Actual Cowboys

(Quotes are all from “The Life and Times of William Wilson and Catherine Rankin Pace”.)

“Cowboys”, as we often use the term, belong to a rather brief phase of American history: after the completion of the transcontinental railroad but before the end of the century when railheads had spread to most parts of the west.   There was tremendous demand for cattle in the great eastern cities, but to get them there the livestock had to be delivered to the railroad, sometimes a distance of many hundreds of miles.  The first to do this drove livestock from Texas up to Missouri and sold them.  These first groups made so much money that many others imitated, and the railroad became the goal for any cattle enterprise in the west that could raise more than was needed to satisfy local demand.  These were cowboys, the men who took cattle from range to rail.

My great great granddad William Wilson Pace was a cowboy, as cowboy as any cowboy ever was.  He was also among the last to deserve the name.  William and his sweetheart Catherine Rankin married in 1879 and toughed out an austere 1880 winter managing a community cattle herd at “Blue Fly Ranch, near the rim of Bryce Canyon”.  Paces bought out the cattle later in the year and drove them, 200 head, down to the high desert at Nutrioso, Arizona.  At the time the only way across the Grand Canyon was on foot, so they drove their herd down to the water at Lee’s Ferry and then drove them across.  (According to his children, this was only the second time a herd of cattle had ever been driven across the Colorado.)  The family and their baggage were carted across by a hired ferry.  Grandma Catherine cared for an infant, great grand aunt Maud the whole way.

On the flatboat there was an event, an experience that Grandpa bragged about, saying he was the first person ever to do this thing on the Colorado River.  It is such a “cowboy” event it’s a challenge even to figure what happened.  William’s biography (a non-literary effort written by his children) contains four or five colorful and conflicting accounts, and they are laden with cowboy terminologies that make the story difficult to understand.  William’s sons told the story and if they weren’t cowboys themselves at least they talked like them.

Here’s the plain English version, near as I can tell.  After taking the herd down to the Colorado River and driving them across, William agreed to sell one of his cows to the ferry operator.  Part of the arrangement, however, was delivering the cow back to the other side of the river.  While ferrying the purchase cow back over it took fright, broke free from its rope and started careering around the flatboat, dangerous to itself and to Grandpa.  Grandpa grabbed the animal, and before it could muscle him off the boat and into the water he flipped it over on the wet and slippery deck, and tied up its legs with a rope.

So that’s clear and specific, but it’s inauthentic.  Here’s a rather more cowboy version that I cobbled together from the different accounts about the cattle drive:

Father rode the hurricane deck of cayuse and drove a herd of cows to Arizona, pepped up with thoughts of finding unsettled country with grass knee high to a tall Indian.  By time of the Colorado ferry – a crude rickety old affair – they had a lot of sore-footed calves, great, big fat fellows with their feet worn out.  Father sold a ferryman eight head of them for a dollar each and one cow for $8, and ferryed them back over for the operator.  Mid-stream the breeched steer worked off her peggin’ string and went very much on the prod.  Now began a game of tag to decide whether the rider, horse or raging critter was going into the water.  Steel-capped boot heels on wet planks hampered plenty, but Father bull-dogged the beast back aboard the platform, threw her down and hot-tied her.

If it took all that to reach their destination you would expect it to be remote, and boy Nutrioso was remote.  Getting there they passed Hopi and Navajo settlements that had scarcely any contact with the white man for the previous hundred years.  There was no mail service between May and October, and only every two months in between.  The young family was not sensible to how remote their new life would be.  Great Grandpa:

Of course there was no Winslow, neither Flagstaff, nor Holbrook, and no Atlantic or Pacific railroad.  They all came later.  There was not a place in this distance where you could have bought a pound of bacon or a package of coffee, or anything else, for that matter.

We had never taken any account that we would meet many privations and hardships that always come with the building up of a new country.

The little community also had Indian anxieties.  They built a blockhouse to guard and sleep in during uncertain times.  During one tense period gunfire awoke the group, and the menfolk grabbed their guns to head out.  The women and children were terrified until: “one woman called to her husband, ‘Don’t you dare go out there without your pants on.’  He had done just that.”

The children grew up exceedingly provincial, and for a number of years had experienced no other world than their little corner of nowhere.  Even apples were an exotic refinement!  Here’s daughter Maud talking about her little brother who had the amazing name Leonald:

The first barrel of apples will always be remembered.  Leon after eating one of them declared, “I don’t like this kind of taters”, and proceeded to get a big Irish potato instead of finishing the apple.

Leon died of Typhoid age 15.  Grandpa Joe and Uncle Nathan both carry his name as their middle names.

The high Arizona desert was never very conducive for cattle raising.  Nutrioso’s elevation is over 7500 feet and even in July you can have frosts.  “…This country was much too high and cold to raise livestock.  Father always felt like kicking himself later for wasting his time there.”

It only took him sixteen years to realize his mistake.

Compounding the depredations of Mother Nature was the lawless nature of Arizona at the time.  If your horses or livestock weren’t guarded they might be taken, and there was no effective authority to appeal to.  You and your neighbors had to go out after them if you wanted to see them again.  One time Grandpa ignored the dog’s barking and found two horses missing in the morning.  Another time 200 head were stolen from Apache County and Grandpa joined a posse of eight to go two hundred miles after them.   They were mistaken for Federal Marshals in the town of Clifton.

Their strength of their numbers made that trip more comfortable.  Other times Grandpa traveled alone and in great fear, on one occasion “he rode 17 days without seeing a white man.”

The cows had to be delivered to a railhead and taken off to slaughter somewhere far away.  For the Paces that meant herding them to Holbrook, AZ or Magdalena, NM – both more than a hundred miles on foot.  It was a job that took the help of several men you could trust, and groups would be gone for weeks, sometimes.

These good souls were trying to plant their civilization in a wasteland, and such life was very hard on women and children.  There’s a reason that, save Utah, every state and territory in the west had an enormous disparity between men and women.  This continued long after the Pioneer era ended.  In 1880 Arizona, men outnumbered women by more than two-to-one.

“Mostly [Grandma Catherine’s] life was grim cold pioneering, waiting with the children, peering out the window looking for signs of Pancho [the horse] bringing Father.

Here’s pictures of the two of them, in their 30’s or 40’s.  Who looks haunted by their bleak frontier experience?

Out on the trail things could be pretty carefree.  The herd would amble along and so long as there was water and forage the way was easygoing.  Guys behaved the way you’d expect.  One time two in the group had only one spur apiece:

The bantering went on for days until it was decided to run a race to see which one would get both spurs.  The race was run and Father was the judge.  At the finish line the rider on the fastest horse [went] to claim the two spurs, but Father awarded them to the loser, since his horse was the slowest and he needed them the most.

Of course, they had to cook for themselves which wasn’t so comfortable a task for such well-wived men.  Grandpa’s first time making rice didn’t go very well; he misjudged the amount of rice to put in the pot and after some pratfalls “a trail of rice was made from the fire to the stream.”

Reaching the railhead meant getting paid and going home, but sometimes Grandpa had to accompany the cattle to Kansas City.  That meant riding the train, the caboose in particular.  The trip was long enough that cattle would have to be taken out and watered at certain stops.

At Lawrence, they punched them up and as the train pulled out too soon, they found themselves climbing into box cars at the front of the train.  It was raining and the rain froze as it fell.  The catwalk was beyond their ability to walk with their high heeled boots, so they undertook riding the blinds, so to speak.  They soon began to hope they would fall off as they became colder and colder.  So they went to the top again and inched along the catwalk.  They “cooned” their way the length of a long train, which did not stop until they had reached Kansas City.

(You may find it interesting that our storyteller is employing hobo jargon rather than cowboy jargon here.)

Today we have automobiles, but a cowboy had rely on animals for transportation.

Much of his good fortune he attributed to his little bay horse, Pancho.  In the eleven years he carried Father, he never gave out, quit, or stumbled.

