Elvie Hyde Yancey & wife Velva
HISTORY OF ELVIE HYDE YANCEY
Recorded by his daughter Gwen Yancey Bardsley, with her comments at the end
I was born in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, April 23, 1901. My parents are William Elvie Yancey and Marie Hyde. I had three brothers and three sisters, and with me as the oldest that made seven children in our family. Some of the childhood experiences I had are very fond to me. At one time Mother started me in my pleasurable pursuits that I have continued all of my life. When I was only about four years old, we lived on the banks of Lees Creek in Cardston. In those days there weren’t many people throughout the country and the fish were plentiful. Mother had no line or hook, so she took a piece of cord string, took a pin and made a hook in the end of the pin and then put it on the string. Then she gave me some bread to roll up in my fingers. I put it on the hook and dropped it out in the creek. Mother showed me how a little fish would come up and grab at it. She told me when they would bite like that, I could see that they had the bait in their mouths. I would jerk hard and throw the fish right over my head. So that’s what I did. I caught several of these little fish. I think most of them were nothing but baby suckers, but it was a great deal of pleasure and fun that started me in this business of fishing (not a business), but a pleasure I enjoy even now. At the present time (1977) I am 76 years old, and I have never gotten over fishing!
When I was just a small child about two in Canada, we had a homestead about 15 miles south of Cardston on the banks of Twin Lakes. Here I spent much of my time pleasurably and liked to get down by the water and wade in it. The fish would get between my toes and I would have a hard time getting them off. The lake was a good-sized one; it must have been a mile across and two or three miles long. The farm went down into the lake at the corner. I wanted a boat one time, and Dad had two or three boards right there on the place. I got a hold of the boards and asked him if I could use them to make myself a boat. Mother said, “Let him do it,” so I started to work on my boat. I was about six years old. I took the boards and fit them together. Father told me to take a piece of board and put it in the middle and I could bend the other ends around. I worked on it for hours. My father saw that I was having a hard time, not being strong enough to bend those boards. (I was just a little kid.) He stopped long enough to get the boards bent and then to nail the front end and then the back end. After that I put the back on, then the bottom in it, and I nailed it all together. It leaked so badly that one couldn’t put it in water; it would sink in a minute. I filled the boat with cloth and rags all through the cracks and then put it on the water and let it soak well. I’d ride that boat a little right near the shore, and the folks told me not to get out in the lake with it. It was ten feet long but only a foot and a half wide, so it was dangerous to be riding in it.
About that time in my life, Father used to gather hay from outside the field, which belonged to no one. He would go out in the meadow and mow it. From that place one could look to the northeast in the direction of the Hudson Bay, 2,000 miles away, skirt around a farm or two, mow a swath of hay for 2,000 miles and never hit a fence. It was a sparsely settled country.
When I was only two years old, I was the only grandchild of Grandma and Grandpa Hyde, Don Carlos and Sarah Thomas Hyde. Grandpa Hyde brought an old pinto as tame as a pet kitten when we lived down on the creek. He thought I might really enjoy having a ride on the horse. Many children were wild about riding a horse. He set me in the saddle and handed me the reins. He told me that when I wanted to go one way to pull one side, and then pull on the other side to make the horse go the opposite way. The horse slowly walked through the lot we were in and came to a tree. A branch was just high enough to catch me in the stomach. It lifted me out of the saddle and across the hips of the horse, and I fell a mighty long way for a two-year-old boy. I remember that it hurt me. Something of this kind one really remembers. (Elvie never let his children ride horses.)
The next thing I remember at two years old is that I had been bothering Mother one day when it was very cold. She was trying to sew, which she did for other folks, and it bothered her to have me around so much. Towards evening, Father came home from his carpenter work, which he did when he wasn’t a farmer. Mother told him to see if he couldn’t keep me occupied in doing something so she could be free to do her sewing. He took a pencil and paper and placed it on a chair and called me over to watch him. I stood there while he tried to draw me a cat. It was hard for me to wait to get hold of that pencil because I wanted to do it too. He told me to draw a cat like he did. It was a simple drawing with circles, ears and feet. I stood there by the chair drawing with a pencil all the rest of the day. The next day Mother knew how to keep me away from her sewing so she put me down by a chair with a pencil and paper, and I would stay for hours at a time. After days had gone by, and I continued to draw, the pictures began to get better. We had pigs in a pen and I attempted to draw one of them and kept drawing it several times. Finally I took the last one over to Mother and showed her. She looked at it and said that that was a pretty good pig and she would keep it for me. I remember she still had the picture when I was 48 years old.
Drawing like this was completely fascinating to me. Each day afterwards, I would stand by this chair and continue to draw pictures. The neighborhood children would come over to play with me, and they would have a hard time getting me away from my drawing. Mother would take the pencil and paper away from me over my protests and make me go out to play. This was the beginning of my art-work career that I continued even until I was older.
When I was about three years old, Father and Mother and I were visiting someone in Kimball, just 12 miles from Cardston and three miles from our homestead. While we were there, Father went out with a pail and pumped it full of water. The pump was quite hard to work and I kept asking Father to let me do the pumping. He said, “You can’t do that, it’s too hard for you.” Then he thought he would give in, so he put a trough over to the horse watering vat, and then pumped enough to get the water started for me. I got hold of the handle of the pump and at first I couldn’t pull it down, but I discovered by putting my whole weight on the pump and lifting my feet off the ground, I could pump water! Mother was watching me through the window. My parents thought I would give it up in a few minutes, but I fooled them and stayed out there pumping for an hour or more. I would not give up and I continued until I was so tired I was about ready to fall down exhausted. It proved to me and to my parents that I had a streak of determination. They talked to people about me pumping that water through the rest of their lives.
On Dad’s farm on Twin Lakes, there was a Mounted Police station touching Father’s farm on the south one-half mile from where our house stood. Mother, being good at sewing, thought it would be fun to make me a suit just like the Mounted Police wore. She told me that if I would go down to the Police barracks and ask them for an old discarded suit, that she would make a Mounted Police suit! After a few days, she finished the suit and I tried it on. It fit perfectly! Mother asked me to go down to the Police barracks and show them the suit she had made. I walked down there with suit on and went in the door where there were three or four Mounted Policemen. When they saw me in a suit like their own, they laughed and laughed and thought it was a great joke. They were very kind and treated me very nicely, even though they were known to be rough men. One of the Mounted Police would take me in a boat just for enjoyment.
