or playing different types of war games.
Merrill, holding Trena, in his Pirates
baseball uniform on his birthday with
Troyleen.  Probably Aug. 1 of 1960. 
Sports were the main events for the Hunt Boys – mainly because of Merrill’s athletic abilities.
Merrill taking a shot in a game
at Granger against the faculty.
Coach Griener is at right.
I, on the other hand, was the runt Hunt who couldn’t’ run! Still, I always was trying to become as good as Merrill. Tried hard, but it just wasn’t to be!
Every time Merrill and I got involved in a neighborhood baseball game or football game, Merrill would be the leader, and usually he and Gene Openshaw would pick sides. I was always one of the last ones picked (me and Dennis Paxton) – and usually Merrill had to be the one to pick me. In basketball, it was a little different by the time I was in junior high and high school. Sometimes it would be Merrill and I picking sides. I would go for height first, so that would be Gene Openshaw or more likely Bruce Sharp. Sometimes it would be Merrill and I against the neighborhood, and usually the games were out on our driveway, which had big cracks and crumbling concrete (not cement, as Merrill would correct!). Merrill and I had the advantage because we knew every foot of that driveway and didn’t have to watch our dribbling. We would try to force our opponents into the bad areas and take advantage of the bad bounces. Merrill was incredibly good at flying down toward the garage and making a layup and instantly ducking below the entrance to the garage. If the garage door wasn’t open, then he and everyone else would fly up against the wooden door, banging against it, and then bounce off and go on with the game. That slam-banging would drive Mom crazy. Eventually she would come out and tell us to open the garage door before we broke it. We never did break the door. If the car was in the garage, Merrill had the “privilege” of backing it out of the way. I was always too young!
Bruce Sharp, about 15.
Ralph Sharp, about 14.
The Sharps were a big part of our basketball days in Granger. Bruce Sharp, who was my age but almost as tall as Merrill and Gene, was part of the original driveway players. Then his younger brother, Ralph, joined the games, which included church basketball. We played church basketball for several years, not a lot with Merrill because he was on the school teams from the time he was in 9th grade. During my senior year at Granger, I had a good year personally in church basketball. I was selected to the stake All-Star team and played in the All-Star game. After my mission, I coached the ward young men’s basketball team, led by Steve Sharp, the youngest Sharp boy. I even designed plays and taught them how to run the plays and how to play defense, including blocking out for rebounds. I probably had too much fun being a coach. Later, after getting married and while living in Kearns, I coached the ward boys team. When we moved to West Jordan, I coached the men for a few years, and our team went to church regionals a couple of times.
Our backyard at home in Granger about 1968. Notice the
clothesline and the "bomb shelter"/storage cellar between
the garage and clothesline. Our large garden took up a third
of the yard to the left and out of the photo.
When Merrill and I were young and before Dad and us put up fences along our property borders, we could play baseball in the backyard. We eventually outgrow our backyard for baseball, so we found a spot in the fields north of our homes on 4300 West. When there were only a few kids – including
Brent Gardner, about
8 years old.
Brent Gardner, Bruce Sharp, Gene Openshaw, Dennis Paxton, Merrill and me – we worked on catching fly balls and throwing; also defensive plays, and fly ups. When kids started to come from other parts of the ward, including Steve and Danny Peterson, we added playing work ups.
(From http://www.helpful-baseball-drills.com – The players on the team fill all the nine defensive positions, and the rest are hitters (4 or more) …. Once the defense is set up, you begin pitching to the batters. There is no score kept. All other baseball rules are followed. If a batter makes an out, then he gets his glove and moves to right field. All the defensive players move up – work up – one position…. If the batter gets on base, he continues to run, if you have enough batters.)
We were able to play in that field before a bunch of new homes were built, which eventually filled in all the vacant lots along our road. David Butt and his family bought one of those homes on the west side of the street and lived in the same ward with us for several years. Also, Vivian moved back from California and bought a house in a neighborhood west of us. So, we had three Hunt-Butt families in the same ward for several years.