The children, as Mother related it, learned to say, “Pancho” before “Daddy”.  They knew without Pancho, there may well have been no Daddy returning.

Father never shot a gun in anger and never saw a man killed.

If you trust your gun more than you trust your horse, I don’t think you can call yourself a cowboy.

It was hard out on lonely trails worrying that the hired hand would kill him, or being chased by a cow around a flatboat on the mighty Colorado.  But surely there were many thousand bored schoolboys back East who would have given anything to trade places.  And even in 1881 as the cowboy mythos was filling minds with daydreams all over the world, cowboys themselves were going out of the world.  Only eleven years after his river adventure Grandpa William Wilson came back across, only this time looking down at the river from the comforts of a Pullman Car.

Grandpa lived until 1931 when the only cowboys were old men retelling stale stories.  Grandma Catherine lived until 1950, when the first nuclear power plants were being designed.

Here’s a poem that was read at great great Grandpa William Wilson Pace’s funeral.

O Lord, I never lived where churches grow;
I love creation better as it stood
The day you finished it so long ago,
And looked upon your work and called it good.

I know that others find you in the light
That’s sifted down through window panes,
And that I, too, find you near tonight
In this dim starlight on the plains.

I thank thee, Lord, that I am placed so well
That thou hast made my freedom so complete,
That I’m no slave to whistle, clock or bell,
Or weak-eyed prisoner in a walled-up street.

Just let me live my life as I begun.
Give me work that’s open to the sky;
Make me a partner with the wind and sun,
And I’ll ask not a place that’s soft or high.

Let me be easy on the man that’s down;
Make me free and generous with all.
I’m careless, Lord, sometimes when I’m in town,
But never let them call me mean or small.

Make me big and open as the plains on which I ride.
Honest as the horse between my knees.
Clean as the wind behind the rain;
Free as the hawk which circles down the breeze.

Forgive me, Lord, when sometimes I forget;
You know the reasons, which are hid;
You know about the reasons which gall and fret;
You know me better than my mother did.

Just keep my eye on all that’s said and done,
Just right me always when I turn aside,
And guide me on the long, distant trail ahead,
Which stretches upward, toward the great divide.


Grandpa Gordon’s Ships

I blew it last October by forgetting to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where Grandpa played a role. This post will have to compensate.  Grandfather Gordon Geertsen kept a journal of sorts during his service in World War II.  In it he listed all the ships he had been aboard.  I’ve wondered about how a farm boy from Union, Oregon would have experienced the technological marvels of the biggest war ever.  This post isn’t so biographical, it is more a survey of ships and their uses in war & peace.

Grandpa was aboard:

CVE USS Prince William
AV USS William B. Preston
AV USS Childs
AV USS Half Moon
AV USS San Carlos
AV USS Tangier
AV USS Wright
AV USS San Pablo
AV USS Carrituck
AV USS Heron
AV USS Berriterri
CVE HMS Tracker

Large number, small variety.  AV meant “Seaplane Tender” and CVE meant “Escort Aircraft Carrier”.  The carriers were bookends bracketing his whole service, that took him to and from the theater of operations.  There were 122 Escort Carriers in all, and they were big, either bigger or heavier than everything but the heaviest cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers.  Seems odd that an aircraft carrier would do troop transport, but they were boxy, heavy and so slow that they held whole fleets back.  They did better guarding convoys.

The Escort Aircraft Carrier shining hour of the war was during the Leyte Gulf battle, when sixteen of them were too slow to pursue what was a diversionary decoy bluff by the Japanese, and by staying behind wound up in a right-place-right-time scenario.  By that I mean several of the carriers and their planes were massacred by Japanese planes and guns, but they blunted their enemy’s advance and prevented their carrying the objective of the battle.

In between his carrier rides Grandpa Gordon lived on eleven seaplane tenders.  These tenders were meant to manage seaplane patrol and combat operations, kind of an aircraft carrier for planes that didn’t need aircraft carriers.  Most were designed as tenders, but others were repurposed – the Childs and William B. Preston were actually a World War I destroyers, the Heron was a WWI minesweeper, and the Tangier was originally built as a big ponderous cargo ship.  She was moored next to the USS Utah during the Attack at Pearl Harbor.  The Wright was, I don’t even know – it was the only one of its kind ever built.  As a group they were a real hodgepodge.  The Tangier was sixteen times heavier than the Heron.  The first built was the Preston I think, and the Orca was the longest-lived, but more on that later.

Some tenancies were forgettable and forgotten – five ships (the William B. Preston, San Pablo, Carrituck, Heron and Berriterri) were not mentioned anywhere else, and the last two were so obscure that Grandpa actually misspelled their names.  Should have been the Currituck and the Barataria, but I think I prefer “Berriterri” all things considered.

The other ships were his base of operations for patrols in PBY-5A Black Cats, and safe harbor during some dreadful battles.  None of his ships were ever sunk during the war, but the one that was closest is the USS Half Moon, his home on numerous occasions, including during the fearsome battle at Leyte Gulf.

Even with the stallions of the Third Fleet goose-chasing Japanese phantoms far from the battle, the little bitty Half Moon was not a high-value target among the remaining ships.  Nevertheless she spent her time slinking around, trying to avoid engagement – a fraught task during the largest naval battle in the history of the world.  During the Battle of Surigao Strait she hovered behind an island and then made a break north, two days later she cowered in San Pedro Bay as carriers blew each other up a few miles away off Samar.  No ships found her worthy of notice, but she came under heavy fire by Japanese planes, including at least one kamikaze attack.

Generally Grandpa didn’t have such a lively time on board ship, for that was the home base.  The last place for a seaplane tender was a big naval battle.  The USS San Carlos ran aground close to the Half Moon during the Leyte struggle, but of course Gordon wasn’t aboard.  His wing did run patrols from her in the two months after the battle, however, looking for Japanese naval activity.

From the roomy confines of the Tangier Gordon’s group ran bombing raids and support for island-hopping invasions of Wadke, Noemfoor and Biak.  Quite a contrast, sleeping peacefully in a bunk when US Marines and Japanese soldiers were tearing each other apart some miles away.

There wasn’t much for these ships to do after the war.  The Childs, William B. Preston, Heron, and Wright were scrapped soon thereafter.  But the accumulated material of the US war machine took many decades to wither away.  Some of these tenders were reimagined in a peaceful capacity, serving as a platform for ocean and marine research.

Others continued in a martial capacity.  The USS Currituck supported seaplanes twenty years later, and also achieved the distinction of being the first ship of her class to deliver shore bombardment, during operations in the Mekong Delta in 1965.  The Barataria tailed a missile-carrying Soviet freighter to Cuba during the Missile Crisis of 1962 – not a friendly thing to do.

Surely the strangest case was the Orca.  It operated as a seaplane tender off and on until 1960.  After that, it was loaned and later sold to the navy of Ethiopia, which if you’ve seen a map lately is completely landlocked.

(from the website

It wasn’t landlocked at the time.  The ship became the largest in Ethiopia’s modest fleet for 31 whole years.  After losing the territories of Eritrea in 1991, Ethiopia was landlocked and had no more naval bases.  The Orca ran for Yemen, where it rusted faithfully for two years before being sold for scrap.  Ethiopia’s dreams of maritime power died hard, and their navy was not disbanded until 1996.

When these ships were finally sold, it was usually for salvage, but not necessarily.  The details on some are not very well fleshed out.  I love that the San Pablo was sold to one “Mrs. Margo Zahardis of Vancouver, Washington”.

Wikipedia is often short on detail – one or two are not identified as specifically “scrapped”, so there’s a chance they are still out there displacing water, seventy years later.

Yead Miller’s Edward-shovel-board

From Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor:

Falstaff.  Pistol, did you pick Master Slender’s purse?
Slender.  Ay, by these gloves, did he, or I would I might
never come in mine own great chamber again else, of seven
groats in mill-sixpences, and two Edward shovel-boards, that
cost me two shillings and two pence a-piece of Yead Miller,
by these gloves.