We not only had a homestead, but we had a house in Cardston too where Father would return in the winter and do carpenter work, and then the next spring go back to the farm. The next thing I remember is when I was seven years old. Other kids at seven were starting school. I would have had to move to Cardston which was 15 miles away. The folks very badly needed to stay at the homestead so they decided they wouldn’t send me until the next year. My parents were worried that I wasn’t getting started at the same age as the other kids, so they decided to teach me all they could in the way of schooling, just by themselves.
Mother would teach me some things that I was missing in school while she was doing things around the house. When I would go out with Father hauling hay and hauling other things in the wagon, he would keep drilling me in addition, subtraction and multiplying. He would keep it up until I was so mentally tired of it I would try to get him to stop. He would give me a number of figures to add in my mind and insist that I do it quickly.
Mother taught me to read. After the schooling I received from my parents I started school the next year. Of course I went into first grade. After I had lessons for a few days I went home and told Mother that I already knew the things that they were teaching in the first grade. She told me to go tell the teacher the next day that I knew all those things already. The teacher kept me in at night for a little examination. The teacher let me go home but the next morning she took me up to the principal’s office and told him. He examined me a little bit further and told the teacher to put me in the third grade. I was eight years old and a year ahead of the other students my age.
After I had been going to school about one and a half years, about in the fourth grade, the school had adding contests. They were equal in all grades, or the same contest was in all the schools throughout the Province of Alberta. Our grade won the Province-wide contest. This contest comprised of a row as figures as high as the blackboard. Kids in the grade had been practicing rapid adding for sometime before this. When it took place in our fourth grade, some added the columns in seven seconds, a few more in six seconds, and there were very few that added it in five seconds. My seatmate came before me and he beat the whole class in four- and-a-half seconds flat. Next it was my turn. I added it in four seconds flat! Then the teachers all over the school and the principal tried it and none of them could do it in four seconds. Four seconds was not equaled anywhere over the whole Province! This was how it was possible: I could look at the whole row of figures and immediately pick out all the numbers that made ten, two or three of them put together. Then I took the single figures at the end and added them up. I guess my father’s training while loading a load of hay taught me to add pretty well.
Sometimes we would have an extremely wet spring. Rain would pour down for days and days and would never stop, and it would cause floods. Since we lived in our house on the banks of Lees Creek, there were dangers of floods to our house. During a flood after many days of rain, Lees Creek rose to the size of a huge river and then it overflowed the banks. Our house was built upon wood pilings to hold it up off the ground, and it would take a big flood to get in the house. During this time the water kept rising and one morning we got up during the flood and found that the water had reached the top of the pilings near the floor of the house. We were surrounded by water.
Our neighbor Ephraim Harker saw our predicament, so he went up to his home, got a team and wagon with a hay rack on it and drove the team and wagon right up to our house. The water was up to the stomachs of the horses. He loaded all of us on the hay rack with a few things we could grab and take with us and took us to a home of a Latter-day Saint, George Olsen, who consented to let us stay with them until the flood was over.
While we were there, the water kept rising until it was in on the floor of the house, and then it began to subside because the rains had stopped coming down so hard. A number of people lost their homes, but when the flood was down, our house was still intact. Father lost no time after the flood to purchase a piece of ground on a hill which was the highest spot in Cardston. Then the house was moved to this place where our family lived. It had two rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs. It was while we were here we met friends like the Woolseys and the Laynes.
About two years later, another tremendous flood came at the same time of year. This flood reached the height that would have washed the house away if we had remained where we had been during the first flood. This time we had the best view in Cardston of the flood and the damage it was doing. It cut into the banks of the river and washed our houses for 100 feet or more. We watched a very large house break up and drop into the stream. There were several other houses that were taken during this terrible flood. No people were killed, but some animals died. I remember seeing chickens washed down the river standing on logs. All the people had found other places to go, and they moved out their belongings. They didn’t keep track of the water during the flood in inches like they do now. The rain continued as a steady downpour and my personal estimate of the amount that was falling would be around five or six inches a day, and it continued for at least thirty days. Lees Creek was down in a valley about a half a mile wide. This whole valley was filled with water until it appeared to be a river as large as the Columbia River. This was not the farm home on Twin Lakes but the town home.
After this rain had continued for such a long time, we were so tired of it we didn’t know what to do. Oliver, my brother just younger than me, was about seven years old. He said to Mother, “Let’s pray to the Lord and ask him to stop this rain.” Mother said, “OK, we will.” Mother and the three boys, me, Oliver and Hugh knelt around a chair and Mother prayed. After about two hours the sun had come through an opening in the clouds and it wasn’t until long after the whole sky was full of sunshine. We were all watching to see if the rain would quit and it did.
I remember one of my first playmates was Ireta Pitcher. She lived across the street from Grandpa and Grandma’s (Don and Sarah Hyde), Mother’s parents. They lived on their ranch three miles south of Cardston. I was just three years old when I played with Ireta, and our friendship didn’t last too long because her parents moved down to Smithfield, Utah, but I never forgot her and the good times we had as little children. The only way we kept in touch after that was sending each other cards on Valentine’s Day. This continued until we were both grown, and then Ireta got married and we didn’t send any more valentines. I learned that Ireta was quite a small woman and beautiful. Not long after she got married, I went on my mission to the Easter States.
I was baptized on May 2, 1909, in Lees Creek in Cardston. Since the ice is slow in melting in that country, the ice had just gone out of the creek. When the Church did the baptizing, they would choose one brave man who would stand the cold water and he baptized us all. I remember when my body hit that cold water, that if my hair had any muscles in it, it would have stood straight up from the shock. Ernest Wydner, who did the baptizing, was stronger than I was, so he pulled me down into the water that was deep enough to be immersed in. Then he baptized me in the freezing water. They threw big towels and blankets on me after, and then Father confirmed me a little later.
I used to love the water and float on rafts or boats out in the water. I enjoyed going to be with some cousins named Head in McGrath 30 miles north of Cardston. We’d spend a lot of time pulling a raft around on a huge pond. I enjoyed it so much that along with my cousins and the other kids there, we would almost spend the whole day at the pond.