The neighborhood boys eventually started practicing and playing pickup games at Monroe Elementary. Merrill was amazing at any position – but especially third base and shortstop. He could
Merrill playing community softball after he was married.
cover a huge part of the field, even into left and center field. I usually played right field and later second base. My range at second base was pretty much within about three feet – and those crazy hoppers at Monroe Elementary were dangerous. The field had a lot of spots where the grass on the edges of the running paths were far from level, but Merrill seemed to have memorized the hazards and knew how the ball would bounce on any given spot.
Merrill and Gene seemed to be having a contest to see which could hit the most homeruns and how many they could hit over the fence at the other end of the playing field, which was about the length of two normal playing fields.
I, on the other hand, would try for a hit just beyond the infielders. When I made contact on the ball, the impact rattled my shoulders. Hitting the ball didn’t seem to do that to the other guys.
Gene Openshaw as a teen.
One time while practicing at Monroe, Gene Openshaw was playing first base as usual, and I made a hit and “raced” (people said I seemed to run really fast in one spot!) down toward first base. But Gene had planted himself in the running path about two or three feet before the base. Remember, Gene was a big guy, bigger than Merrill. He was leaning forward, awaiting the toss from the field as I slammed into him. I went flying over him – landing first on my hands and next to the base! I reached out my hand that was throbbing with pain and gentle touched the base. I had hurt my wrist (cracked the bone just above the wrist) and was out of service for several weeks. I actually had a wrist brace and an Ace bandage that I kept in my bedroom drawer for whenever I fell and hurt my wrist, which was way too often.
The last year that Merrill played young men’s church fast-pitch softball, we won the stake championship and played in the Church Regionals in
Playing catch with Merrill at
Liberty Park in 9th grade.
Salt Lake. The experience was really cool. I remember playing right field in the game. I may have gotten on base via a walk (the pitcher probably had a hard time pitching to such a short batter), but
Merrill warming up for a softball game.
also I had a huge hit – almost! Late in the game, my turned came up to bat. A good hit would bring runners in and maybe win the game. I hit a long fly ball to right field! As I ran for first, the fielder backed up and up and – caught the ball! My moment of glory had flown out! We lost the game. The experience would have been memorable! Wait, it was memorable! I do remember the moment, including the excitement and near ecstasy.
I actually played one season of organized community baseball. I was old enough to play Little League baseball, but I played in the Peewee League – probably because of my size and lack of experience in playing community ball. I played catch for our Peewee team, which was a surprise to me, being right there behind the batters. But in this situation, I had a lot of protection: face mask, chest protector and
knee/leg guards. That body protection pretty much made me fearless behind the plate. Besides, I was used to catching throws from Merrill, and these kids were like – kids! I was a pretty good catcher, though I did have a hard time throwing anyone out stealing second. At bat, I was pretty good against this level of competition. I actually had a good percentage and hit a lot of long balls and even some homeruns. They had to be really long balls because I took so long to get around all the bases.
Just at the end of the season, my family packed up and headed to Yellowstone. I was excited about the vacation, but I had been selected to the Peewee All-Star team and wasn’t able to play in the All-Star game. A big disappointment!
Here’s a confession: Merrill was a thief! And it was because of me he got busted! When Merrill was 12 or 13, we would go over to a farm nearby and try to steal pigeons roosting in the eaves of the cow pens. Then we found a shed at one of the homes off 3500 South and just west of Monroe Elementary. Gus Paulos Chevrolet car dealership is now located at the corner of 4000 West and 3500 South.

The shed at that house harbored many homing pigeons. We captured several and took them home and put them in our clubhouse/pigeon coop/chicken coop/rabbit pen/submarine. One evening, I was stationed at the door of the shed. Actually I was always stationed at the door of the shed because I was too little to do much else. I was supposed to scare the pigeons back into the shed if they tried to escape. I decided I’d use a board to shoo them back in. One time I shooed a pigeon so good he ended up in heaven – I smacked him with the board! I felt so bad. I think it was the next time we went to the shed to capture more pigeons that we heard the owner coming after us and we all started running! I thought it was because I had killed one of his pigeons and we had “stolen” other pigeons. Merrill, Gene and Bruce Sharp were bigger and faster and outran the property owner, but I was too slow. He caught me, and I think he also caught Dennis Paxton – a
Stan Bawden on an Explorer trip to Hill Air Force Base.