Slender’s peculiar complaint contains several layers of absurdities, principally by introducing units of money (mill-sixpences and Edward shovel-boards), but then ascribing a greater worth to them than their face value.

This is an Edward “shovel-board”:


It is a silver shilling struck during the reign of Edward VI, so Slender was paying more than two shilings for a single shilling.  Which sounds dumb, except of course Slender is swearing out a criminal complaint, and wants more than a single shilling in compensation for his lost shilling.  That is perversely clever, and not so unbelievable either, for coins don’t get like that naturally.

Notice how the lettering is intact while the king’s portrait has been obliterated.  The shilling above (which came in the mail today) was carefully hammered flat and worn down smooth, so it could be used as a playing piece in the old bar pastime Shove Groat.  It took considerable energy to wear the coin down, and perhaps someone like Slender would save himself the effort by exchanging two of its brothers to acquire one.

Interesting contrast to today where a good shilling for someone with as short a reign as Edward VI will go for hundreds or thousands of dollars, while mine was acquired for just $20.  Today people buy old coins and have a horror of playing with them.  My coin isn’t all that rare either – Shove Groat was a popular game and many coins were worn down like this one.  Edward shillings were a very popular choice for the game, and there’s even an Elizabethan poem about them, by John Taylor “The Water Poet”:

About my circle, I a Posie have
The title God unto the King first gave.
The circle that encompasseth my face
Declares my Soveraigne’s title, by God’s grace.
You see my face is beardless, smoothe and plaine.
Because my soveraigne was a child ’tis knowne
When as he did put on the English Crowne.
But had my stamp been bearded, as with haire,
Long before this it had beene worne and bare.
For why? With me the unthrifts every day,
With my face downwards do at shove-board play . . .

Rather evocative detail, the poet noticing how the unthrifty put the king’s face down and grind across a barroom table.  That’s how it went with my coin, too – notice it is the much more worn surface, and  there are several long, straight scratches on that side but not on back.

As soon as the coin came this evening I wanted to try it out.  After these hundreds of years the coin is still wonderfully smooth – alarmingly so.

I could not find a concise rulebook for Elizabethan shove groat, so me and my boys kept it simple – we took turns hanging the coins just over the edge of the end table and trying to flick them.  This made for highly imaginative play; Thing 1 would wallop his halfway across the room sometimes (and so would I), while Thing 2 would keep nudging his until it was in the winning spot.  Victory went to the closest to the edge without going over.  I understand they used to play this way.  People praise power, but it’s finesse that wins the prize.

Even with a tailor-made 465-year-old playing piece, the game has quite a learning curve. I started out trying to finesse my fingers and hit the coin without hitting the table, but then realized it’s easier to blunt your finger-force by striking coin and table-side simultaneously.  That improved my performance, but not enough to catch up to Thing 2’s brilliant strategy.



The Crazy Part of Happy Valley

Here’s a report describing the tour I took of the Utah State Mental Hospital Museum/home where Grandpa Joe lived with his family as a teenager.  In attendance were Grandpa Nathan, my two boys, and Cameron & Natalie’s family.

Grandpa Garland Pace became a psychiatrist during an era when psychiatry was still developing a reputation among the medical practices.  The Freudian revolution and a modern, scientific approach to mental illness were waxing during Garland’s formative years, and inspired him to pursue the discipline.

His career as a psychiatrist was not an easy one.  Psychiatrists were often viewed by other physicians as something other than “real doctors”, and Grandpa was something of a pioneer of the discipline out here in Utah.  The Great Depression began while Grandpa was still trying to establish his practice, and the family endured some lean years.  That all changed in 1933, when Garland was appointed to be Superintendent of the Utah State (Mental) Hospital, in Provo, Utah.

In Utah today only college presidents and governors live for free in state-provided housing, but at the time the Superintendent had a place to live on the hospital campus.  A year after they arrived a home was finished at the other end of the facility’s main road for the family to occupy.  Until then the family lived in the hospital itself.  Here’s what it looked like.  A dank and overwhelming gothic monstrosity, perched up on the hill above Provo.


Home sweet home.  In 1933 Grandpa Joe was sixteen; I’ve wondered how this unusual home address affected his social standing at high school.  “Hey, who wants to come over for Uno and ‘smores at the INSANE ASYLUM?”

In 1934 the family moved into the home provided for them.  Utah_state_hospital_museum

They lived here for seven years, the rest of Great Grandpa’s tenure.  Today the home is a museum dedicated to the history of the mental hospital and the different ways that society has cared for the mentally unstable over the generations.

The museum is only open a handful of hours a week, however the museum’s official historian, Janina Chilton, agreed to open it up for us on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  She gave us a tour of the home, and opened up all the “behind the scenes” stuff because of the family history interest.


Here is where tours start.  Janina is at the left and everyone is listening with varying degrees of attention.  Guess whose kids attended closely and asked incisive questions, and whose ran around and played tag?

Janina explained that this room is the most original in the whole house.  The kitchen and some other first floor rooms have been re-done, and most other rooms are used as offices or storage, and don’t have much of the original flavor.  The front room, however, looked more or less like this, the walls, the fixtures, even the floors are eighty years old.  The home was “WPA built” which meant it was part of the works program instituted during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt for out-of-work Americans.  When the Governor or some potentate came to visit the hospital, Great Grandma Luella would entertain in this room and the adjoining dining room visible in the background.

The room has a bookshelf with photos of some of the Superintendents.


Look at the one on the middle shelf.  Where they got a photo of my dad from 40 years ago I don’t know.  That’s not Garland though, it’s some other guy.  Grandpa Garland is on the shelf below that.  Notice it’s a grainy scan from a newspaper or yearbook.  He was Superintendent of the hospital for eight years, and has a whole chapter about him in a history of the hospital published more recently, but they didn’t have any original photos of the guy.  There’s a wall in the hospital itself that shows photos of all the superintendents, and it has a very one-of-these-kids-is-not-like-the-others feel.  We committed to Janina to find a better shot than that.  Anyone have a high-quality image?

After a brief description of the hospital and Grandpa Garland’s administration, we toured the home.  It’s pleasing to walk where you know your ancestors did eighty years ago, particularly people like Garland and Luella, who died two or three decades before most of us were born.  Unfortunately, we had to look at things with our imaginations.  Here’s the master bedroom:


Yeah.  That’s something at least – the room is original.  You can look at the walls and fixtures and get a feel for it.  The kitchen and breakfast nook have been redone completely and leave the ghosts nothing to haunt.


Two and one half rooms of the home were given up for museum displays.



Some of the artifacts were not from the Utah Hospital, but were included to contrast the more enlightened efforts of 20th century psychiatrists like Grandpa Garland.009

This was a “Utica Crib”, named after where it was invented.  The water bowl is an excellent touch, only I think it may have been for bowel relief &c.  Wikipedia tells me that this device was “extensively used” in the 19th century with the belief that “enforced sleep” had a restorative effect on the unsound of mind.  Here’s a shot from 2008 with a local TV news reporter locked inside.  That’s some hard-hitting journalism, Ed Yeates.



This restraint, which was used to torture people, was meant to restrain a patient and reduce external stimulation.  They call it a “tranquility chair”, which I find to be an excellent marketing term.

Grandpa Garland presided over the hospital during an era where mentally ill were treated with increasing compassion, and also more scientific rigor was applied to their treatment.  In contrast, previous generations had merely warehoused those who could not function in society.  Garland had the hospital building redone extensively, taking out most of the iron bars and providing more privacy for the patients.  He also had the gothic spires torn down, which made it less scary but way less awesome.

Lundberg Nancy Utah State Hospital Provo Utah 1936

The rest of this building was torn down in 2004.

