Jesse T Yancey (1928-1977)
On the 15th day of March, 1928, I was introduced to my earthly parents, Eliza Dorothy Dean and Emron Yancey. I was given the name of Jesse T Yancey, the “T” representing the ”Tolman” line of the family of which my grandmother, Alice Tolman Yancey, came from. I was the 12th of their 17 children. At the time of my birth my folks lived at Groveland, Idaho. There was a lot of flu going around at the time. My mother had it and it turned to pneumonia, from which she lost an entire lung. Mom got so bad that they didn’t think she would live, so they took her up to stay with Grandma Yancey. That Sunday they were holding stake conference in Blackfoot and Pres. Duckworth was asked to bring the visiting authority out with him to administer to her. It didn’t look like there was much hope and they didn’t offer much hope. That day Dr. Mitchell told the family not to call him again because she would die before the night was out and she was one woman he couldn’t stand to see die. That afternoon as the visiting authority boarded the train to return to Salt Lake he said, “Tell Sister Yancey not to give up hope. It has just been made known to me she shall live.” Dad came into the room where Mom was and asked her what she wanted him to do with me. She told him to keep me and she would take care of me as soon as she was well again. Then she got so bad she could hear Dad and Sis. Packham talking but could not answer them. Sister Packham said, “It won’t be long now, Emron.” At that time Mom saw Fred Brown, who had married my Aunt Mary, but had died sometime before this, enter the room with three women and walk over to the bed where Mom was at. She said they didn’t even go around the furniture, but came right through it. He said, “Dorothy, we’ve come to take you with us.” She said, “Fred, I just can’t go right now. I’ve got to have the rest of my children and take care of the ones I already have.” And then she began to pray that she could stay. As she did so, she heard a voice, say, “You will be permitted to stay a little longer,” and then Fred and the three women left the room. The next morning as Aunt Mary and Grandma came into the room, they said to Mom, “Fred was here last night, wasn’t he? We could feel his presence.” She told them that he had been there and what he wanted. Dr. Mitchell came the next day because he hadn’t been called and wanted to see what was happening. When he saw Mom on the mend, he put his face in his hands and cried. He then asked Mom what had happened, and admitted openly that some power greater than his was the reason for her improvement. My mother’s patriarchal blessing tells her that her mission on earth was to have children to the honor and glory of God and that she would be permitted to live until she was satisfied with her life here on earth. And thus was I taught the power of Faith. My mother took a year to recover and I was given to my older sister Elvera to take care of me the first year of my life.
My folks soon after that moved from the Groveland farm and into town at 609 So. Univ. Blackfoot, Idaho. This was my home until I reached the 5th grade, and my younger brothers LeRoy and Wallace and sisters, Velda, Verda, and Wanda were born there. My father went into the trucking business and trucked bags of cement from Inko throughout the Snake River Valley. I remember that each Saturday Dad used to but the San Francisco Examiner and The Denver Post, because these papers had a large section of funny papers, or comics. He would set us all in the living room with each of the older children having a younger one on each side of him. Then Dad would pass the funnies around the circle so they could read them to us younger ones. This became our Saturday night entertainment for some time to come.
The depression was bad while I was small and I guess things were pretty hard to get.
My older Sister Wyora married Ted Barney and the folks let them live in an old
garage behind the house. She bought a jar of peanut butter and, to make it go
farther, she mixed it half with apricot jam. One day I was over to her place and
she spread some on a slice of bread and gave it to me. I thought it was the
finest thing I had ever tasted. I never saw peanut butter again for some time,
and then one day when I was in the sixth grade and we were then living on North
Shilling Ave., I came home from school and saw a jar of brown stuff sitting on
the cupboard. The first thing I thought of was peanut butter. I grabbed a slice
of bread, threw some on, and tore out of the house before anyone had a chance to
tell me I couldn’t have any. As soon as I got out behind the barn where I was
sure I was safe, I sunk my teeth into my reassure, only to find out that the
brown stuff was a jar of axle grease Dad had set there. We never saw or had
oranges except at Christmas. Then we each got one with a few peanuts and
hardtack candy. I remember that my mother used to bake 21 loaves of bread twice
and sometimes 3 times a week. We had stewed beans a lot and milk gravy. But
never went hungry. We boys all wore bib overalls until we got a job and saved
enough money to buy our own waist overalls.