When I was seven years old, Father took Mother and the family to Salt Lake City to be sealed in the temple in 1908 in the fall when the apples were ripe. Rose, who was two years old, Hugh, Oliver and I were all sealed to my parents. We felt so peaceful and wonderful in the temple. Mother and Father impressed on us that what was happening would let us be a family in heaven. In American Fork where Grandma (Sarah Tunnell) and Grandpa (Jasper Yancey) lived, they had some apple and pear trees, also prunes and plums which looked like heavenly fruit. No apples or fruit grew in Canada at that time. This was the first time I saw apples on a tree. How we used to enjoy picking them and eating them. Later we went to Dad’s brother Uncle Tom’s place, and he had an orchard where he let me pick all I could eat. He was a kind uncle to us. I visited my cousins Eva, and Evva, Darrell and an older sister Laura who were Uncle Tom’s children. Before we left for Cardston by train, I visited Aunt Flora Yancey Condor, Father’s youngest sister, and her family. I especially remember Ethel because were the same age and we were very congenial with each other. I visited her again once when I was 16 and once when I came home from my mission.
I saw many firsts in my life. About 1908 the first automobile came to Cardston. It was built like a horse-drawn buggy, but with hard rubber tires about one- and- a- half inches in diameter. It had a front and back seat and the engine was behind the back seat, a big one cylinder engine with chains going down to the wheels. It had no steering wheel on it, but the car was steered by a lever by the driver’s seat. How it scared the horses! That car caused a great many horses to run away. Pretty soon a Ford came to town with inflated tires and a steering wheel!
About the same time the first airplane came to Lethbridge. Father and Mother took the children to see it. Eli was the name of the pilot. There were thousands and thousands of people to watch Eli fly the plane. Later Eli flew from Lethbridge to another town but was killed when the plane crashed. The plane only went about 100 feet. This was just like the Wright Brothers’ plane. Eli asked if there was anyone who would like to ride with him. I ran out in front of the whole crowd and a policeman caught me and brought me back to my parents. I was disappointed. Dad said Eli probably wanted a girl to go with him, but no girl did.
I saw the first electric light come to Cardston. They put in some street lights first. These lights had two pieces of carbon that touched together inside the globe and made an arc light. These carbons had to be replaced every few days or else they would burn out. Soon incandescent globes were in the homes and replaced the old kerosene lamps.
I also saw the first telephones that came into Cardston. We had one put in our house. Grandpa Hyde, who lived in Cardston part of the time, had a telephone put in his house in town. He farmed the rest of time on his ranch three miles south of Cardston during the summer. Grandma ran a boarding house during the winter where they had a phone put in. While Uncle Preston took care of the farm, they moved back to Cardston for the winter.
Soon after the telephones, the lights, and the automobiles, the first moving picture show came to town. The name of the show was “Peck’s Bad Boys.” About all it was was three boys who would play pranks upon people and then run. The one they played the prank on would also run away. Cardston people thought it was great to see pictures that moved on the screen. The pictures were jerky and jumpy. It was hard on the eyes. Fanny Brown played the piano for music. (She later moved to Boise.)
About 1911 when I was ten years old, my Uncle Preston, Mother’s brother, went on a mission to Australia, and I wanted to go so badly with him. Mother said, “Well, you can go on a mission when you are older.” He was a good missionary, and when he came home he married Jenny Thompson.
When I was 12 I used to be in military training called the Cadets. One summer after the militia was in Calgary, the Cadets were called to occupy the same camp for a few days of training. In those days they were not so particular about food. I remember that they had a stew, and when we went to get our dinner, the cook took a great big wooden paddle like an oar and took the maggots off the top of the stew with it. We were so starved from the training and even though a lot of the maggots were still in the stew, even some in the meat, everyone had to eat it or go in the guardhouse if they complained. We picked the maggots out and ate the meat. The said it would make a man out of you. (?)
While we were there one of the boys got hit by a piece of brass we were firing in a sham battle (a fake battle with blanks). He recovered. His name was David Thorpe. That was the end of our military experience for that summer, and then we caught the train and went back to Cardston. I continued in training after school twice a week.
Also when I was 12 I joined the Boy Scouts and learned all the knot tying: the figure eight and others. Knowing the fisherman’s knot, the bolen knot, the sheep-shank knot, slip knot—most of these knots have been a help to me during the years. We’d go on outings every now and then. One summer, the scoutmaster was my Uncle Lafe Hyde, Mother’s brother, and he took our group of Boy Scouts to Glacier Park. Here was where I had my first bite of Hershey Bars. They had nothing like them in Canada so the taste to me was divine. While we were there one day, we rented two large rowboats, and we rode from the lower end of St. Mary’s Lake to the upper end. This was about eight miles with about eight kids in each boat. There were a few others who stayed back in camp. When we got to the upper end of the lake, we climbed a mountain but it began to get steep. The leading kids would accidentally knock little rocks loose and they would roll back on the other kids. The farther the lead kids climbed, the more dangerous the rocks became. Uncle Lafe could see the danger and decided we better not climb any farther, but return again. We stopped for a rest and we were all extremely hungry after rowing for eight miles, then mountain climbing. We hadn’t brought any sandwiches with us, but we brought several cans of tomatoes, so we ate them. We were still hungry but could get no more food until we rowed down the lake and returned to camp. The wind started to blow right in our faces. We were going against a hard wind, and the waves began to roll, so we rowed near the shore. The roll of the waves caused boats to go up and down. After we had rowed for about halfway to the camp, the kids began to get seasick. In the boat I was in, there were only about two of us left to row. I wasn’t going to get sick, and I didn’t! Gareth Rynhart and I were the only ones left rowing the boat. It was late at night when we returned, and we were terribly tired and starved. When we finally got to camp, the manager from the hotel nearby told us that the boys left in camp were out hunting pigs. A bear had eaten one of the pigs so the manager sent them looking for the rest of the pigs and gave the boys some money to find them. We helped them even though we were so hungry. The pigs were food for the hotel customers. With the money we bought Hershey candy bars. They were about a nickel apiece, and we each had 25 cents. We stayed a few days and had a lot of fun in boats and watched the big fish in the water. I could see ten feet down, but I had no fishing tackle so I couldn’t catch any fish. We enjoyed the leisurely trip home.