Garland was also a strong proponent of health through labor.  He understood that constructive, goal oriented labor could energize their bodies and minds, and give patients satisfaction in accomplishments.  (A sad irony was Garland’s own sedentary life ruined his heart and killed him at a comparatively young age.)  In some cases the WPA would pay them for their labors, too.  So they tended the orchards you see by the home above, helped (I think) build a large rock-work complex above the hospital called “The Castle”, manufactured their own clothes, and managed different farming enterprises.  A testament to the enterprising and comfortable conditions patients encountered is described in a history of the hospital:

Because the patients helped raise the food, they knew their work was productive and took pride in their jobs. Dr. Sevy related an illustrative anecdote concerning a male patient who had taken care of the pigs for many years. Because he had been doing well, the staff discharged him. He immediately went down town to the middle of Main Street and took off all his clothes. The next day, he was back taking care of the pigs. Another patient, a wealthy rancher, ran his ranch in the summer and checked into the Hospital every winter. For such patients, the hospital was home, family and job.

Patients also worked in the home with the family.  There’s the famous family story about one woman who helped in the home, presumably around the Pace kids, who had been locked up for poisoning five of her children.

The family spent a lot of time with the hospital’s patients.  They would work side by side, and sometimes travel with them, escorting them back to their homes in faraway cities.  Garland’s oldest boy, Uncle Bill, even became a psychiatrist, no doubt because of his close experience with the lives and struggles of the mentally ill.

In “The Life History of Garland Pace and Luella Udall Pace”, Grandpa Joe remembered the kindness with which his mother treated the patients who spent time in her home.

Luella was no psychiatrist but she helped many unfortunate ill people by having them work in the home.  She showed them great kindness and consideration.  She had a great respect for the problems of others…

Grandpa Garland’s administration lasted eight years, and did not end well.  While he was recognized for upgrading and expanding staff & operations, making considerable advances in patient treatment and hospital administration, there was also a negative side.  After five or so years in his role, he started to have a good deal of trouble with political and labor relations.  His ouster involved politics at the state government level, and is too tedious for this kind of essay.

After being required to resign, Grandpa Garland wrote a long and trenchant letter to the state Public Welfare Commission.  It went like this:

…it is necessary to use devious and circuitous methods of rewarding petty political parasites, irrespective of its damaging influence upon public welfare institutions…Every person who has been appointed. to a position at the Hospital since the reorganization program went into effect has been required to have the endorsement of the Democratic Party…I have carefully noted the contents of Mr. Smart’s letter to the Commission. I have never seen more words used to convey less thought…

Many of my relatives will be gratified to see that their antagonism towards the Democratic Party bridges several generations.  I haven’t seen the whole letter but apparently it went on like this at great length.  The history book where I got the excerpt tartly observed, “People who remember Dr. Pace have said that he was a good psychiatrist, but a poor politician.”

This controversy attracted attention and commentary in the newspapers of the time, particularly after Grandpa was officially fired from the hospital at the start of 1942.  A few months later, at the age of 54, he went into the US Army – again – and worked with servicemen suffering from the mental traumas of military service and combat.  He kept a journal during his military career, and referred to “his” hospital many times.

By then he was already in the last decade of his life, and would die less than five years after the war was over.

Grandpa may have left in disgrace, but he still casts a long shadow over the institution, its past and future.  We may think of the advances made possible by science and technology as merely automatic, that they would have happened no matter who was at the helm.  There were surely others who could have done what he did, but nonetheless, someone had to do it.  It didn’t just happen, and he was the motor that drove it.  It was the labor of the prime of his professional life.

Here’s a suitable epitaph on Grandpa’s professional service, provided by a dissenting member on the committee that ousted him.

I know from my own observations that when Dr. Pace took charge of the institution, it was nothing more than a place of detention. At the present time, through the Doctor’s own untiring efforts, it is one of the most outstanding mental hospitals in the United States.


The San Jose Comet Rides Again

In my folks basement I saw a couple of boxes perched atop some shelves, beguilingly labeled “trains”.  Asked Dad, and he said that when he was little Grandpa Joe bought a series of train sets for the kids to play with, and they somehow ended up in his basement.  He was very surprised to find the train set there.

This was relevant to my interests, so I took the boxes home, and yesterday me and the boys unpacked everything.  First impression is that these weren’t well cared for.  These old Lionel train sets are incredibly durable and they had to be, for they appear to have taken a lot of abuse over the decades.  Paint scratched, lights burned out, some cars working well and others not doing much at all.  They were also jerry rigged, and there were wires soldered, taped together, so forth.

The boys were quick to add their own distinctive touches to the artifacts.  This happened tonight after (probably) Joe dropped the big locomotive on a concrete patio.  That’s the front wheel.


General conditions were a funny contrast to how things were packed – carefully, lovingly even.  Tracks, cars and other items were all wrapped up in the June 27, 1983 edition of the San Jose Mercury News.  This was the year that Grandma and Grandpa packed up their San Jose lives and moved into the American Towers Apartments in Salt Lake City.  They never got the train out again, but looks like they could not bear the thought of parting with it.

There was lots of stuff in there.


One thing I didn’t notice was any instructions.  Toys today are a lot simpler than they used to be.  We already have a little toy train, it has exactly one button, and the remote a simple lever to push forward and back.  In this case we basically were setting up an electrical grid, powering a variety of motors and devices in sequence, with everything modulated from a central device.  Packed with the train set were big heavy transformers, four of them – three more than a train set needs.


Had to pick and choose.  The big one is the size of a football and weighs fifteen pounds.  I chose it because it was actually made by the same company what made the cars and tracks – Lionel, and because it was the only one that actually did anything when I plugged it in, and also because look at the thing, it’s magnificent.  Like a cross between an old shoe shine machine and a wifi antenna.


Those dials on each side are showing all the voltage level options – so apparently it was up to me to give the train just enough juice, or – or what?  Trip a circuit breaker?  Cause an explosion visible from space?  Some orientation was necessary.  While unpacking, I did notice a little booklet wadded up, filling a gap.

Oh good, I thought, the instructions.  Well, that’s not what it was:


Blast.  This was the program for a ceremony to dedicate a new community theater for the city, in whose creation Grandma and Grandpa proved instrumental.  Here’s photos of both from the inside.1 2

Delightful, but not what was needed here.  Since I don’t have an associate’s degree in Electrical Engineering, that would perhaps have been the end of it but for Mr. Internet.  Online I found a manual for the biggest transformer of the bunch.  It was…kind of useful.  It did tell me how to hook things up, and also provided this helpful diagram of a “typical” model track layout:


Even if we had the parts, our first effort was going to be very easy-does-it in comparison.  Like how about a circle.  Did you know that some early locomotives were just engines on circular tracks that went around and around and around?  So we were tracing the scientific developments of the Industrial Revolution in our own backyard.

So we got a track together, and found that with our current setup, only three cars would do anything.  Happily, the big engine still moves even without its front wheels or the display would not be an exciting one.  Robust design, durable product, &c.  You know that these train sets are more or less handmade?  I see letters and numbers drawn on their undersides with a crude handheld engraver.

Here’s our result:

Another one when it’s dark.  Ellie thinks the whistle is funny.

I hope this does Grandpa proud.  You know, it should never be a daunting challenge to do family history research.  To me, having an experience that you know your ancestors also had is as much “genealogy” as digging through dry and dusty tomes in some library.  Though far apart in time, we can still connect with them.



Fraternizing With the Enemy

Grandpa Thomas Burkhead’s unit fought in the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee in 1862-1863, and occupied the area thereafter.  One history of the regiment described this peculiar social dynamic that says a lot about how close together and how far apart the two sides were in the Civil War:

Just outside the picket line at Murfreesboro there lived a well to do planter who counted two beautiful young daughters as his most valuable possessions, one of whom was a widow, whose husband an officer in the confederate army had been killed in battle.  The young ladies vied with each other as to which could say the most bitter things about the Yankees.  They were exceedingly attractive having many accomplishments.  Young officers and old ones too their wives being north of the Ohio went to see them.