I was in the seventh grade when I got a job in Jim Clark’s barber shop, shining shoes. I got to keep what I made, but I had to keep the barber shop clean for the right of shining shoes there. And just as soon as I saved enough money, I bought my long-dreamed of waist overalls and my first pair of oxford type shoes. One day while I was sitting in school, the teacher told me she thought I had better go on home. I didn’t know why but was happy to go. When I got home Mom took one look at me and marched me straight in the bedroom and pulled down the blinds. It seemed I had broken out with the measles right in school. Then when I was in the sixth grade I came home from school sick to my stomach and vomiting. Mom called Doc Miller and on checking me over, he told Mom he thought it was appendicitis and they should probably take me to the hospital in Pocatello (because there wasn’t one in Blackfoot) tomorrow and have me operated on. Mom said no, not tomorrow but today. It took a little convincing, but finally I was on my way to the hospital. After they had me admitted, Doc Miller told Mom he had the operating room scheduled for the first thing tomorrow, she refused to let them wait, and insisted that it be done that very day. It took a little doing, but finally I was taken in and operated on. Afterwards Doc Miller told my mother that he was glad he was forced to listen to her, because if he had waited until morning I would have died.
I remember when I was in about the fourth grade; one of the kids in the class forgot to take his roller skates home with him. So I took them home. We had a big round kitchen table and I put the skates on, and held onto the table and went round and round; and that was how I learned to skate. When Mom came home and saw me skating and found out where I got the skates, she marched me right back to school with them and gave me to understand I was never to do anything like that again. My third grade teacher would read to us each day for ½ hour if we were good and quiet. She read us books like Heidi, Call of the Wild. We really enjoyed it and as a rule would beg her to read just one more chapter after the normal quitting time. I liked math, literature, science, etc. but didn’t like grammar or history. Coming from a large family, I was quite shy in the first grade so when I reached the second year, they decided to keep me there a second turn. Velda and Verda were a year younger, and that put all three of us together from then on. Some of the older teachers had taught most of my brothers before me, so I was usually called by one of their names rather than my own. The same thing happened to LeRoy and Wallace who followed me. I went to school until I finished the 9th grade; then I quit and went to working for a living. While we were living on South University, we used to have 2 and 3 beds in each bedroom and usually we slept 3 to a bed. We just heated the house with a coal heater and cook stove, so at night after the fire went out, we kept warm by just adding another quilt on the bed. We quite often had as many as 6 or 7 of us at one time. Besides reading the funny papers, we found entertainment taking the Montgomery Ward catalog and looking through it and wishing for all the things we wanted. I remember as a child going through the catalog wishing for so many toys, and for Christmas I got a pocket knife. From then on I had all the toys I wanted to make. And I’ve enjoyed wood ever since.
I can remember having only one birthday party. When I was in the 5th or 6th grade Mom let me invite a few friends home and she made some honey taffy and gave us each a handful to pull and eat. We had never had so much candy in all our lives. Dad used to take down old cotton wood and Poplar trees and bring them home for firewood. Adam and I were supposed to take the old buck saw and cut each morning enough to last until we got out of school and then cut enough to last until morning. I do believe we got more heat out of the cutting than we ever got out of burning it. While I was in the 4th and 5th grades I used to make 10 cents a week tending the furnace and taking the ashes out each day for Mrs. Dore. While going to school, I liked sports and played on the softball and basketball teams, participated in track and anything else that came along. I liked to roller skate and became pretty good on them.
Adam and I used to help Dad and Richard on the farm during summer vacation while we were in grade school. My job was to drive the derrick horse and the wagon when haying or threshing. I also had to help shock the grain. One summer we got $5 between us for the full summer. As I finished the 9th grade I got a job at the Blackfoot Dehydrating Plant in the old Graham Moor building on the corner of Alice and Main St. I never returned to school. While there, I met and worked with Cecil Smith who later bought some heavy equipment and went into land leveling business, and I worked for him. When I was 16, I went to Calif. to live with my sister and I worked from 3 a.m. to noon, servicing taxi cabs and delivering ice. Later I got a job in the Kaiser shipyards. When I left Long Beach and went to San Francisco to stay with my brother David I got a job at the Ford Motor Co. and then at the Calif. Art Tile Co., making ceramic tile. I stayed there until I came back home, when I began working for Cecil Smith, running heavy equipment. It was while working there that I got the chance to run the first rubber tired bulldozer to come into southeast Idaho. After running it 10 days for Cecil, the owners J. K. Wheeler Machinery Co. of Salt Lake City asked Cecil if he would let them take me to show some other people how the machine worked. I ended up on that machine for one year touring most of Utah.