“runt” like me. It was old Stan Bawden – who had to be 80 years old. He wasn’t that old I know now, but he was old but still fast. He took me by the arm and lead me to Dad. Come to find out, he didn’t care about those stray pigeons but was upset because someone had let his prize peacocks out of their pen that was near the shed. I promised him it wasn’t us and that we would ask him before going after any more pigeons. It’s funny, but I don’t remember going over to that shed again. It wasn’t near as much fun when we actually had permission. Stan later became a good friend of all of us boys and helped many of us and me personally with merit badges and Scouting. He was a nice little man.
Merrill and I liked to play war when we were young. If we weren’t playing football, basketball or baseball, we were playing war. Merrill was always the captain, Gene was second in command, and the rest of us were runts! We used the clubhouse a lot for our fort, bunker or submarine. We actually made a periscope from a toy we got out of a cereal box and plastic pipes we found around the garage.
Nine-year-old Lee in
full Navy uniform.
Also, we had several Navy uniforms that we found from Dad and I think from Uncle Silvan. We even had an Army helmet that Silvan had brought back from Iwo Jima. We were ready for war –- but mostly just practicing and preparing: remember, we were children
of the Cold War years. We thought any time there would be war between the U.S. and the Russians. We had the bomb drills at school and all the Cold War phobias. There was a big ditch across the field behind our house. Actually, the Westcrest Mobile Home Park is now where the field was, and the ditch is where the border is between the trailer park and Pioneer Valley Hospital. That water in the ditch was just a few inches deep, but the ditch banks were about four feet deep and about 12 feet across. We could play all day along those banks and fight off the Germans advancing across the fields. WWII was the war we knew all about – the war our fathers fought in – and it was only 10 or 12 years in the past!

I remember part of the “army training” we did in our backyard involved pretending we were Spartans. I don’t remember which of the older boys introduced the Spartan life to us, but it was a real part of our “training.” We were told the story that in the time of Sparta, the youths were taught to be strong, lean and endure all
forms of pain and not show any pain no matter how bad the pain was. As the story was taught to us, a young Spartan stole a fox and hide it under his tunic when he and others were called into formation. While he stood rigidly in formation, the fox under his tunic started biting and eating away at his stomach. Before he showed any pain, he fell over dead and the fox ran away. As part of this “training,” we took turns hitting each other in the stomach. I was the skinniest kid in the group, but I had strong stomach muscles at the time and endured some pretty good punches even from Merrill and Gene. Of course, Merrill could handle any punches from any of us.
When Dad brought a bunch of wood crates and planks from Hill Air Force Base, which was his place of employment for most of our younger years, he built a shed in the far northeast corner of our yard – within three or four feet of our property line and the small irrigation ditch that ran along that line.
Dad wanted to raise chickens in the “coop,” but we eyed the shed as a military base of operations. However, our plans were put off for several years as Dad experimented with raising chickens and then rabbits. I can’t remember if we had much luck with the chickens, but we did pretty good raising rabbits. We had them running all over in the shed. I remember when Dad killed any of the chickens, he would chop their heads off and the headless birds would flop all over the backyard as they bled out. When it came time to slaughter the rabbits, Troyleen and Trena freaked out as they watched the mayhem! When they saw the process of killing them, gutting them and
ripping their skin off, the girls were distressed and would have no part in eating those poor things! I thought that once they were breaded and fried, the rabbits tasted a lot like chicken but maybe a little tougher. One of the big problems with the chicken and the rabbits, especially the rabbits, was the crap they left all over the floor of the shed. After harvesting the rabbits, we had to dig up all the do-do, load it in the wheelbarrow and spread it in our garden. What a great opportunity!
Soon after the rabbit experiment, Merrill and I cleaned it out completely and started turning it into our clubhouse/military headquarters. As part of the upgrades, we would take bits and pieces of sheetrock and cover the walls and plaster in between them. I eventually got a window put into the front of the shed where the chicken wire had been. Sometime during our remodeling, I created a secret door in the back of the shed that we could lift out, crawl through and then place back in place – thus escaping any “enemy” attack.