In 1915 in the fall, my father W.E. Yancey was lucky enough to get a crop. Usually crop failures on the farm were common. The last crop that had been a success was in 1908. The family used this money in 1908 to visit Father’s parents and brothers and sister in American Fork, Utah and Pleasant Grove, Utah, also for Father, Mother and four children to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. The expense, of course, was the train fare to Utah.
Then when the next crop came in 1915, Father sold all his land and home in Cardston and moved to Weiser, Idaho. Father came alone leaving the family in Cardston until he arranged for a house in Weiser for them to live, then have them come in the spring. I was 14 and in March I came alone by train to meet Father in Weiser. I had earned the money which I had saved and could buy my own ticket. I had worked in a printing office, “The Cardston Globe” for nearly three years at five dollars a month after school and on Saturdays. I was called “the printer’s devil,” a name given to the youngest one working in a printing office. After a stopover in Spokane one night, I arrived the next evening in Weiser. Father wasn’t there but I went to the Weiser Hotel where Father had a room and they let me go to his room where I waited for him until the next day.
He was out of town making arrangements to take over a relinquished homestead about seven miles south of Weiser on the Oregon side of the Snake River. Father had already purchased a team of horses and a plow and harrow to work about 40 acres of the 160 acres of the homestead. We stayed in Weiser a couple of days, and then went out to the homestead, a dry farm, and Father plowed it up.
Father became very ill and had to remain in bed. I walked to town to try to get medicine. Uncle Fred Hyde was there, and when I told him how sick father was, he borrowed a team and wagon and went to the farm. Father was so sick that a man who came with Uncle Fred helped bundle Father up and laid him in the wagon. They took him to the hospital in Weiser where it was found he had appendicitis, so he was operated on for this. Father told me to go back to the farm and see if I could do the harrowing.
I was not experienced much with horses but had to do it until one of the horses, a very nervous one, got scared from a clap of thunder and caused a runaway while he was still pulling the harrow. I was walking behind the harrow but could not run as fast as the horse so had to let go of the reins. The horses ran to the edge of the field and turned and came back racing like mad. The harrow jumped two or three times almost on the backs of the horses. This, of course, frightened them even more so they really ran. When they reached the lower end of the field, the horses ran right through a barbed wire fence breaking it and got the harrow tangled up in the sage brush on the side of the field. This stopped them, so I went up and unhitched them and led the horses to a shed where I tied them up.
Then I went into the little homestead shack where I stayed. A storm had come and it was raining hard. I don’t remember whether I tried to harrow again; the fright of the runaway had me very upset. It seemed that all my experiences with horses were frightening ones, and so I never liked horses. The crop that was finally put in turned out poorly because of a dry summer, and there were hundreds of jack rabbits that would come in and eat it. When Father was able, we fenced the 40 acres with netted wire which helped keep them out.
All the food I had while Father was in the hospital was potatoes and flour. I would put the potatoes in a frying pan, using water as there was no grease to cook them, and then I would stir up some flour and water and make fried bread in the pan also. How I craved a piece of meat but had none. There were sage hens, also great flocks of geese flying overhead. If I had had a .22 rifle it would have furnished me with a little meat.
One day I saw a quite young jack rabbit so I grabbed a stick and chased him. After a mighty chase I caught up to it and killed him with a stick. Then I took it and cleaned it and fried in water. It sure tasted good!
The rest of the family came in May, two months after I had come. Father had a house in mind but didn’t buy it until after Mother and the rest of the children came. The house they chose in Weiser was one almost like one Mother had seen in a dream. It had a locust tree out in front just like in her dream. It made a wonderful place for the family for the winter after farming all summer. It was also a place where the children could go to school. Father also did some carpenter work in the winter.
I started high school in Weiser, in the ninth grade. The subjects seemed easy for me as some were a repeat of what I had studied in Canadian schools, like geometry and algebra. History was different and English was about the same.
After school was out in the spring I would get a job to earn money. One summer I worked on the section gang. The next year I got a job on the signal gang on the railroad, then got a job in a gypsum mine on the Oregon side of the Snake River north of Huntington. The money I earned gave me an idea of making a boat to put on the Snake River to take out pleasure riders. I had a friend or chum that was a year younger than me who was quite engineer-minded. He drew up the plans for a 30-foot boat, and we got busy building it. When it was finished we had spent $600 and went in debt for another $600 which was needed to buy a used marine engine in Portland and ship it to Weiser.
My parents let me go ahead with all this which turned into a good experience, but it didn’t make much in the way of a profit. We did, however, take in over $200 one day taking out pleasure riders on the Fourth of July from an island where the day was celebrated by most of the townspeople. The next year I took in $260 in the same day. With what we made in between at times we got the boat paid for. I had furnished all the finances, so then I sold the boat by trading it for a used car with some money left over. Soon I was 19 and old enough to go on a mission. I sold the car and used what money I had to help my folks send me on a mission.
It turned out that all the family helped. Rose started a beauty parlor; mother had a hemstitcher and pleater and button machine in the same building. I should have said that by this time Father had sold his farm and horses and bought a small grocery store. The store never provided much for them except a bare living which really helped. He did well enough in the store but bad credits accumulated which ate up all excess profits. Father was too lenient with those who seemed to need credit.
In January 1922 I left for a mission to the Eastern States Mission. It comprised a large area at this time, all of the New England States and several states south of New York. I was first placed to labor in Weehauken and Hoboken on the New Jersey side of the river. There were many Dutch people there at this time, also Germans and Jewish people.
Elder Hugh Colton was my first companion. He was a brother of Congressman Don Colton from Utah. Elder Colton was also the branch president and Sunday meetings were conducted by him. All combined there may have been around 100 with children and grown-ups. During the week we tracted and held cottage meetings, usually in the home of a member. We invited prospective members and the Saints invited other people. It was as difficult for me to speak on a subject as it had been before my mission. I would only sit and listen to others talk, hardly ever entering into a conversation. I had never learned to organize a talk for church or anywhere for that matter. Even in tracting I had a tough time talking to people, but when I left for a mission, one thought was uppermost in my mind. That was to complete a two-year mission and stick to it no matter how difficult it was. My mind was made up that I would do my best or die trying and I didn’t die!
One trouble was that Elder Colton, although a very fine missionary, did not help me very much. All I remember is him telling me to study which I did for about two hours every day. It was still very hard for me to express myself. I was with Elder Colton for three months, and then was transferred from the New Jersey side of the river to Brooklyn.