I had just gotten home from that job when I received my mission all (Feb. 1948) to the Southwest Indian Mission and spent the next two years in Arizona among the Hopi, Navajo and Apache Indians. It was there while having to prove to people what we believed was true that I gained a greater and deep understanding of the gospel. As we taught the law of tithing to people and saw the changes that came into their lives and the blessings poured out upon them, I knew then that I could never again not pay a tithing. And we’ve been blessed ever since because of it. I had many choice experiences of the power of the priesthood while working among those people. My first field of labor was at Tuba City, with C. Jay Simpson, from Hooper, Utah as my companion; and we worked with George and Lucy Bloomfield. We were among Hopi Indians. After about 3 months, I was assigned to work with Kendall Gurr from Parowan, Utah, who was made district president, and we moved to Keams Canyon. I was with him for about 6 months, during which time we found some Indian children who weren’t able to get into the government schools. So we made some telephone calls home and made arrangements for them to live with some families for the school year. We sent one to live with Chesley Woodland and one to live with Clinton Allen in Blackfoot; and sent a couple to live in Parowan. We took what little money we had and bought their bus tickets and gave them the rest to buy food with. As soon as we got everything taken care of we were called into the mission office and given some mission advice. Spencer W. Kimball was the apostle over the Indians and when he learned what we had done, he told the Pres, rather than bring the kids back they would just watch and see what happened with them. I was later transferred to San Carlos Reservation to labor among the Apache Indians with Elder Seth Thompson from Weston, Idaho, as my companion. From there I was sent to Aneth, Utah with Elder Kunz as my companion.
I was released 3 months early from my mission because of a lung disease I had contracted. I was sent home in Sept. 1950. When I got home, I got a job at Boyle Hardware store and worked there for 6-8 months and then went back to working for Cecil Smith, leveling land. I met Doris Jeffery at M.I.A. She was teaching at the high school and staying at Afton Johnson’s home in our ward. We dated and were later married June 28, 1951. She continued to teach and I worked with Cecil for about 6 months and then I went into the Air Force and went to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic training. At the end of the basic training, doctors noticed the spot on my lung and so they sent me and a fellow from Rock Island, Ill. who had a similar problem to the base hospital for some tests and observation. They kept us there for the next five months, before they released us and discharged us from the service. In the hospital I taught the gospel to Rickenburg and a master sergeant. We had plenty of time because we couldn’t leave the ward. In return they taught me to play chess.
When I returned to Blackfoot, my brother John had a bunch of houses to build and he told me I could come work with him and my brothers Adam and Jud. For the next 20 years I worked with him in construction. John was called on a work mission for the church in 1960. He went to Hawaii. I had bought my father’s school bus and route when he died in 1957 and later I bought a couple more from Cleon Bergeson. When John left, I went into contracting on my own and continued to run the school buses. We also bought a 13 unit apartment house, which turned out to be a disaster. We lost money but finally got them sold. I was asked to be the supervisor of the addition to the Blackfoot 4th Ward chapel. I was financial clerk of the ward for Bishop Howard Packham. I was also the chairman of the annual rodeo sponsored by our ward. Later I was called as Bishop Packham’s councilor.