Grandpa Joe Young and In Love

In “We’re Not Dead Yet”, written with Grandma Pauline, Grandpa Joe described some of his youthful romantic follies.  This, I believe, was from his very first date:

When I was prodded into attending the senior [Provo High School] dance, I found myself in a curious predicament.  My date for the evening was a classmate by the name of Lelila Harding.  For the life of me I couldn’t seem to remember her name.  I wrote it down on a piece of paper and tried to teach myself that her first name was kind of like a flower and her last name was a former President of the US.  Somehow, I managed to lose that piece of paper, but I still made it through the evening without looking too foolish.

Agonizing, surely, though probably a better experience than my first-date-ever, where my companion had a seizure during Dances With Wolves.  Anyway, it is all the more appropriate that Joe would misremember “Lelila’s” name in this memoir: the poor girl’s name was actually Leila Harding.

Romantically, things got better for him in college.  From “We’re Not Dead Yet”:

Unlike High School, my life in college now became very involved with young ladies.  I had many dates and had a special relationship with a girlfriend who was the daughter of the President of the University.  For a time, I thought that I might even take her to be my wife.  She suddenly broke off our dates.  I was deeply hurt and the heartbreak lingered with me for a long time.

What a striking and poignant story.  The gal in question is identified as one Leah Harris (name not so different than “Leila” but more memorable, somehow).  She was valedictorian of her class at Provo High school, and was a pretty girl with a very cheerful smile:


She was daughter of Franklin Harris, president of the University from 1921 all the way to 1945.  Here he is in the 1936 yearbook, looking kind of like a Bond villain:


(Inscription of course added by me.)

Going out with the president’s daughter was something of a social coup for young Joe, and rather a high-profile relationship.  Some classmates congratulated him on the business, and (after it had ended) some impertinently asked what had become of the whole affair.

We have a direct verdict on Joe’s romance from Leah’s family – though not a college student, her little sister Mildred wrote in his yearbook in 1936 while things were still going strong:

I’ve heard that you were crazy, and as far as I’ve seen of you, I believe it’s right.

Joe started going with Leah shortly before the 1936 yearbook, and she dumped him some time before the 1937 version, and we have notes from her both years, first to give a feel of the blossoming affection, and later an explanation, in part, of her rash ending to the relationship.  When extemporizing, Leah is rather verbose.  1936:

Dear Joe,
As usual, I shall start out with that I don’t know what to say.  The only difference is that I do have a little bit to say and you can’t very well stop me from saying it.

I really didn’t get to know who you were until just lately.  I could recognize you and tell your name to anyone, but I didn’t think you even knew me at all.  Then at the Y Eagles Birthday Banquet (or something) when I nearly drowned you (neat English) you acted as if I hadn’t even done anything.  It sort of made me feel more at home or something.  Then when you called up the next day, I almost fainted I was so surprised (very pleasantly surprised I’ll have you know), that I nearly fainted.  But such is life in the far far west.  Anyway, I surely have enjoyed knowing you, even though such a short time.  I hope to see you sometimes during the summer playing badminton &tc.  Good luck,

Leah D.

Here’s in 1937, after the bitter denouement:

Well Joe, I really don’t know how to start to write in here, even after reading what you wrote in mine.  After all I really must start sometime saying something or the other.  As I have often said, “There is always that other way of doing it,” but some way I just couldn’t.

We have really had some very good times together.  I guess that anybody that went with you would have a good time.  There is something about you that makes everyone like (T. L.) you.  Even so (whatever that means), I guess that they are over with – at least for a while.  I don’t exactly know why, but it just seems to have worked out that way.

I still admire you a lot for the attitude you have taken.  Most people wouldn’t be broadminded enough to understand about it but you seem to.  Keep it up!

And another thing you are one of the most pleasant persons I know (except when I get you mad and I really don’t blame you then).  You are always so happy and so much fun to be with.  You laugh most of the time and make everything fun.  Your personality is such that anyone can get along with you.  Even I can sometimes.

I hope you have a lot of fun on all your trips this summer.  You should because you surely do get around.

Here’s wishing you the best of luck and I am sure that you will get a lot of happiness and

Be good, Leah D. Harris

I’d give a pretty to see what he wrote in her yearbook.  Leah’s personality comes out pretty well.  Brassy and kind of scattershot, I bet she was a really interesting girl to be around.  She’s excessively fond of parentheticals (using them more than once in a sentence), and this reflects the sort of hindsight awareness that happens to many of us when we are writing in indelible pen and look back at what we have written.

The first flames of romance in 1936 are rather tentative, and she can’t claim to know Joe very well, other than to say she wanted to get to know him better.

A different story in 1937, of course – she already knew as much about him as she ever wanted to. After what Joe wrote in her yearbook it appears she felt obliged to explain her conduct, and I think it’s a doozey.  She goes one-up on the reliable “it’s not you, it’s me” excuse and takes the locus of control away from everyone:

I guess that they are over with – at least for a while.  I don’t exactly know why, but it just seems to have worked out that way.

See, it’s not you, and it’s not even me!  It’s nobody!  It just happened.  Well, reading between the lines you can tell that it didn’t “just happen”.  I think she was concerned that she and Joe couldn’t get along well enough:

…(except when I get you mad and I really don’t blame you then)
…anyone can get along with you.  Even I can sometimes.

Maybe Grandpa wished he hadn’t let her write in his yearbook; particularly the part where she patronizingly praised him for taking the dumping so well.  You handled it great!  What a champ!  Keep it up! We all know those bitter feelings in the heat of disappointment, but it’s hard to have raw feelings about something so long ago, when things turned out as well as they did.  After all we all get to exist and have this wonderful set of parents and grandparents.  Funny to see a potential pathway through life that would have meant no Grandma Pauline and none of us, at least not with the lives that we have right now.  That was a close call!

Leah went on learning and dating, getting an AB degree in 1939 and marrying an FBI employee named Milton Jensen in 1940.  Interestingly, she first met, engaged, and married her husband all on a Friday the 13th.  Not the same Friday the 13th, but you know what I mean.

She lost her husband back in 1999 and lived as a widow until her death in 2007.  Here she is as the same sort of sweet smiling grandmother that Grandma Pauline was to us:


Grandpa Joe’s Social Life at College

Anyone as friendly and engaging as my Grandfather Joe Pace would have been a presence on their university campus.  His 1936 and 1937 yearbooks display ample evidence of this.

Firstly, he collected signatures – a lot of them.  Over the two years he averaged more than 150 signatures, most of them from guys.  This reflects his strong involvement in Scouting groups and a college fraternity (yes!  BYU had fraternities!).  In 1936 he got just 41 notes from gals, and improved marginally 1937 to 53.

The comments run on a broad continuum of familiarity, irreverence, and sincerity.  Just like today, if someone writes in your yearbook you have to write in theirs, even if you hardly know them and have nothing to say.  Some people were like that, while others knew Joe very well and had some interesting things to say to him.

He wasn’t exactly BMOC, but Grandpa Joe was socially significant in the BYU ecosystem.  A lot of involvement came through his fraternity, the Brigadiers or “Brigs”.

You already notice that is not the sort of name one expects for a fraternal organization.  BYU did not sponsor Greek fraternities or sororities on campus, but did allow the independent formation of groups (called “Social Units”) that did some of the very same things.

One of those “very same things” was the ritual humiliation of initiation.  I don’t pretend to understand how an organization benefits by degrading or even harming potential members, but the organizers of Social Groups decided that as the Greeks went, so would they.

The yearbook staff poked fun at some of these rituals, demonstrating the same sort of ambivalence that University administration had towards these groups throughout their existence at BYU:


Paddling.  These social units did plenty of other silly things, but the paddles come up over and over in the yearbooks – a leitmotif, almost.