One of the big projects early on in the history of the clubhouse was a paper drive by club members, which included Merrill, me, Gene Openshaw, Bruce & Ralph Sharp and Dennis Paxton. We collected newspapers up and down 4300 West and probably the surrounding area. We eventually had the shed virtually full of stacked newspapers. Finally, we loaded all the paper into a truck and took it to a recycling place. We made enough money to buy enough concrete for a floor in the shed and also enough for all of us to go to a movie: Dad took us to Motor-Vu Drive-In where we watched a Tarzan movie with Johnny Weissmuller.
One summer the weeds behind Bruce Sharp’s home across from our home got six feet tall – and we made trails throughout the field of weeds. What a great locale for jungle warfare training! We had a great time – until the weed pollen took down Bruce and Ralph Sharp. Their allergies were too much for our “training” to continue. But we had a great time before the weeds decimated our ranks!
Another summertime adventure that would occasionally beckon us was escaping down to the foreboding canal north of 3100 South. All the moms felt it was too dangerous for us kids to venture down there, but as we got a little older we occasionally made the trip.
Hunting carp with bow and arrow.
That canal is part of the geology of the Granger area, which is important to many of our stories. The Granger area is the bottom of Lake Bonneville (Salt Lake Valley). Thus, there are few rocks in the alkaline clay soil and yet nearly as hard as rock. Yet, break through the top layer and dig down three feet, and we would get muddy: The water table along 4300 West and north of 3500 South was only about three feet down, so no one had basements – just crawl spaces. The area was previously marshland before the canal was put in and the area drained. The whole area north of 3100 South is now full of homes, and even the “new” Monroe Elementary.
So, when we were young and the canal beckoned, we’d try our luck at fishing and actually catch a lot of carb and some catfish. However, we couldn’t eat any of the fish. Sometimes we would go with Bruce, and he would bring his bow and arrows. Then Merrill and Bruce would try to shoot carp with a string tied onto the arrow.
One year we noticed piles of long Chinese Elm tree branches scattered in the lot next to 3500 South, the main thoroughfare in Granger. I decided they would be perfect for building ourselves a large teepee. After a couple days of hard labor, we had a tall teepee with a special tree-branch tunnel leading into its interior, which was about eight feet across. We didn’t do much there, though we discussed a lot of options. I think we pretty much just watched the traffic go by and sometimes some kids walking the sidewalk between us and 3500 South. We may have slept there a time or two, but I think the thrill was more in its construction than in occupying the fortress. I don’t even remember what eventually happened to it.
We often would sleep out behind the house under the shade of the single Chinese Elm. But when Merrill and Vicki Kershaw got “friendly,” sleeping out took on a different kind of adventure and intrigue: We would often sneak down to Vicki’s house to tease her and her friends, including Kathy, her sister. They would often sleep out in their small camper trailer. As the visits continued, Vicki would take a more direct approach and invite us to watch
Nightmare Theater in their living room. The beginning of a very long romance.
Winter was a different type of adventure in the neighborhood. Sometimes when we had a good snowstorm, we would build snow forts and play war by tossing grenades of snowballs or ice balls. Other times, we would challenge each other in snowball fights. Merrill and Gene had a big advantage because they could toss their
snowballs a lot farther and more accurately – well, at least Merrill was more accurate.
One time, we were having a little snowball fight in front of Brent Gardner’s home, next to Vicki Kershaw’s old home on the west side of 4300 West. I must have gotten Gene Openshaw a good one, probably in the face or head, because he grabbed me, threw me down – face down – and held me down in the snow.
I couldn’t breathe!
In fact, I remember I was already out of breath when he shoved my face into the snow, which meant I was quickly struggling to get away and breathe. Of course, I couldn’t break free. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t let me go, especially seeing that I was struggling so desperately!
Finally, my guardian angel came to my rescue – again! Merrill pushed Gene off of me and I gasped for air! I really thought I was going to die! Gene didn’t realize I was totally out of breath and truly panicking! Gene was at times a big bully, but Merrill seemed to keep him in check most of the time. I was traumatized by the event. I still have dreams about suffocating in a tunnel, under water – and I swear that that event was what triggered it.