It was at this time that we received a call to South America as construction missionary, to supervise construction of chapels there. Doris was in the hospital at the time, having just given birth to our youngest daughter Beth. We had just completed a new home and had it filled with new furniture. So we began the process of disposing of our belongings. We sold the house, furniture and all; sold the school buses; and told the kids to round up their friends and give them their bikes and all of their toys. This was in October, and after we got started it was like an early Christmas for the neighborhood. We got rid of our 2 year supply and finally had left only our pots and pans and bedding, which we were going to store in my mother’s basement. We packed what we were going to take with us in a few suitcases and duffle bags and we were ready to go. We loaded the baggage into the pickup and were ready to go to the airport when something told me to go downstairs and get our book of Remembrance and take with me. So I did, not really knowing why. We had gotten all the required shots for us and the kids, except Beth who was just a month old. We had passports with everyone listed, and we left for Montevideo, Uruguay. When we arrived and started through customs, they wouldn’t let us in until we could show them proof of Beth’s birth. So we reached in our bag, got out the Book of Remembrance, where her birth certificate was, and had no further problem getting in. We stayed in Montevideo for a month while they decided where to send us. While there, I fenced the basketball court at the Mormon Block, where Pres. A. Theodore Tuttle lived. They sent us to Concepcion, Chile, to added a chapel to the classroom section that had already been built. We spent 6 months there and then were moved to Valparaiso, Chile, to build a stake center there. We found housing in Vina del Mar a few miles away. We spent the next 15 months working on that project. John and Arlene came down the last 3 months and helped us finish it. We left for home on Oct. 2, 1966, Beth’s second birthday. We had written home to Wally Moses, who had sold his house and needed a new one. So we had work waiting for us when we got home. When we left, we had sold our house on time, so we had little available cash to reestablish ourselves, so we needed whatever work we could get to aid us. Before we could finish Wally’s house, Gerald Stolworthy came by and wanted us to build him one in Idaho Falls. Then we got the Woodville Church to build, the Rose Ward, Riverside’s addition and so on. We also began building us a home on Willow Drive, nights after work, and within two years time after coming home we had us a new house built and paid for. When we got ready to build, the Boise Payette Lumber Co. quit business here, so we were able to buy most of our framing material at cost. I was sent to Salt Lake to buy doors and paneling for the Stolworthy house, so while I was there I bought enough for myself and John. So for $4500 I got enough for all three houses. Alva Lewis came and wired our house for us and wouldn’t take pay. Bill Poulsen let us go to Salt Lake and buy our carpet and furniture from his wholesale outlet. One thing after another just kept happening to help us get a home again. When we went to South America, we sold our bus business to Neil Miller for less than we were asking anyone else. I didn’t at the time really know why. When we came home, I needed some way to feed the family because we wouldn’t have any money until we could finish the houses we were working on. So one night after work I went over to Claude Wren who was also in the bus business and told him what my problem was and asked him if he would sell me one of his buses. He didn’t really want to but said he would to help me. We agreed to take over the following morning. I went home, told Doris what I had done and we had just sat down to the supper table when there was a knock on the door. There stood Neil Miller. He was wondering if we would like to buy the buses back. So before we knew it, we were back in business with an extra one he had gotten from his father-in-law. Within two years’ time after our return from So. America, we had our buses back, a new home, a new set of tools for our construction work, and were reestablished in the construction business and had it all paid for. So we know that the Lord watches out for us and blessed us with many opportunities. In 1972 we bought three more buses and routes from Monte Wren, which made a total of six large buses and one 15 passenger mini-bus. In 1967 I was called by Pres. Allan Larsen to serve on the High Council and served there until Aug. of 1971 when I was called to be bishop of the Blackfoot 4th Ward with Vaughn Hawkes and Israel Merrill as my councilors. We built us a new home on the corner of Rich Land and Merkley Lane. We also built a big bus garage out there. This move put us in the Blackfoot 7th Ward. In May 1974 I was released as bishop and installed as High Priest Group leader of the 7th Ward. Details Jesse didn’t mention . . . . by Doris Yancey While Jesses was in the Air Force, in the hospital, he shared the gospel with anyone who would listen. One fellow did listen. Sometime after Jesse had come home, this man wrote to him, thanking him for teaching him the gospel. In a way, Jesse felt that he had been given a chance to finish his mission there in Texas. Soon after Jesse was discharged from the Service, we bought a house. He was working for John and soon decided he wanted to build his own home. We couldn’t sell ours. We rented it and kept trying to sell. Finally Jesse gave it to his renters if they would take over the mortgage. That rather set a pattern. We built, moved in for a few months, sold at cost, barely, and moved on. One purchaser held a house for one month and re-sold it at a profit of $10,000. When we went to South America, we not only sold for a minimum price, but we gave them the furniture. Discussing this one time, Jesse said, “Well, I can sleep at night, knowing I haven’t cheated anyone.” Jesse taught me how to cut his hair. I did it in self-defense. Early in our marriage, he traded haircuts with a friend of his. When he came home he was a nicked and gouged scarecrow. The next day he came home laughing and said his co-workers told him their wives could do better than that, so I might as well do it as to get credit for it. So I cut his and the boys and Jesse cut mine. As Bishop, Jesse once had to hold a court which excommunicated a man who was jailed for a killing. The bishopric and wives went to the temple and also had a special prayer before they convened that court. Then he worked so hard to counsel and help the wife to cope and retain a testimony.