One thing that Elder Colton had us do to get alert and full of vim and vigor each morning was to take an icy cold bath with no hot water. The water was really cold because it came in deep pipes right out of the Catskills Mountains, also it was wintertime. At first the shock was stunning, but later it did liven me up. I got so that I enjoyed it, so I kept it up later unless it was too inconvenient to do it. The effect was exhilarating and really woke us up in the mornings. With Elder Colton I had some wonderful spiritual experiences but I will speak of them a little later.
My next companion in Brooklyn was Elder Howard Rolapp. He was 22 and had passed the Bar as a lawyer. His father was the president of a sugar company in Salt Lake City. He turned out to be my most loved companion during my whole mission. However, I had other wonderful companions later on.
Elder Rolapp was able to see what I needed to do to stand up and speak in church and in cottage meetings. He taught me how to organize a talk. We also practiced talking to tree stumps which were at one end of a nearby cemetery, and acted as if the stumps were people. Elder Rolapp would sit back on one of the stumps to listen to me. I would always accept criticism and be glad to have it, so my progress was rapid.
One Sunday evening I was called to speak in sacrament meeting, so I got up and gave a talk for 20 minutes about Father in Heaven, using the text of “O My Father” from the song book. After the meeting half of the audience came up and said how they enjoyed the talk. One of the nonmembers came up and asked if he could be able to buy the song book from where I got my text. It gave me great pleasure, and from then on I could speak in both Church and cottage meetings, also in street meetings.
When I left Howard Rolapp to be assigned as senior companion, I had been out seven months. Then in one month more I was transferred to Vermont by President B.H. Roberts. He was the mission president, and what a president he was! I went to Vermont as conference president; later on it was called district president.
I found Vermont to be entirely different from Brooklyn. It was a tough nut to crack. They were against the Church and Joseph Smith whom they called an imposter. It was made more difficult by people who had become members at one time and had apostatized, some living in adultery. We had a bad name. It was difficult to get permission from city officials to hold street meetings, which I enjoyed doing. We got a schoolhouse for a meeting once and canvassed the whole neighborhood finding people to come to our meeting. We had quite a crowd; we later visited some in their homes.
It was the policy of the Church at this time that investigators not be baptized less than a year after first being contacted, so it was difficult to say you had converted anyone. We did baptize some people with whom other missionaries had gotten started. I could not say that I had converted a single person, but it must have been 30 to 50 people that I baptized who had started with other missionaries
It was winter when I went to Vermont and the weather was extremely cold. It was below zero a lot of time. There was a family of Saints on a ranch out of Newport, Vermont that the mission office told us to visit. By the way, many Saints in Vermont had no opportunity to attend church because they were scattered and isolated throughout the state. This family had not seen a Church member or someone holding the priesthood for a long time. Few owned an automobile and in northern Vermont they almost talked a different language.
We walked to these members’ isolated home in the snow. There was an old road but few sleighs had been traveling it. As I remember, it was a long way out of the country. After inquiring at another house we knew it was the right road so we kept on in the extreme cold and finally arrived. The family was glad to see us but we could hardly understand them; they seemed to be talking in another language. We soon discovered they were not, but they almost seemed to be singing their words. We got the idea and soon could understand them. There were two girls around 16 or 17 who had been out rounding up a cow. The mother asked why they had been out so long, and one girl answered in a song-like speech that the cow was over the “mountings.” They treated us real well and were glad to see us. We stayed a day and tried to build up their spirits which I’m sure we did.
After a day we left them and headed for south Vermont where it was a little warmer. We were feeling sorry for Saints like them who had so little contact with the Church. There were not even radios in those days. Some peopled lived their whole lives in just one valley and never left it. Now with radios, televisions and cars I imagine those different accents of speech are all becoming one and alike.
We continued tracting mostly until the weather got warm. Then we got word from President Roberts that during the summer we were to do country work away from the towns and cities and do it without purse or scrip. This was awful in Vermont where nearly all the people who knew of Joseph Smith had been taught that he was an imposter, a liar, a low brow who had written a crummy book called the Book of Mormon. It was tough to do missionary work without purse or scrip. I think we slept in straw or haystacks three-fourths of the time. Occasionally we would be invited into a house. We missed a lot of meals because people turned us down for food so often. They wanted nothing to do with us and treated us like were bums and we almost got to feeling like one.
After leaving a straw stack we would look for a pond or a trickle of water somewhere so we could shave in cold water. I used a straight blade razor like a barber used in those days. One time we walked down a country road for many miles and we were starved. We passed or stopped at two or three houses along the way and tried to teach them the gospel. They were snobby to us and we couldn’t seem to get anywhere with them, and they wouldn’t give us anything to eat. We kept on going miles further and came to a tiny house where an old man and woman lived. They were almost starving themselves by the looks of them and their house. They had one lone cauliflower in their garden, but the woman picked it and cooked it and gave it to us. How good it tasted and how thankful we were! They were kind to us, but the gospel had no appeal to them. They still tried to listen, but it must have been that their minds were so old they couldn’t understand it all. They were so kind to us that we tried to give them an extra special blessing. I believe that the Lord really did bless them.
Towards fall about the last of August it was nearing time to walk from Vermont to the Hill Cumorah. President Roberts had all the missionaries in the whole mission start walking down highways doing missionary work as they went along inviting people to come to the Hill Cumorah on September 22, 23, and 24, 1923. There were about 200 missionaries at the this time, and we were going to hold a meeting on the hill on the 100th anniversary of the Book of Mormon, starting from the day when the Angel Moroni first showed Joseph Smith the plates. It was surprising to see so many who did come out of curiosity. I was conference president of the Vermont Conference, and they assigned the Vermont missionaries to raise the flag using military procedure right where the statue of Moroni now stands. We had to be there at sunrise to raise the flag, and then at sundown to lower it the same way. B.H. Roberts had been a military man and was very particular and how the flag-raising was done.
They wouldn’t have all 200 missionaries speak from the hill to all the people gathered by the hundreds on top of the hill and on one side. Heber J. Grant who was President of the Church was the first speaker. Then to my surprise, they called on me because all 20 of the conference presidents were asked to give talks. About ten Church authorities were there, and they spoke in between the conference presidents, so all of us didn’t speak the first day. It was almost like a stake conference. I was so frightened that I was trembling like a leaf in the wind, but I got through it o.k. and was glad when it was over.