Paddles everywhere.  The pictures appear to be of initiation labors by pledge hopefuls, with the presence of the paddle a totem or symbol of the hopeful’s low status, and perhaps the consequences of poor performance.

The ink-stained wretches on the yearbook staff have chosen their target well.  There’s something inherently ridiculous about this sort of initiation, and it lives in popular consciousness as a symbol of the silliness and excesses of college frat life.  Remember this from the popular film Animal House.  Anyway, I don’t think I would ever go for this sort of thing, but their public nature probably argues for the relative pettiness of the practice.  If there’s really rough stuff, it is usually kept quiet, and these kids did not keep quiet.  These Social Units in general seem to have been pretty tame, even for the time probably, and don’t match much else from what you think of fraternities.

But they still did the hazing.  Indeed, several of Grandpa’s frat mates mention these initiation rituals, and paddles feature prominently, among other things.  This puts Joe in a context rather unfamiliar to us his grandkids.  Here’s four different frat-mates:

…Well, Initiations are over and I’m now a full-fledged Brig, thank the Lord!  My rumble seat is something the worse for wear and my mouth’s still a little bit puckery.

…I think I’ll always remember you as having the hardest wallop with a paddle that I have ever had the pleasure to feel.

…When I was being initiated I felt like bopping you with a brick, but since then I have found out that you are a right guy.

…Although you were one of the villains that left me stranded and without pants, I must say I prize your friendship greatly.

Social life was more than degrading ritual, however, and in his yearbook classmates reminisced about some of the events and experiences.  One or two gals were agreeably pleased to accompany him to dances, and praised his abilities.  Another mentioned the time he took her treasure hunting which, wow, that is so Grandpa Joe.  She also asked how his radio was doing.  Grandpa Joe was a member of the Y Eagles, a club for former Boy Scouts, and even served as scribe one of the years.  Before his senior year he was elected president (or “prexy” as people kept writing in his book) of the Brigadiers, and lots of classmates said they were sure it would be a terrific year with him at the helm. He was also involved in intramural sports, did you know that?  He donned a mask and played catcher in a softball league.

Having access to his dad’s car was a major factor in Joe’s campus presence.  They weren’t as common as they are today – much rarer, in fact, being the height of the Great Depression – and non-resident students certainly wouldn’t have had them.  In “We’re Not Dead Yet”, Grandpa’s co-autobiography, he described pitfalls that went along with the benefits:

We only had one car in the family and I hated having to borrow the car for a date after my brothers had been in it.  It would always reek of smoke.  This was especially embarrassing when I wanted to take out a nice prominent Mormon girl.

Several people (ladies, mostly) didn’t mind the smell and thanked him in the yearbook for the many rides he’d given them to Salt Lake, or just up the hill to class.  I can picture him driving to campus past dozens of befooted classmates, deciding who was eligible enough to merit the invitation. That’s probably what I would have done.  He could also carry a bunch of frat/sorority mates to parties up the canyons or who knows where.  One trip up the canyons, he drove the car over a rockslide that had covered the road.  One Mary Fay even reminisced about the time his car was disabled en route somewhere and she had to get out and push it.  If there’s a boss move bigger than getting a girl to push your car, I don’t know what it is.

Grandpa Joe was also involved in the National Guard – hardly a “social” opportunity, but an experience he shared with many classmates.  In the yearbook (and later in his autobiography) it is described as the “Nasty Guard”.  One mate recounted a very high-profile goof on the marching grounds:

…you gave us our commands and as we were marching you would call “attention” instead of “halt”.

Early on Joe had pondered and planned a career in medicine, despite concerns about his academic aptitudes.  He and many other pre-med classmates suffered through the prerequisite classes, and talked about it as a rite of passage or shared hardship.  Some of the classes were held in the evenings, and a couple friends remarked how often they saw him asleep in class (though how would they know, they were probably asleep too).  However much he struggled, he was a helpful influence on his classmates.  Some thanked him very warmly for saving their bacon in chemistry or the legendary “Zoo 56”.  One classmate was optimistic about Joe’s chances in medicine:

Now, Joe, I’m not one to spread it on but you really have possibilities even if your teachers don’t think so…

His family was known by some of his friends – some were familiar with his sister Kay, some with Grandpa Garland (president of the nearby Utah State Mental Hospital), and some knew his cousins down in Arizona.  His connections got the social group access – one dedication described a tour that some of the Social Units did of the mental hospital.  What a way to meet people.  There’s actually a photo in the 1937 yearbook of Joe’s dad, Grandpa Garland, giving a tour to the student council.  Not the best shot, yeah.  Grandpa Garland’s the stout man in the middle:


Old BYU Yearbooks

Happy Father’s Day.  Today is a good day for a tour of Grandpa Joe’s young adulthood.  I’ve had the privilege of looking through some of my Grandfather’s college yearbooks.  We have two of them, from his Sophomore and Junior years down at the BYU – 1936 and 1937.  The books are called “The Banyan”.


Here’s Grandpa’s yearbook photos for all four years (including his freshman and senior years, found online).


I think of yearbooks as a High School gig, where you got a thick high-gloss book and went around on the last day writing insincerities to marginal acquaintances (“Let’s hang out this summer!”).  Back then they did the same thing in college, too, and what you saw in High School matches the college paradigm pretty well.

Well, there are some differences.  The yearbooks show a surprising amount of wear for tomes that were handled briefly and then put on some neglected shelf for decades.  The 1936 one, in particular, has the look that paper and cardboard get when they’ve absorbed a lot of oil from human skin.  They apparently didn’t have an official “yearbook” day, or maybe they did but the books were distributed some time before the last school day, so people had a long time to go around collecting signatures. Grandpa Joe carried his with him from class to class over a couple weeks, looking for friends to write in it.

The Yearbooks are foolishness – an incongruous pastiche of goofy humor and pretentiously profound pronouncements by kids who haven’t experienced a lot of life yet.  Along with all the regular yearbooky stuff you find things unfamiliar, unexpected, out of place – kind of like finding a giant squid on the hood of your car.  Culture has changed in some funny ways.  Some attitudes and practices at BYU are much altered after three generations.  Beards were allowed, if you can imagine anything so shocking:


The Honor Code did not adopt its more stringent requirements until the 1970’s.  However, back then the dress standard for women was much more rigorous than it is now.  It’s an interesting twist that over the decades grooming standards have grown more liberal for the ladies and stricter for the fellas.

Interestingly, I could not find a single guy who wore a beard for their yearbook photo.  No girls either, I suppose.

Then as now, mustaches were allowed, though people did not always exercise good judgment.  The 1936 Banyan takes just fifteen pages to Godwin itself:


There’s Keifer Sauls, aide to the University President.  Hitler was in power but his crimes and plans were not fully appreciated in 1936-37.  Anyway I doubt Mr. Sauls was consciously emulating the contemporary German dictator.

The thirties were inter-war years.  Though college times are typically carefree, there are a few indications, in the yearbook and the notes written, of the bloody past and a possible bloody future.  Indeed, most of these kids were born during the time where Europe was convulsed by “The War to End All Wars”, and in just a few years many would bleed out their lives on battlefields thousands of miles away.  One Y boy, from Kanosh, was born a few weeks after the end of a particularly ugly World War I battle (“ugly” meaning one million dead with no strategic accomplishment).  He was named after it: Verdun Watts.

Athletics weren’t the big deal they are today, but there was a certain amount of wounded pride from the struggles of their floundering football program.  The yearbook staff approached it with a startling degree of irreverence and levity.  After a 32-0 loss to the Utes, the event was memorialized thus in the Banyan:


Wow.  Hard to imagine that flying nowadays.  On the left you see the scowling visage of football coach Ott Romney, demonstrating that the dour look was in vogue long before  Lavell Edwards was stomping the sidelines – though Romney certainly had a lot more to be unhappy about.