One time he had a priest who had an accident. Surgery was indicated. The Priests’ Quorum was gathered in fasting and prayer. When the young man returned for his final check before surgery, the doctor in amazement found it unnecessary. Jesse called his priests back together for another prayer—a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving. One of those young men told me he was amazed because he had never thought of such a thing as having prayer for the sole purpose of expressing thanks. He viewed it as a special moment of learning in his life. I was not surprised by his story. I remembered one of these times when we were in Chile. Following Sacrament meeting soon after we had arrived there, a sister approached us and spoke English. It was sweet to hear. She offered to go shopping with me. The moment we returned to our apartment, Jesse gathered the family to offer a prayer of thanks for the blessing of assistance offered us. Jesse really appreciated the proselyting elders who spent much of their P days working with him on the building project. We fed them a few times in exchange and just to give them a break. The reason we got to serve a building mission in Chile was because Jesse wanted to. John and Arlene were on a mission and said there was a need for builders. So John told the brethren over him that he had a brother just dying to go. We were contacted but I was protesting that I’d like at least to wait until our baby was born. Jess kept hoping to go to South America, but saying he’d probably get as far as Fort Hall. To myself, I thought that was far enough. Beth was born Oct. 2, 1964. Jess came to the hospital the next day in excitement. “Guess what I’ve got to show you.” He didn’t wait for my reply. We’re going to South America.” He had already phoned Brother Walton to tell him the baby was born, so we could go. He was ready whether or not I was! But by the time the missionary building program was discontinued he was just as ready to return home as he had been to leave. The assignment was to build chapels, using untrained young native members called as Church Builders, with the metric system and Spanish language plans, and primitive tools. Cement blocks made by the missionaries, cement mixed in wheelbarrows, one shovelful at a time. Sometimes there was not a wheelbarrow. They used the street, shovels and buckets. The poor Church Builders had never worked like that, nor so long nor so hard. They thought holidays were play days. To Jess it was the day to get the branch members out to enjoy a real work project. Our supervisors told us the first job was about a six month task. So Jess did it in six months, and they were surprised, and unprepared. So they gave him a three year project. Again they were astonished and often not prepared for the materials shipments needed. This time John and Arlene, who had finished their building mission, came to Chile to help us finish. They paid their own way and donated their time and effort. So this project was finished in 18 months. In addition the red tape and paper work was done so the building could be dedicated. Many projects had taken 6 months or a year to finish the paper work. In a land where laborers wore suits to work and changed into work clothes after they arrived to hide their menial work status, Jess was an anomaly. He wore his work clothes to the bank. Employees there sniffed, but took his money. It was a large account. Store owners let him go behind counters and handle the tools or materials before purchasing it, something just not done there. He went to purchase a box of apples. Jess and his Chilean friend asked the price, and Jess questioned about their freshness. He wanted only good ones. The fellow said, “Todos Buenos, si.” So Jess agreed and then dumped them out and began sorting out the spoiled. His friend and the peddler were both protesting, but Jess just kept on, reminding them he wanted todos buenos. Next time he came the seller started sorting them out and gave good ones in exchange for the bad before Jess even asked.