Later I felt quite honored to know that I was the first missionary to speak on the Hill Cumorah. They didn’t call it a pageant then, but the continuous yearly meetings that began at this time later turned into a pageant. B.H. Roberts started this very successful venture in 1923 with all the apostles there, and it took place immediately after President Grant had just dedicated the Cardston Temple. This was interesting because I had been right near the Cardston Temple when President Joseph F. Smith laid the cornerstone several years before. Cardston was the place where I was born and lived as a child until age 14. On the Sunday that the cornerstone of the temple was laid, President Joseph F. Smith and all the Church members, including myself, walked over to the temple grounds. President asked if I was going where he was going and I said, yes, I was. I didn’t say anything else to President Smith.
I had several spiritual experiences as a missionary but have waited to tell a few of them all together later in this history. After this gathering at Cumorah we returned to our places in the mission field. Soon I was called to the same place where I had left to go to Vermont. I worked awhile in New York City, and then later I was sent to Brooklyn again where I stayed until my release in January 1924. Sister Golda “Goldie” Owens who was secretary to President and a missionary had her mother die in Idaho Falls. The mission released me a few days early in order for her to have someone to accompany her home to the funeral. It took about two-and-a-half days by train, and then I stayed for the funeral.
When I returned to my home in Weiser it was hard to adjust to regular life. I had been occupied from early morning until nine or ten o’clock each day in the mission field so I used to say that I was like a chicken with its head cu off for awhile. I got a job in a service station soon after returning and worked there until Father traded his grocery store for a larger one, the Weiser Commissary. I left the service station to work in the grocery store in 1927. Father went out of business and moved to Baker, Oregon a few months later.
This was about the time I fell in love with my wife Velva, the most wonderful girl in the world. I first met her when her family lived in Lime, Oregon. I had been driving a Ford truck delivering groceries from the store in Weiser. I had no time to get acquainted with her because I was always just delivering groceries in a hurry, going from one house to another. Velva’s mother Ida Lyons gave the order and accepted the groceries. A large family of five girls and two boys were always doing something around the place, and I never had a person-to-person conversation with Velva. She went to Baker to finish high school after we were married. She had lost a year or two because she was 20 when she graduated. Velva had been very ill and could not finish school earlier than that.
On July 4, 1927 the family and I were still in Weiser, but my sisters had bought a beauty parlor in Baker. They still had the beauty parlor in Weiser too. Velva got acquainted with my sisters in Baker, and they hit it off as friends. My father still owned the Weiser Commissary. Velva came to Weiser with a friend one day and went into the beauty parlor. My sister Marion fixed her hair and then the two of them came into the grocery store. I was very impressed by Velva’s smiling face and outstanding cheerfulness. We made a date before she left to go to a dance in Baker. I rode over to Baker and we had a wonderful time together. We even won a box of chocolates as a prize given to the couple who danced the best during a contest. I gave the candy to Velva which made her very happy. We married Dec. 25, 1927. We were sealed May 31, 1928, in the Salt Lake Temple.
About this time, after Father sold the store, I went to Baker, Oregon. The folks were moving there in a few days, and I rented a room over the K.P. building to practice my picture painting. I was going to try to sell oil paintings on the road, painting in store windows where people could watch me finish a painting very quickly. I didn’t know whether I could make a living at it or now but wanted to try. Previously I had taken an art course and practiced in my father’s store early in the mornings and in the evenings.
The first town I painted in was Grangeville in the window of a grocery store. They let me have the window for free just to pull traffic into the store. I did well at it, better than working for wages, so I went to Lewiston, Idaho. My business worked out well there too, so I traveled from town to town doing this and kept it up for 50 years. It was my main occupation until the present day in 1977. (I just worked a small show and a Christmas show last week.)
People came to our home in Boise, Idaho, and bought some from us here. When school was out and Velva graduated, we went on the road to paint. We worked all the towns in the northern part of the country all the way back to Peoria, Illinois and another town just outside of Chicago. I believe it was Dixon. We did this until 1931 and the Great Depression was really bearing down on business of all kinds. Then it was harder to make a living.
My brother Hugh had also learned to paint quickly. He got married, and he would work one town while I worked the next one. Hugh saw someone selling Crazy Crystals, a mineral water product, and they were selling well. He got a distributorship in California, and between the two businesses, we made a living. I had the state of Montana where the Crazy Crystals sold well even during the Depression. During all this time Velva and I considered that we were still on our honeymoon because of all the traveling with painting the pictures.
Later we moved to El Paso, Texas, where we took over a larger territory selling Crazy Crystals. We were sorry for the move because it did not turn out as well as it did in Montana. I also bought a photographic business in El Paso which was a good little business, and I had a couple of kids, older teenagers, running it. It was quick-finish photos, four photos for ten cents. We would make many enlargements at higher prices. It was a “direct positive machine.” When we went to El Paso we already had two children, Marion and Denise. Then in 1935 another girl came to us, Velva Lea. We enjoyed Church work in El Paso as well as our three businesses. When she was three months old, Velva Lea came down with dust pneumonia from all the dust in the area. The doctor told us that if we did not get her out of El Paso, she would die.
We left El Paso to move to Boise with a dust storm following us out of town. We have been here ever since, buying a four-acre piece of ground with a house and garage. For years in Boise we raised a beef each year and hay and grass for a milk cow, keeping the calves which we raised for beef. We were increasing our family as well. William, or “Bill” as we called him, came along in 1938. In 1941 Hugh was born. Then another wonderful girl, Gwen, was born in 1945, and later Stanley in 1950. This made seven children: Marion, Denise, Velva Lea, Bill, Hugh, Gwen and Stanley. Marion was a darling when we were on the road. She made friends with everyone and did not know such a thing as a stranger. Denise, who was born in Seattle, had a quieter disposition, but she was a real sweetie. I used to call her my “Dutch girl,” which she liked. Denise was a home girl and liked to help her mother, and when Christmas came she really shined. Velva Lea was a sweetie too. She was a very beautiful baby and has held her beauty even as she gets older. Each child was so different from all the rest and each one had outstanding, wonderful qualities.