The editing style of the yearbooks tended towards the experimental.  On one page they cropped athletic performances out of photos, and assembled them into a sporty montage.  Freed from their context, Joe’s classmates felt free to invent new ones.  Here’s the long jumper:


Finally, the yearbooks show some interesting slice-of-life photos.  Here’s one from a room that is probably familiar to most alums:


That’s the old library, which nowadays is used as a testing center.  Interesting that the room where students once crammed knowledge into their heads is now where they regurgitate it.

Oh, and blackface was okay back then.  Here’s the cast of a theatrical production.  Oy:


Census Takers Are People Too

As they traversed the countryside taking written snapshots of the lives of millions of Americans, the lives and dramas of the census takers themselves were also ongoing.

Here’s an account about Great-Granddad Edward Clyde and the census, from his wife Hannah’s memoir:

In 1921 farm crop prices took a terrific drop so that the first year we lived on the farm we made barely enough to pay interest and taxes.  Ed worked at the sugar factory and took census that winter to make enough for us to live on.

There’s an obvious issue here – there was no census in 1921; it had been completed in 1920.  Census forms have the enumerator’s name written on them, and I have been unable to find any that were filled by Grandpa Ed, either in the family hometown of Springville, Utah, or up in Carbon County, Utah, where he was living at the time.  His brother Grover, however, did.  Either Ed’s census pages were lost (which sometimes happened), or Hannah misremembered the event.

Being census taker has been quite a mixed bag over the past  22 decades.  The enumerator’s job is to be nosy, and many citizens throughout the centuries have not appreciated what they felt to be a governmental imposition on their privacy.  Youtube is full of people filming their parleys with census takers.  Some folks take it as an opportunity to share their views on politics, and others to stick it to the man.

Whatever you think about the politics of the census, that sort of display is very undignified.  Census enumerators are attractive targets only because they are easy targets, for while the pen is mightier than the sword in many contexts, it really isn’t in these doorstep scenes.  Thus little people get to feel big and strong by trying to argue down or intimidate a harmless and usually well-meaning individual.

The tension of the confrontation has become a source of much comedy in film and literature over the years.  Learn what happened at Hannibal Lecter’s house.  And in O Brother Where Art Thou.  And the Three Stooges.  There’s even a movie about townspeople murdering the census taker.

It’s always impressed me how little care people have had for the census compared to how useful it is for us today.  Nowadays these records are a starting point for family history research, as they are meant to have every person in the nation on them.  They are a priceless national treasure, and a measure of the value of every individual.

And yet the censuses were treated so casually!  Some enumerators tried really hard, but others were inaccurate and lazy, and many citizens evasive or dismissive.  One of the main frustrations of genealogy research is when you find that the census seems to have every single person in American except the one you are looking for.

Grover was more diligent than average, I think.  Grover was a census man in Springville, Utah precinct for the 1920 census, and in January and February of that year he tramped around southern Utah Valley, both in Springville proper and the boonies outside of town.

At that time the Spanish Flu pandemic was killing millions of people around the world.  US servicemen (including Grover) were coming home from Europe and many of them were bringing death with them.  Grover spent most of January going door to door, but on the 31st his father (and my great-great granddad) Hyrum Smith Clyde died suddenly from the flu, and Grover left off, in the middle of a page, for ten days to be with family.



Enumerated by me on the 30/9 day of January/February, 1920.  Grover Clyde, Enumerator.

When Grover went back to finish the precinct record on 9 Feb, his sister-in-law Hannah (Edward’s wife) and niece Pauline (my Grandma) were still dreadfully sick with the flu.  One of the families remaining to be enumerated was his own, which included himself, some siblings, and his parents.  Since the census was meant to be a snapshot of the nation as of the first of January, 1920, anyone who died between that day and the day the recorder took the record should still be included among the living.  I am sure it was with considerable poignancy that Grover wrote his father’s name as if he were still alive:


Shellbacks and Privilege

My Grandpa Joe, flight surgeon of the USS Monterey, in his family memoir “We’re Not Dead Yet!”:

We crossed the equator on the 27th of September.  Whenever we did so, we always marked the event by initiating all the new recruits.  We were the “shellbacks” and the newer sailors were the “polliwogs”.  The shellbacks blasted the polliwogs with water from  fire hose, spanked them with paddles, and forced them to dress like infant babies or women.  Even though the festivities could get rather wild and even a little dangerous sometimes, they always served as a relief from the normal tensions of everyday military life.

What he saw was a “line crossing ceremony“, a ritual of silly degradation and casual cruelty that dates back hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.  For military ships at sea, whenever some significant nautical boundary was crossed, those who had crossed it previously (“shellbacks”) would initiate those who hadn’t (“polliwogs”) into their new brotherhood.  For the equator they are inducted into “The Order of Neptune”.  While aboard the Monterey Grandpa also crossed the International Date Line, which would have gotten him in “The Order of the Golden Dragon”, though he never described any experience about that.  The initiation would go about as Grandpa explained above, though with varying levels of violence according to the time period and nation of the vessel.

The pranks were mostly petty embarrassments, but as Grandpa observed, there were occasional physical dangers.  On some ships things got entirely out of hand, and sailors were injured or even killed.  Not the most dignified way to go, and probably a source of some embarrassment for the victims.  After the war, red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy claimed a purple heart for a battle wound, but actually “his record [showed] that [his] leg was broken when he fell down a flight of steps during an Equator-crossing party aboard the seaplane-tender Chandeleur, and far from any actual hostilities.”  (link)

Curious for Grandpa Joe to put himself in the shellback camp – no “new recruit” he!  But he had only been on the Monterey for three months, and never before had crossed the equator.  Indeed, when he drew out a map detailing his travels, he put this note on the map for that day:


9-27-44 Turned into Shellback

He was proud of his new status, for sure.  But “shellback” wasn’t a title that was lightly given to the uninitiated, and apparently Grandpa didn’t have to pay the price.  I wonder why he was spared?  Participation was officially voluntary but there was strong social pressure to go along, and it was awkward for a non-participant to be there witnessing the shenanigans, as Grandpa obviously was.  Grandpa was an officer, and there were few people on the ship that outranked him, but in many cases rank or dignity were no guard against this hazing.  For example, in 1831 Charles Darwin faced his own initiation into Neptune’s Order as he voyaged on the HMS Beagle towards the Galapagos and immortality.  In 1936 aboard the USS Independence, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was said to have endured some degree of humiliation on an equator crossing.  So we’re not getting the whole story about this.

Looking at wartime photos of the Monterey I found a photo depicting the events of 27 Sep 1944.  I found it heremonterey_polliwogs

You see it’s pretty tame at the moment, just dressing people up in funny clothes and pouring things on their head.  There’s a lot of smiles; the biggest one probably the fellow with impressive tattoos dressed up as a baby.  Pretty jovial and relaxed, just as Grandpa observed.  Somewhere in the shot is future President Gerald Ford, though I can’t spot him.  There’s about a hundred guys in the photo, while the Monterey had a crew of more than fifteen hundred.  So with a one in fifteen chance that Grandpa is in the photo, I asked some of Joe’s children whether they recognized him in the photo anywhere.  Nathan Pace, my dad, pointed out a fellow up in the island behind the glass that looks just like him:


Behind the glass you don’t get a lot of detail, so we can’t be completely certain, but if it isn’t him it is someone that bears a strong resemblance.  Here’s some wartime shots of Grandpa Joe for reference.  Scanned off a xerox, sorry for the quality:


See Grandpa there wearing the same officer’s shirt as in the photo. My dad also pointed out that up there in the island was Grandpa’s battle-station – where he would report during an emergency or military operations.  So it makes sense that he would be there in particular, perhaps relieved that he had escaped from being soaked with a fire hose.  It didn’t take as much boldness for a furtive pollywog to hide up on the bridge, watching the action from above.

