High School

My sister Norma and I were four years apart.  If you do the math you may rightly  conclude that I spent my high school years basically as an only child.  My parents were in a good place in both their marriage and their financial status.  We built a new home.  My father served as bishop.  I received ALL the parenting--the good/bad news.  I read in one of my siblings' personal histories that Dad wanted a boy when I was born.  Perhaps I had just enough masculine interests and leanings to provide my father with a chance to indulge himself in that wish.  I loved to camp and play ball.  I was never a girly girl.  My mother tried so hard to spruce me up.  I got braces and contact lenses towards that end.  We always played a game of tug-of-war, she and I.  My father mediated.

The best thing I brought out of high school was the relationship I would have with my classmates for the next almost fifty years.  We have met consistently as a group every five years--and most recently every three!  I maintain close contact with about 20 of them, and last summer met for lunch with six.  Let's just say that we enjoy each other.  I would never have guessed that.  In high school I was outgoing and obnoxious within my circle of friends, but I had no delusions of being popular or someone with a date every weekend.  But now that life has bumped us all around a bit, we meet each other on equal footing--male and female alike.

When I was about to enter 9th grade as a freshman, the county consolidated the schools, joining all students from the entire county into one system.  So instead of puttering off to high school, we were all bussed to the former high school in Paris with the 7th and 8th graders.  This consolidation effort had been a VERY hot topic in the community for several years--highly controversial.  People get so set in their ways.  We, on the other hand, all made the transition quite effortlessly and were overjoyed to have new friends and the extra stimulation that change brought.  My year in Paris was memorable.  I took German and typing, I remember.  Our German teacher was a little short young gal--Fraulein Hoopes.  Loved learning a language.  We could eat lunch or buy candy at a drugstore through a small park.  I remember dressing outlandishly with fluorescent orange, lime green and yellow bobby sox and black and white Chuck Martin high tops.  Stylish.  I was taking seminary for the first time and discovered the Book of Mormon!  My copy was a large print hardback one that I still have.  I remember being so excited abut that book that I gave my grandmother one for Christmas!  Brother Booth was my teacher--an elderly gentleman, very gentle.  He taught us all to lead music.  I learned to drive that year, and my greatest claim to fame was that my dad let me fill up his old panel truck, the "Blurr", with girls and drive to school sometimes!!!  It was the BOMB!

That year was dramatically punctuated with the accidental death of my oldest nephew, Brian, in a car accident in Emigration Canyon the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  From his mother's account:  "While living in Montpelier (Doug was teaching seminary), a tragedy occurred that changed our lives forever.  We decided that our VW bus was too much of an expense to drive anymore, so we contacted a friend in Ogden who sold used cars and made arrangements to take the bus to Ogden to see if he could sell it for us.  On a Sunday morning, November 19, 1967, we knelt in family prayer and asked Heavenly Father to protect us as we drove to Ogden.  Doug left home first by himself in the pickup, and I left a little later, driving the bus with the boys.  It was a cold November day, but there was no snow as of yet.  I made up a bed in the back of the bus so the boys could sleep if they felt like it.  We started off through the canyon towards Preston.  When we had been on the road for about 30 minutes, I pulled over onto a wide shoulder and put Steve in the back so he could sleep.  Brian didn't want to go to the back but wanted to stay in the seat behind me and sleep there.  We started off again.  Several miles down the canyon there was a curve in the road that was covered with black ice.  As we were rounding the curve, I put on the brakes to slow down a bit, but the bus just kept sliding sideways.  We hit the edge of the road where it dropped off into a steep gully.  The bus rolled end over end, smashing the front end of the roof down to the steering wheel.  The two side doors were forced open, and Brian was thrown out.  When it came to a stand-still, the bus was upside down.  I could see Brian's body from a window, and I knew that he was dead.  Steve was crying, but he had no injuries.  I was bleeding from a large gash on my head and had glass imbedded in my legs.  One of my shoes had come off, and my arm was injured.  I don't know how I came out alive because the roof was on the steering wheel.  If I had been wearing a seat belt, I would have been killed.  A man and his wife from Star Valley were traveling behind us and saw the whole thing.  They stopped and climbed down the embankment to help.  They assisted Steve and me out of the bus and took us to their car.  He drove us to the hospital in Preston while his wife stayed with Brian's body.  I guess the hospital sent an ambulance back up the canyon to get Brian.  I don't really remember much of what happened after we arrived at the hospital, but I have must have been aware enough to give them Mom and Dad's phone number in Montpelier.  They called Doug at his parent's home in Ogden, and he rushed back to Preston while Mom and Dad drove from Montpelier.  In the meantime, my head was sewn back together with 15 stitches about a half inch apart.  Glass was removed from my legs, as much as possible, but the doctor was still pulling out glass shards for several months.  I hadn't shed a tear the whole time, but the moment I saw Doug, we both burst into tears, and the reality of what had happened hit me hard."