The Lord truly blessed us when giving us children. Five of them have filled missions for the Church, Denise a stake mission, while the other four were full-time missionaries. They are all married now in 1977 with families of their own. My wife and I are a little lonesome nowadays while alone at home, but the children who live nearby come home often. We enjoy spoiling our grandchildren. As of 1977 we have 28 grandchildren, also three great-grandchildren whom we have never seen. Denise lives in Huntsville, Alabama; Hugh in Los Angeles; Marion Gayle in Pleasant Grove, Utah; Gwen in Provo, Utah. Bill and Velva Lea live here in Boise. Stanley lives in Spokane, Washington. Some of them are with us at Christmas, a time to come home that they all enjoy. We enjoy them as well.
Much has happened that was not mentioned, but it has been a wonderful life with my sweet wife Velva, and I feel that we are more in love now than when we were first married. Velva has been a great wife and a wonderful mother, and I surely hope we can continue together through all eternity. I believe that I will have to overcome a lot of weaknesses even yet before I die. My health is not too bad at 76 (1977) except I can tell I am failing some. At this age I’ve found that this world is not so much for old folks. It is more for young people and is a young people’s world. Opportunities are more for the young. Older people like us have to make our own opportunities. I’m still painting and enjoy it, but it is becoming more difficult as time goes on. My nerves are steady, but I tire more easily than I used to.
I go out with the missionaries to help them teach the gospel and I’m secretary of the High Priests Quorum in our ward. I taught a class in priesthood meeting for a number of years prior to this. I surely love our children and grandchildren. Most of them are active in the Church as well, but if any are not so active I love them too. My message to all of them is that through the Holy Ghost I know that the Church is true and that Joseph Smith was truly a prophet of God, just as much a prophet as was Moses, Abraham, Elijah and other prophets of the Old Testament. Joseph Smith was a prophet of great importance because through him was ushered in the greatest dispensation of all, the dispensation of the fullness of times. This time is to prepare the earth for the second coming of Christ who will then take over the reins of the government of the whole earth. Special choice spirits in heaven were reserved until now to prepare the earth for the coming and will help Him rule the world. You, my children and grandchildren, are among these choice spirits, so I say, “Prepare yourselves in righteousness to be with him and aid him in this consummation of the ages.” I want you to know for a certainty there is a God, there is a heaven, and Satan is trying hard to keep you from following God because Satan is the king of his domain and he will try to get you for his. With the influence of God and also your own individual self you have the power to repel Satan so that his influence will be lost to you.
If you endure to the end you will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom. Everyone sins, but the Lord gives us repentance so that our sins can be blotted out and the Lord will not bring them up before us on the Judgment Day. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to know this? There are some sins the Atonement doesn’t cover, but these can be paid for by yourself at some future time unless it is murder or denying the Holy Ghost. These are the sins that cannot be forgiven, yet even murder I wonder about because David committed murder. He repented tremendously, and for more than 3,000 years he has been paying for it. The Lord said he loved David and set him up as an example to Israel even after he sinned. David will be resurrected and receive his glory in the end. I mention this last part to show that all my children and grandchildren have a true opportunity to attain the Celestial glory no matter what their sins are that seem a burden. Also, I know that none of them have been sinners to the same degree as David was, so they can really make it if they try.
I would suggest that the men should all attend their priesthood meetings regularly and adjust their lives in worldly things so they can attend. Sacrament meeting is where you partake of the sacrament which will give remittance of sins just like when you were baptized, upon repentance that is. The Lord knew that no would live without sin, and that’s why he sent Jesus and the Atonement. He made it so if we repent we can be saved in His Kingdom. Satan doesn’t want us to repent.
Now I go into some of the spiritual experiences of my life, some I omitted when writing about my mission, intending to write them down now. One of the very first experiences was soon after I started my mission Weehauken and Hoboken. A man from Holland, Brother Van Benekim, who lived in Hoboken, had gotten a piece of steel in his hand or wrist and failed to have it attended to at once. In a day or two it began to swell, but still he only tried home remedies. Later the swelling continued up his arm until his hand, wrist, and arm were all very swollen. Then he went to a doctor and found out it was a case of bad blood poisoning. He was told that the doctors must amputate his arm to save his life and amputation was the only thing that could be done. He said to the doctor no, he would not consent to it. Even though Brother Van Benekim was not a member of the Church, he believed that the elders had power to heal him. He called Elder Colton and me to come to his home and administer to him. When we arrived he was sitting by the table with his arm in hot salt water. He was suffering from the pain but withdrew his arm from the water and asked us to immediately administer to him. I believe he had lots of faith too. I anointed his head with consecrated oil, and then Elder Colton, my senior companion, sealed the anointing and prayed that he might be healed. It was a thrilling experience. When the sealing was complete we both felt a real tingling within us and it made us noticeably weaker. Part of our strength left us. This good brother didn’t put his arm back in the water, and as we looked, we saw the swelling go down. We had been told by the mission president to leave soon after an administration whenever possible, so we started to get ready to leave. Brother Van Benekim asked us to stay with him for awhile. We stayed an hour. Then when we left we could see that all of the swelling had left his arm. It was his right arm, but he shook our hands with his right hand when we left him. The next day Brother Benekim went to work doing heavy physical labor as well as ever. Who said the Lord doesn’t perform miracles in these days?
Another time a missionary named Elder Beard had been losing a lot of time in doing missionary work because of his health. President Roberts called him into the office to work thinking it might help him, but the sickness continued. President Roberts and another elder of the office force administered to him. From then on he was healed and was efficient in the office as well as in missionary work. That was a memorable incident.
While doing country work without purse or scrip in Vermont, we were counseled to not visit Saints but work with nonmembers. We were out in the country doing this kind of work when the mission president tried to reach us but could not do so. One of the Saints had died in St. Johnsbury. This man was a member and there was no one to conduct the services that held the Melchizedek priesthood. About that time I, and also my companion, had a very strong urge to go to St. Johnsbury which was out of our area. This was against the counsel we had received, but of course President Roberts had been trying to get in touch with us at the same time to send us there. After hiking and catching rides on the highway we were all dusty and dirty. We were wearing corduroy pants that fastened just below the knees with leather leggings from our knees to our shoes. We arrived in St. Johnsbury just an hour before the funeral was to commence, and we just had time to bathe and get ready for it. The family had been praying for someone to come to carry on the service properly. They were so happy to see us! We conducted the funeral and went to the burial where we dedicated the ground for the burial. After this we went down to their home where neighbors had brought food and we had something to eat. We were very hungry after our trek and had no time for eating until the services were over. We then had time to realize just why this strong urge had come to us to go to St. Johnsbury. The Lord knew and sent us. After this we went back to where we were doing country work.