Travis Wilson
We had a diverse neighborhood on our little street. Dave Cabrera and his parents at the southwest end. Sharps lived across the street from us until Heman Sharp and DeVaughn Kershaw built a big nice home for the Sharps in the empty fields north of Kershaws where we had been playing baseball. Lena Newhold, who graduated from Granger along with me in 1968, lived three houses down from the Sharps before the Newbolds moved to a house on 3100 South but still in our ward. She had a brother one year older than us and twin sisters a year older than Merrill. Gene Openshaw, his other brother Blaine and parents lived a couple houses further down the street (north actually). Dennis Paxton, who was my age and small like me, lived on the north side of the Openshaws. Brent Garden lived a couple houses north of Paxtons and next to Kershaws, but they moved – I think it was just before we went into junior high. Then a family moved into the home that had a boy who was
Merrill’s age. I think Travis Wilson was his name. They became good friends in sports and at school.
There were a lot of good times with neighborhood kids, and some bad experiences – and lessons learned. I remember one time going behind Paxton’s place and trying my first cigarette. The first puff choked me so bad and was so foul that I gave it back to Dennis and never touched a cigarette again – except for those candy cigarettes they sold back then.
David Cabrera was a good kid, probably a couple of years younger than me. I remember that one time he brought over one of his dad’s magazines – one titled Playboy. I regret that – and also how we sort of turned our back on him.
Ralph Cloward and family lived across the street next to Sharps on the north side. Very quiet and humble man. He was my Aaronic Priesthood adviser for several years. By the time of my mission, I realized how much he meant in my life – his efforts to get us to reach out to others and excel in the gospel.
One of the things Brother Cloward challenged me to do was to get Dennis Paxton active in the church again. Seems like he had been active when he was younger, but he didn’t have any help or encouragement at home to go to church. He did some to church quite regularly and became good friends with Bruce Sharp.
Our kids my age in our neighborhood had the weird experience of going to five different schools in five years. When we graduated from Monroe Elementary, we then were bused up to Kearns Jr. High. The next year, we were bused to Brockbank in Magna. Then we went to (walked) the new Westlake Jr. High as 9th graders and reconnected with many friends who we had known at Monroe Elementary. The next year we went to Granger. The years at Granger High were the first time since elementary in which I had three years in the same school, which meant reconnecting with many other kids I knew from Monroe and from previous LDS wards.
Granger and the whole area was growing like crazy in the 1950s and 1960s – and onward. When my
Dedication program photo of North Jordan Stake Center, Granger 2nd Ward,
courtesy of  Facebook's "You know you grew up in Granger Utah if....."
family first arrived in Granger in 1955, we were in the Granger 2nd Ward and attended church in the Lighthouse Church, North Jordan Stake Center, for several years. I was baptized there in 1958. I remember in the Junior Sunday School room had a black and white checkered floor, and the baptismal font off to the west side of the room. I played a lot of basketball there as a teen. The floor was so hard, it was like playing on concrete. The floor was eventually carpeted, but that wasn’t much better. I once put my kneecap out playing on that floor. When the ward was split, we
Here's our Granger 2nd Ward Junior Sunday School class. So many of us
graduated from Granger together. IDs (and thanks to Sandy Halladay
for several): Top row: Bruce Sharp, Carol Linton Lavigne, Lena Newbold,
Brent Gardner, Jimmy Jim Hansen, ____ Leafty, Kathryn Sloan;
second row: Afton ____, Susan Obert, Sandy Halladay, Carolyn Winder,
right; Danny Petersen (probably), Robin Bawden?, Steve Petersen,
W. Lee Hunt, Jay _____, and Garth Hardy.
ended up in the North Jordan Ward, then North Jordan 3rd, then North Jordan 7th and ….  I can’t remember exactly what followed, but I know the stake was divided when a new stake center was built just two blocks west of our street. Back then, everyone helped build the churches. Our family helped a lot on the North Jordan Ward building on Harman Dr, now the Harman Ward of the Salt Lake Granger South Stake. I remember cleaning hundreds of bricks after the chapel’s huge front wall was blown over just after it was completed. Our job was to salvage as many of the bricks as we could!
Going to Kearns Jr. was a challenge for me, especially since I started school just weeks after having surgery on my right shoulder. The doctors took a piece of bone from my hip and tried to use it to form more of a complete shoulder socket. The procedure actually worked pretty well. During the recovering period, I learned to dribble with my left hand and shoot lefthanded, which was a plus latter on.
Life at the school was made a little less stressful because Merrill was there and he was a big jock on campus as a member of the school basketball team.