My own memories of that event are poignant.  I had become an aunt at the age of ten, a role I fell into with gusto.  Brian was the younger sibling I had always secretly prayed for and openly solicited for to no avail.  I took immediate custody and ownership of him.  I remember Nancy arriving to stay at our home when Brian was just a week old.  He was magic.  Later I sewed a stuffed bear for him and lovingly made a quiet book which took hours and hours.  I carted him around on my hip tirelessly. When he got older he would teeter at the bottom of the stairs leading to my bedroom and holler up, "Mairn!  Mairn!"  My friends all began to call me that.  As we both grew older I was allowed to babysit him.  He was central in my life.  When his family moved to Montpelier to teach, we were adjacent neighbors in a crumbling apartment complex for a summer while our home was being built in the canyon.  I remember giving Brian an unsolicited haircut.  He didn't protest, but it was not well received by his mother.

On the morning of the accident, we were in church.  Someone tracked us down there, gave us the news, and we immediately left for Preston.  We hadn't been told which child was killed.  All the way there, I struggled with which one it might be.  Perhaps Brian would have been able to hold on better as the older child.  Perhaps Steve had been asleep and more relaxed.  When we came upon the accident site, my mother moaned, "Oh, Jack!  How could anyone survive that?"  We were all completely distraught.

The next days were emotional and draining.  Grief was a completely new experience for me, and it hit me like an avalanche of sharp rocks and pointed sticks.  My next vivid memory isn't until after the funeral.  We were back home, and I had been instructed to go to Nancy and Doug's home and pack up all of Brian's clothes before they returned to spare Nancy the added pain.  I remember holding Brian's little cowboy boots and sobbing uncontrollably.  That afternoon I was alone in our apartment.  It was a gloomy dark November day--probably threatening to snow.  In my grief and sorrow, I knelt down to pray.  I poured out my heart, and then, in the midst of that, the gray skies parted momentarily and the sun shone brightly through.  That was a very personal mercy.

John returned from his mission a short time later, we moved into our new home, and life moved forward.  We were all thrilled with the new home, especially Mom.  She so lovingly furnished it with draperies she had sewn and furniture she had refinished.  My father was called as the bishop, summer came, softball began, and then another sadness struck with the stillborn birth of a baby girl, Mary Ann.  These two family tragedies back-to-back were hard to understand.  Fortunately, the Williams home DID begin to fill with noisy wonderful children.

(Camp Little Lemhi--Young Women's camp for two years)
My high school years were pretty typical.  I was enthusiastic to join clubs, read books, play church sports, and study as little as I could get away with.  My Young Women's activities provided creative and social outlets for me, and my core group of friends were funny and full of life.  We met every Friday night at someone's house to make candy, go to the movie together, or play games.  It was all very innocent.  We had outgrown the copious amount of slumber parties that had absorbed our world in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.  But I did occasionally stay with my friend, Jeanne, when her mother was out of town.  In the summer we all camped, played tennis, rode bikes, and swam at the lake.  In the winter we had sledding parties followed by big bowls of chili. Nearly all of my friends had horses, but I don't remember being involved with them in that at all.

Montpelier was a MAGNIFICENT place in which to grow up.  The civic clubs were active and sponsored talent shows, pancake breakfasts, and variety shows.  Early in my teens, K.V.S.I. came on the scene, and now we were really connected with the music scene!  We could shop then for everything from shoes to Christmas gifts to baby dresses to great clothes to fabric to candy.  At Christmas I remember the streets on Friday night and all day Saturday were crowded with pleasant shoppers in and out of the stores to the falling snow and music played on loudspeakers. That is no longer true.  Montpelier is a shell of what it used to be.  We had two drugstores with newly-remodeled fountains and could get the best fountain drinks there--ironport, cherry Coke, and the new buzz--Fresca!.  Sometimes we shared those fountain stools with a group of classy older women in town who dressed up in hats and dresses and met there to sip a Coke and enjoy growing old together. We had a prosperous bakery where we could get burgers and donuts, and the cafe in town in the old hotel made THE BEST fries.
(Connie Fox, a member of the Gros Ventre tribe in
South Dakota.  She stayed with my family for a period
as part of the Indian Placement program.  We are facebook friends.
She has become a great strong leader in her tribe.  She proved an invaluable resource
when my Chinese students were inconsolably curious about American Indians.)

Every time someone snagged the family car, she would swing around and pick us all us.  We'd "drag Main", honk at people we knew when we passed, stop for fries at the A&W or Lloyd's, or pull into Hooker's on the corner and get a bag of licorice to share.  My friend Margie lived in Paris, and she had a big old heavy Cadillac of which she seemed to have limitless use.  We took that Caddy everywhere--to the Lake, to Pocatello, and all over the valley.  She loved to come over and play night tennis with me.  We were a perfect hysterical match--badminton champions of our entire P.E. class (over 60 girls)-- and had entirely more fun than we probably deserved.  On Friday nights we always went to the movies--Jerry Lewis, Doris Day, epic productions like "Ben Hur", The Ten Commandments",  "Becket", and "A Man for All Seasons", "Cleopatra".  Every Christmas the entire high school trudged through the snow down to enjoy a movie together.  These movies taught deep values.
During the summer of 1969 I babysat five kids every day for 35 cents an hour.  I also weeded the garden, did the laundry, and prepared a noon meal for the five kids plus four adults who came home for lunch!!  I was a KILLER deal!!  The mother is now in a nursing facility; I visit her sometimes.  Every Friday I took the money I had earned (around $15) and gave it to my mother who tucked it away in her hankie drawer.  At the end of the summer, I bought contact lenses.  I am still wearing the original left lens...after fifty years.  It is basically a medical miracle.  About six or seven years about I lost the right one in the bathroom and was in a hurry and didn't take time to find it.  But the odd news is that I see better with one contact than two!  Once they kind of fogged up, and I thought their reign was ending.  I went to an eye doctor who marvelled at my whole story and then said, "Next time they fog up just use a little toothpaste to polish them up."