Early into our mission, Jesse was asked to speak in church. He had an interpreter and managed to convey his message. He never learned the language, but could do quite well with his special friend Eliodoro. They pantomimed, drew pictures, used their own form of Splanglish. Before we left, Jesse spoke again. He wanted to do it for them in their own language, so he wrote it and I translated it as far as I could and then we went to the elders for help. One of them corrected my problems and then we rehearsed over and over. When Jesse got up to speak and declined an interpreter, surprise and intense interest was evident. Jess fractured some pronunciations, but he made it, to the delight and appreciation of the members. A few other Chilean experiences: When we left New York and the flight attendant gave ditching instructions, I knew there was no equipment nor possibility of successfully ditching with a tiny bay. Jesse watched the little drops of oil leave the engine housing and prayed that the repairs made while we were delayed were sufficient. We both kept quiet about our observations until after we safely arrived. When we entered Chile we had no visa to stay there. It should have been granted before the entrance. So we had red tape galore. Almost we had to leave the place and then apply to enter. Finally we had to fly to Santiago to apply in person and sign documents. We had to leave the children. Where? The missionaries said a member family would tend them. So off we went, taking Beth, while the older three went to strangers speaking only Spanish. After a long day of paper work, we were legal. We returned to the airport. It was raining. Flights were delayed, then totally cancelled. Despair swept over us. Then a young man approached and spoke in English to tell us of the cancellations. I asked about a bus. Yes, and he was going to Concepcion that way. I’ll take you. We got the last seats left, in the rear of the old vehicle. We had added one more companion en route to the depot. An Argentine who had no Chilean money was rescued by Jesse who bought his ticket. Luckily, Beth kept sleeping through feedings, for it took all night. Next morning we retrieved the kids who seemed calm and happy with their own adventure. We had all been blessed.
The children entered public school, the only blonds and only English speakers.
Christine had to go by herself, for schools were sex-segregated. They all had to
learn Spanish, sink or swim style. They survived! Beth became ill. My neighbor
who spoke English like I spoke Spanish, went with me to a doctor who spoke only
Spanish. He gave me a prescription for her. We got it and returned home. That
evening this lady returned with her husband who spoke good English so he could
make sure I understood what the doctor had said. Jesse got some missionaries to
come and help him administer to Beth, but she still didn’t seem to be improving.
The neighbor offered to take me back to the doctor. Suddenly I thought that what
was needed was exercise of faith. So I opted to wait. Then, after I had fully
committed to faithfulness, she improved rapidly. I hated phone calls. I could
understand nothing. Finally I forbade the kids to answer it. Paul answered the
next ring. He understood the word bloques. We were waiting for cinder blocks at
the project. I took the phone and understood that the truckload had arrived in
town and how did he find the project site? I couldn’t tell him, even in English.
So I directed him to our apartment, and then I sent my young son off with a
stranger in a strange land. Paul led him to the project. Again we were blessed.
One day Jess sprained his ankle, badly. It was profusely swollen when Eleodoro brought him home. Jesse soaked it and elevated it that evening. Next day, he crawled out of bed, dressed and went to work. How he managed to drive the pickup is a mystery. At the job, he crawled on hands and knees, but he kept the builders working and the job went on. In a few days he could hobble on the foot a bit. We were glad that it healed well. When it was painting time, Arlene and I chose the best tint of the five offered. John vetoed it. He thought he saw pink in it. So they chose their own color. Cream, they called it. We had a big day planned. All the missionaries came to help. Fifty gallon drums of paint were opened and they bean. It was yellow paint! Deep yellow. But Jess had help ready and he forged ahead. Inside and outside that building turned yellow. Mustard yellow. When his supervisor saw it, Jess made plans for re-paint. This time it looked much better in white. Jesse performed a marriage ceremony in Chile. One of his Church Builders was being married. He asked Jess to do a marriage. I said he couldn’t. He had no authority. Jess ignored me, and I kept arguing, getting really worried. What did he think he was doing. Finally he told me that Manuel and his bride were being married legally earlier in the day and then that evening they wanted a church ceremony and a reception following, so it was ceremonial only and Jess was just being kind and making them happy. No temples were even hoped for there at that time. When we were preparing to return home, Jess gave away everything we had of value. His tools and my sewing machine were the chief objects of worth. The Herrera family were really glad to get such treasures. We had to keep some clothing for travel wear and for packing our souvenirs. Many of those souvenirs were gifts from members of the branch. Jesse’s friend Eleodore Herrera and one son resisted baptism, but his wife and the other children of age were baptized before we left.