This thrills that I received while tracting in Brooklyn are especially worth mentioning. How strongly the Lord impressed me while talking to people about scriptures I barely knew and with answers to their questions. Some days the Spirit worked stronger with me than on other days, and I remember how filled with joy I was after a good day’s tracting and talking to people. Other days there was a letdown so that I felt the day was a failure. Other days came when this same wonderful feeling came to me. I loved missionary work and of course the Lord helped me.
While in Weehauken one Sunday, we left by ferryboat to go to sacrament meeting in Brooklyn. We had to wait for an underground train to take us from Battery Park in New York City to Brooklyn. There were five or six missionaries in the group, and we were sitting on a bench in the park. We noticed a crowd of people a little distance from us was gathering, but it was about time to catch the subway train so most of us went to catch it. Our conference president who was there had such a strong urge to go see what was going on that he stayed while the rest of us left. He caught the next train about 30 minutes later and came to our priesthood meeting where we were, but he was late. When he got to the meeting he spoke out and said that he had had a thrilling experience in Battery Park after we had left. He said he felt he should tell all at the meeting about it. President Roberts was there too. The conference president said that when he saw the crowd gathering in Battery Park he went up on the outside of the crowd but gradually worked his way almost to the front where a man with a long white beard was standing on a soap box speaking. It was no one he knew or any of us had heard of, yet the man was telling about the gospel being restored and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He was a good speaker and held the crowd spellbound. After he finished, the man told the people there was church that taught all of these things at 273 Gates Avenue in Brooklyn and to go there and listen to them. Then he stepped down from the soap box. Our conference president pushed through the few people between him and the speaker to meet him, but to his disappointment the speaker had gone. The speaker had vanished in just the few seconds it took for the elder to reach the soap box. We don’t know that it was one of the three Nephites or not, but many of us thought it might have been.
I had an experience on the road painting while I was on the Oregon coast. This was a number of years after I had been on a mission, and while traveling alone with my paintings, the family was at home. I had just arrived in Reedsport and there were holidays coming up so I could not get a location to work until they were over, and the businessmen went back to work. I took the balance of the day to go fishing, at least I intended to. It was right by the ocean and there was a trestle than ran out into the water for a ways. Huge rocks were banked up on one side to keep the waves from hitting the trestle with all their power. People were fishing off the trestle. I climbed over some rocks and had to climb still higher to get on the trestle. I almost made it, but then I slipped and fell on a huge boulder six feet down. It hurt my leg badly as well as shaking me up from it. After a while I got up. There were no people near to help but I managed to get back to my camp trailer and lie down awhile. Then I left the trailer and tried to find a doctor, but they had left town for the holidays. No drug store was open because they had closed early. I went back to the trailer. I had had a leg bandage sometime before and always kept it in one place. It was gone and my leg had swollen badly. Before going to bed that night I looked every few minutes at the one place I kept the bandage but had to go to bed without it. When saying my prayers I asked the Lord to help me find something that would help. The next morning after a restless sleep I rose up in bed and first looked at the place where I always kept the bandage. There it was! I am positive that the bandage had not been there the night before as I had looked carefully a dozen times. The thrill of seeing it was great.
Another incident was right at home. Gwen had lost her glasses and needed them very badly for school the next day. The whole family had searched her room and all over the house. Just before she left for school the next morning, I went into Velva’s and my bedroom and asked the Lord to show me where the glasses were. He showed me immediately in a picture in my mind. I walked into Gwen’s bedroom, raised her mattress and reached into a coil spring and handed them to her. The Lord answered my prayer immediately. Gwen couldn’t have done a thing in school without them because she needed strong lenses.
Still another thrilling experience was an administration to Beverly and David Grant’s new baby. Beverly was still in the hospital with the baby, and it was in a bed of special make to keep it breathing. The doctor didn’t give them much hope that it would pull through and live. Another baby had just died with the same problem. An elder went with me to perform the administration of course. It was breathing extremely rapidly in very short gasps. Beverly was crying nearby, and David was very downcast. We administered to it and I was impressed at the very start just like when Brother Van Benekim was administered to in the mission field. I knew the Lord wanted me to bless it with health and strength, which I did. Afterwards the baby started breathing much more easily and I told Beverly not to worry any more, that the Lord had healed it. In two days she took the baby home.
From Gwen Yancey Bardsley: After our mother died June 23, 1979, Daddy was very lonely but kept himself busy in the Church serving others. He was a very faithful home teacher, always attended Church, kept the Sabbath Day holy and paid his tithing. He was a good example to his family. Daddy loved to bear his testimony and prepare for his lessons in Priesthood and Sunday School every week. He and mother had enjoyed greeting people at the door with a friendly greeting and a Church program each Sunday. They had never missed Church unless they were very ill. Our father even attended Church the Sunday after Mother was buried. He loved the Lord, his wife, his children, grandchildren, his grandparents, his parents, relatives and people in general. He loved telling us stories about his life growing up, although some were not so pleasant. Daddy especially loved telling us stories about his mission his much- loved companion, Elder Rolapp, and his mission president, B. H. Roberts.
Daddy had a good friend, Virginia Poulter, that lived near his home in Boise, Idaho, and they did a lot of fun things together when he was way up into his eighties. Our father would do things for her, like shovel her driveway in the winter, take her shopping, and take her to ward and family activities like Family Home Evening. It was a good friendship. In 1988 Velva Lea and her husband Wayne, invited him to come down to Provo to live in their downstairs apartment. At first it was a real adjustment for him, but he really started to enjoy Provo, his family, the ward, and his little apartment.
Elvie Hyde Yancey, our father, died June 1, 1992, at the age of 91. His funeral was at his ward in Orem, Utah, and a graveside service was held for him for dear family and friends in Boise, Idaho. After that he was buried next to his wife Velva, in the Boise Cloverdale Cemetery and also near his granddaughter, Renae Yancey. As of 2012, Daddy has a posterity of seven children, 33 grandchildren and approximately 47 great-grandchildren. I am not sure how many great-great grandchildren are numbered in his descendants.