One day while in an assembly in the gymnasium at Kearns Jr. High, I experienced my first big earthquake. The bleachers were full when it hit. We could actually see the floor roll from west to east, and the bleachers we were on began to rattle violently. I don’t remember anyone getting hurt, but it was freaky. Merrill was a jock on the school basketball team and was serving as an usher during the assembly. When he saw the floor start to roll toward him, he started running down the hall. But the quake’s ripple caught him and tossed him up in the air, and he landed on his butt.
Seventh grade at Kearns was the beginning of choir classes – boys glee. My voice had dropped a couple of octaves, and I could sing the lowest and the highest for a while. I remember singing in a quartet for an assembly there. I was excited for eight grade, expecting to be in mixed chorus at Kearns, but then our group was shipped off to Brockbank. Once again I was in – boys glee. However, I did get to sing in a quartet for a girls-only assembly. The song was from South Pacific: “Nothing Like A Dame.”
The first part of the year at Brockbank was pretty rough – new school and new bullies and no Merrill to protect me. I was still a runt – and I was recuperating from surgery on my left shoulder. That one was a mess because I had cracked the shoulder just before going in into surgery. The surgeon used stables to put the shoulder socket back together and more stables to reconnect the socket to the shoulder. Then he tightened the ligaments, which thus limited my arm’s range from then on.
Anyway, about the bullies! Several guys, all of Mexican descent, kept taunting me, calling me names. I remember talking with the counselor about the situation, but there wasn’t anything he could or would do. Bullying back then wasn’t handled like it is today. Anyway, as the year wore on, the bullying continued, but I actually was in the midst of a growth spurt. Before long, I was pushing past 5 feet tall. Wow!!!
One day, those bullies came up to me in the main hallway and started taunting me. By this time, I was as big as they were and fed up with taking their crap. When one of them knocked the books and papers out of my hands, my blood started to boil! When I knelt to gather things up, one of them started kicking my stuff away. A crowd was gathering – anticipating a fight. I stood up and went into my boxing stance. (You need to understand that Merrill and I had been wrestling and fighting all my life. Dad had even bought us boxing gloves. Merrill would pound me, but I wouldn’t give up.) The
Lee in a leading part of Junior High play "Drop Dead."
kid started to come at me and we exchanged a couple of hits. Of course, in all my boxing with Merrill, we weren’t allowed to hit the head or face – nor below the waist. But this kid tried to kick me in my privates, so I turned to my side and punched from that position. Then he hit me in the face! That really ticked me off! So, he’s going to do that, huh! I remember his hits were more like slaps and weren’t very painful. Remember, I’ve been fighting with Merrill for years. This kid didn’t know what pain is really like! Anyway, the next time he came in on me, I swung with my right and caught him in the head and he went flying into the wall several feet behind him. I was ready for more, but his friends helped him up and started yelling that the counselor was coming. I just stood there, waiting for the counselors. The crowd dissipated, and I was left pretty much by myself – and no adults showed
up. The best part was that those bullies never bothered me again. After my clash in the school hallway, I started to realize I wasn’t such a runt after all. By the time I got to West Lake Jr. High, I was 5-feet 4 ½ inches. Can you believe that! Plus I made the junior high basketball team. The one weird thing about West Lake was that because of a class scheduling conflict, I couldn’t take choir – again, no mixed chorus. I did however take a drama class and performed a play in the new auditorium.
My neighborhood friend Dennis Paxton
attending my birthday party Feb. 27 1959.
Now, all of this school and bully stuff is a lead-in to another story.
After that “successful” bout at Brockbank and then the positive things happening in gym and on the basketball court at West Lake – I began to feel like I was some sort of “jock.” Then, I started thinking differently about my place in the pecking order at school and at church.
I mentioned earlier about how Dennis Paxton and Bruce Sharp had become friends and started hanging out together. I had become the odd kid out – by my choice or theirs. I started feeling like they were now the ones taunting me. Paranoia probably.
Anyway, one evening at mutual, something set me off and I started a short fight with Dennis. Didn’t last long, but I really regret how things turned even colder after that. Not many months later, Dennis and his parents moved to Texas. I never heard from him again. I wish I could find him and apologize for being a jerk. Nothing he said could have been bad enough for me to get into a fight with him in church.