I joined the Future Homemakers of America and even ran for and was elected as district secretary in that organization.  I attended an F.H.A. convention in Lewiston, Idaho, and even got to fly there!  My first time in a plane!   In addition, I joined the Future Teachers and Future Nurses.  These clubs carried the perk of an annual bus trip--to a hospital or to a university.  The biggest part of my high school years was devoted to the Pep Club.  We had uniforms and sat in a group to cheer at all the games.  I was even selected as "Miss Spirit" and have the silver bracelet to prove it.  Yes I do.  I remember the fun of making floats for parades for the various clubs, big bonfire pep rallies, traveling on a bus to away games and being completely rambunctious in the back of the bus!  We were loud and unrelenting.  My payback came years later when I had to chaperone such buses.  I also remember the fun of annual class assemblies--pretty much all student driven.  I emceed one and was Tiny Tim in another.

As a junior I was selected by my school to represent it at Girls State held in Caldwell. We took the train there, and it was an adventure.  I remember being a little homesick and shy until I made up my mind to dive in.  I even ran for and was elected as Dog Catcher!  I think I'm making campaign poster in this picture.  I made that nightgown.  I wish I had a nickel for every picture of me in curlers...

In my spare time I read books and books and more books.  I also took some 4-H classes and began honing my sewing skills.  We ALL sewed.  If we wanted clothes, we hunted down fabric and made them.  Joan Bunderson offered a tailoring class which my friends Jeanne, Colleen, and Lorna opted to take.  It was a tedious process with many steps.  I don't know if I've ever used the specific tailoring skills again, but it catapulted my general sewing skills ahead several levels!  I modeled my finished product at an event and won two blue ribbons--locally and at the state fair!   Back in the day, wool was more plentiful.  Now that I have an interest in using it to applique, I have to find wool by rummaging in thrift stores--not an altogether unpleasant activity, but how I wish I could walk into a basement full of it like we could at Bernina's in Logan when we were young girls.

Of course most of my high school years were spent in class.  Coach Hyde taught us American History.  Mr. Parker drilled us on the names of our body parts and how they all functioned.  Mrs.  Vermaas taught cooking, etiquette, childcare, and sewing in the room where I tried to turn 7th graders into viable people.  Mrs. Bunderson was the speech teacher who had us memorize so many poems which we recited on that wooden platform along with our speeches.  She also taught a smashing psychology class and tried to hypnotize us on a bus trip once!  Coach Transtrum covered government.  Mrs. Rich showed up EVERY day to direct a gym fully of blue jumpsuited girls in physical education.  We did floor exercises to Tijuana Brass tunes.  I was so petrified that I was going to have to strip down and take showers, but we got by with deodorant instead. Mrs. Michaelson drilled us in shorthand and bookkeeping if we signed up for that.  She was a LARGE presence in the school with her booming deep voice and DEARLY loved.  What a classy gal.  I remember one of her multitudinous funny stories about witnessing a snappy classy little gal in Salt Lake who was clipping down the street in her high heels.  Her slip dropped to her ankles, and she kicked it into the gutter without missing a beat!  We laughed and laughed.  But the teacher who topped them all was Mr. Munk.  He taught us newspaper writing, English 3200, grammar, Tortuga (a fast-paced quiz bowl game using turtle parts drawn on the board to keep score), Shakespeare, Word Wealth (vocabulary), Greek mythology, and mountains of classic books.  From him I have never recovered.

I went on to teach with three of these teachers and learn to call them by their first names.  I taught in rooms that bore the ghosts of these valiant souls.  Mr. Parker became "Verlyn" who showed up unsolicited to till my garden spot.  Mrs. Bunderson became "Joan" and the fount of good advice well into my 60's.  Coach Transtrum morphed into "Bob" next door.  He kept a jar of peanut butter in his closet and used to dip into it with a spoon.  We stood outside our classrooms during passing times and chatted and chatted.  That is the funny thing about cycles.  Sometimes they reach into the future and catch you in the cycle again.  I have attended multiple funerals of these teachers and Mr. Phillips, the grand principal.  To them, the "Greatest Generation", I salute.

Graduation time finally came.  I partied all night with my classmates, and then I left the next day for Jackson with Sheila Grandy.  I don't remember shedding tears.  It was time.


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