You notice that there’s a big crowd everywhere but the bridge.  Sailors are vaulted up on ladders, sitting on cranes, clinging to rigging, and staring through portholes so they can catch a glimpse.  But there’s only five guys where the view is nicest.  Surely there’s a reason for that. Only certain people – officers all – were allowed in there, even during wogging ceremonies.  The distortions and contrasts of military hierarchy are very apparent on sea vessels.  As opposed to the Army, where your commander might be in a different city, the Captain of the vessel was just a few meters away, but the privileges of hiererarchy were so rigid that if you were a dogface nobody you wouldn’t share company with or talk to him hardly ever.

Typhoon Cobra

In World War II, being flight surgeon on an aircraft carrier meant that my Grandpa Joe Pace personally saw only occasional action.  His ship, the small carrier USS Monterey, was in more danger from the weather than from the enemy.  Weather dangers were not trivial, however.  On 17-18 Dec 1944 the Monterey was almost sunk when US Admiral William F. Halsey sailed the US Third Fleet right into the path of Typhoon Cobra.

The typhoon wrecked the fleet, damaging a third of its ships and sinking three destroyers.  More than seven hundred sailors died.  Not Halsey’s best day on the job, and not really his worst either, for he did something similar in June 1945.  That time it almost cost him his job.

Here’s what it looked like:


Check out the smiley guy.  Cool under pressure, huh.  Here’s the Monterey in the storm:


While ships really shouldn’t tip that much, things are actually going okay for her at that point.  Not fun, though.  If I understand my beginner’s seamanship, a captain would never want to go broadside against the waves and wind like we see in the photos above – they’d much rather steer into the wind and ride out the storm.  They were doing as they were at the Admiral’s orders, holding their position and bearing as a part of the convoy.  Only on the second day of the storm did he relent and instruct all ships to do whatever they had to to stay afloat.

The Monterey hadn’t been able to maintain heading for that long.  Early on 18 December, some planes got loose in the hanger and bounced around, starting a fire.  The fire knocked out the engines, disabling the ship.  The Monterey was helplessly tossed around by the storm for an hour or so before the fire was put out and the engine restarted.  If they hadn’t put it out she would have gone down with considerable loss of life.  As it was, three sailors died but about 1,500 did not, including future President Gerald Ford.  The great wheel of history certainly turns on a slender pivot.

Here’s the Monterey in better times:monterey

She’s an ugly duckling; looks a little top heavy to my unpracticed eye.


Boxy and inelegant.  That tall flat hull must have given her quite the high wind profile, too.  Also looks like a converted light cruiser, but that’s only partially true.  She was built as you see her, but the plans themselves were for a light cruiser repurposed into an aircraft carrier, and not a ship designed from the start to be an aircraft carrier.  Her hull had been laid with the intention of building a cruiser, but the Navy, eager for aircraft carriers, changed things partway in.

I have been pestering my Dad for war stories he heard from Grandpa.  One has come to light recently about the effects of a big storm (not certain which storm, but none were bigger than Cobra).  As a flight surgeon he had a little office with medical supplies.  During a storm a jug of tincture of benzoin got loose and sloshed around over everything for quite a long time.  This chemical had a number of applications; its stickiness made it useful for fixing bandages to skin.  Stickiness is not good in other situations, including the cramped confines of the office.  After what must have been a stressful experience with the storm, Grandpa returned to the room and saw a rather more comical disaster.  Probably didn’t think it was funny at the time, though.


Samuel Neal

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of my great great great granddad Samuel Neal’s discharge from Company D of the 2nd Iowa Cavalry.  From History of the Second Iowa Cavalry by Sgt. Lyman B. Pierce:


His Civil War record identifies the action as a “disability discharge”.

Samuel was in a cavalry regiment, so there was more rattle and dash than the tired slog of infantry fighting.  His unit didn’t have many combat deaths.  But bad diet or tainted vaccines or who knows what else could get anyone in the service in that time period.

Fall fighting in 1862 had been physically arduous if not lethal – the companies traveled 1200 miles in the 41 days before going into winter quarters on 28 Dec 1862.  Apparently the rest wasn’t long enough for Samuel to recover, as his discharge came the very day that spring campaigning began.  He was able enough to stay in service during winter inactivity but not once fighting season came again.

No one thinks he was faking, least of all the officer who granted a disability discharge.  According to a number of sources Samuel was unwell for the rest of his life.  I have described this elsewhere, but did not include this colorful quotation from a letter by Samuel’s grandson Donald Neal:

Samuel fought on side of the North in the American Civil War.  (Big mistake.) But as [sicko] Abe Lincoln could not raise an army in the north, he had to place a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I have seen a photo of one of the posters, whereas he offered 160 acres of land, plus $500.00 for northern volunteers, so Grandpa Samuel volunteered, came from the war with broken health, took his 160 acres 18 miles from Des Moines, Iowa, 2 miles from the town of Booneville.

Though for New Hampshire not Iowa, here’s what that sort of poster would look like.  From this memorabilia sellerOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA:

Dropping out when he did left Samuel on the sidelines for one of the liveliest engagements of the war for the regiment: Grierson’s Raid, where three regiments of Union Cavalry depredated six hundred miles of Confederate territory from the Tennessee-Mississippi border all the way to Baton Rouge.  An ugly business, but only for the Confederate side.  There was no Rebel cavalry available to check Grierson’s advance, and while the regiment  destroyed towns and railroads throughout Mississippi and killed many people, casualties for the 2nd Iowa were negligible.


My Grandmother told me a story about her mother, Della (Herndon) Neal.  Della’s mother died when Della had just turned the tender age of thirteen.  A little more than a year later her dad Winthrop Hillhouse Herndon remarried a widow named Lena (Harris) Ring.  There was a lot of resentment on little Della’s part towards the usurper, and she was a perfect brat towards her step-mother.

Children often have a distorted sense of events and their effects on them.  When the marriage didn’t last, Della thought it had been because of her unkindness.  This fed a deep wellspring of guilt, making her feel like a homewrecker.  Even as an adult, talking to an adult daughter, Della still believed she had ruined a marriage between two good people.

To some extent I get it.  Whether or not you caused it, to hope and labor for a thing and then it happens and you see it bear bitter and sorrowful fruit, it stops you in your tracks and changes your way of thinking.  However, there isn’t any cause-and-effect there.  I’m sure her role in the debacle was minor, if she figured in it at all.  Della was never able to change her way of thinking about her influence on her father’s relationships.  Carrying around this load of childlike shame for a whole lifetime must have had a terrible effect.  I remember great-grandma Della as a stern and taciturn woman, rather unsmiling and joyless about life.

Perhaps this heavy burden was one of the reasons.  Her demeanor was a dramatic contrast to her father, who my grandmother remembers as a jokey and jovial fellow.

Grandpa Winthrop had his pain to bear, too.  Apart from one failed marriage, he had three successful ones where he was the surviving spouse.  However it went with Lena, at least he didn’t have to bury anyone.  The first union was to Lavina E. Wyatt in Missouri, who died in childbirth at the age of nineteen, the baby surviving.

It appears that Winthrop didn’t know what to do with this baby, and neither did his family.  He went back to his family in Montana and the baby (named Frank after Lavina’s father) was raised by the Wyatts.  Even when Winthrop remarried two years later up in Montana, Frank stayed in Missouri.

Frank’s life was short.  Here’s his death certificate.


He made it through the Spanish Flu pandemic, but managed to get typhoid fever soon after, and died after being ill for ten days.  He was 21.

It appears he and his father never reconciled.  He was buried as Frank Wyatt, engraved on his grandparents’ tombstone.  He even made it legally official.  See the notation on the certificate by the deceased’s name:

His name formerly Frank Wyatt Herndon was changed by Circuit Court at Independence, Missouri, December term 1921.

Oh Granddad.  Having two boys myself makes this very poignant for me.