The Life of Helaman Pratt Call

Written June 17, 1977

By Linda Stewart and Sylvia Brewer

Our father, Helaman Pratt Call, son of Willard Call and Leah Pratt Call, was born November 29,1909, in Colonia Dublan, Mexico where his parents were colonizing. He was named after his maternal Grandfather, Helaman Pratt, because he was born the day his grandfather was buried. The Call family has lived Mexico for approximately twelve years during which there was constant upheaval in Mexican Government. Finally when Dad was around two and a half years old, the American colonist were driven out of their homes by Pancho Villa and his gang of armed revolutionaries. The finally settled in Bountiful, Utah.

Dad had twenty-three brothers and sisters. Grandfather had two wives. The children were taught early to hold their heads high and be proud of being “Calls.” A family heritage was built by repeating stories of pioneer ancestors on both the Call and Pratt lines. Dad had always referred to the twenty — four children as his brothers and sisters, never distinguishing his full siblings from those born by the first wife, Aunt Adalaide White Call. (Aunt Addle as we all called her.)

When Grandfather came back from the Spanish American War, he developed cancer and cataracts on his eyes which forced him to go blind. All the children pitched in and worked hard to help support the enormous family. If it was farming season, the boys would live in 3ountiful with Leah and plant or harvest for the neighboring farmers. In the winter, they would often go into Salt Lake City, live with Aunt Addie and work in stores or bakeries. An appreciation for hard work and a deeper love for the family grew from these experiences.

The winter of Dad’s eighth year a severe influenza epidemic broke out and no public meetings were held. In fact, Joseph F. Smith, the President of the Church at that time, died and no public funeral was held. It was a time for Dad to be baptized but they couldn’t hold a regular baptismal service so his father got permission to baptize him at home in the old deep bathtub. After several attempts to completely immerse him in such a small area, they finally succeeded. Dad came out of the tub and sat on the toilet seat to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Dad told us that he learned honesty in an unusual way. He and his brother Aaron as very small boys had been sent on an errand in the country. The day was hot and the trip tiresome. On their way home, they passed a field of watermelons that looked cool and refreshing. The boys climbed the fence, helped themselves to a big one and started to break it open when the sheriff came out of his house and caught them stealing his melon. He told them to run home and tell their mother that he was going to come and take them to jail for stealing. The boys had to think about their deed all the way home and try to build courage to tell their mother. There wise mother told them that no boy of hers was going to jail dirty. She made them take baths, don clean clothes, rack their suitcase of necessities, a change of underwear, their toothbrushes, and sit on the porch to wait for the sheriff. They waited and waited in fear and trembling all the next day. Their mother explained that maybe the sheriff had been too busy to come, but she was sure he’d come as soon as he had time. All summer long, every time a visitor turned the corner Dad and Aaron were sure it was the sheriff for them. Needless to say, they didn’t step out of line again that summer.

Another story we remember Dad telling concerns the new invention, the automobile. Dad was riding a horse down the Bountiful Main Street and stopped to use an outhouse, carefully tying the horse to the door. A car came down the street and to Dad’s misfortune, backfired in front of the outhouse. It spooked the horse and he took off at full speed pulling the outhouse with him — Dad still inside struggling to hold on and to fasten his pants at the same time. When the horse finally calmed down and stopped running, a crowd had gathered to watch Dad crawl out through the hole.

Father attended Stoker Elementary School, South Davis Junior High, and Davis High where he played football his last two years. The coach wanted Dad to stay and play for the school for one more year, so Dad didn’t graduate at that time. The next year Dad was working to help support the family and was unable to return.

In 1930, Mother and rather met at Halloween party and immediately Dad was interested. He admits telling Mom on their first date that he was going to marry her. She thought he was conceited and too sure of himself, but agreed to another date anyway. He was working nights at he time so he devoted all day every day to winning Mom over. They swam, played tennis, and went on picnics during their courtship, but also had serious talks and prayers before their marriage. Dad said that they discussed the way they wanted to raise their children and their roles in the gospe1 and prayed about these things together. On February 10, 1932, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple.

The depression was just starting and times were rough. They went to Ely, Nevada for Dad to work in a grocery store but mother became ill and had a miscarriage so they returned to Salt Lake City. They moved into a lovely little apartment (the Midgley) where the custodians did all the moving, house cleaning and all the hard tasks for them. Dad was working at the Piggly-Wiggly grocery store when Mother was expecting their first child, Marlene.

Dad’s boss wouldn’t let him off work long enough to be with Mom when the baby was born and to visit her in the hospital so they arranged for Mother to have the baby in Bountiful at Grandma Call s so that she could help with the baby. When the time was near, they got in the car and started for Bountiful. They got just out of Salt Lake and ran out of gas. Someone had siphoned their tank. Dad left Mom in the car and literally ran back to town for gas. By the time he got back to the car his nose was bleeding and by the time they were in Bountiful, he was hemorrhaging badly. The Doctor left Aunt Manty Mann, the midwife, attending to Mom and he worked on Dad. Dad’s boss arid fellow workers teased him when back at work saying, “Now how long did you hemorrhage? And when was the baby born?” Dad was so proud to be a new papa that he took the teasing willingly.

When Marlene was still tiny Mom and Dad bought a little house at 1218 Wood Ave. which they kept for many years, in fact all six children grew up there. Dad he1d many leadership positions in the church and tells of one incident when he was conducting a meeting and from the pulpit reached in his pocket for a handkerchief. The congregation started laughing for Marlene was being potty trained at the time and dad had pulled out a pair of lace panties that they had taken along for “just in case.” –

Neil was the second child to be born. He came very prematurely at six months. He was less than three pounds and Dad has told us how he could hold Neil easily in one hand. Mother went to the hospital daily to feed Neil and took Mother’s milk up in a bottle for the nurses to feed him at night. Mother was blessed with so much milk that one day when Dad delivered a full quart to the hopita1, he joked, “If you need more, let us know. We’re using the other bottle on the table.”

Linda and Alan were added to the family and then when Dad was Sunday School Superintendent, the war broke out. Instead of avoiding the draft as so many did, Dad said he had inherited from his father a desire to serve his country and that he would be available when his number came up.

On December 26, 1942, Dad received his call to report to Induction Center at Fort Douglas, Utah, for a Physica1 examination. Dad didn’t think it was possible that he could be called to serve because he had a wife and four children and was older than most of the other men drafted, but he was sworn into the U.S. Navy on January 14, l914 during the Second World War. He left for Farragut, Idaho training center and after finishing boot training he was sent to San Diego for Radar School at Point Loma. After this training he was given his High School Graduation Certificate.

Dad was in Farragut, his job had something to do with lists of names of the new recruits. He was looking over the lists and saw the name Josiah Israel Call. His pride of being a Call and his curiosity as to how the man was related promoted him to send a runner for his “cousin.” When the runner returned, he chuckled and announced that Dad’s cousin was there and in walked a six foot black man, Again Dad was ribbed. The man said his ancestors had been owned by a Call and had adopted the name when slavery was abolished.

After graduating from Point Lona, Dad was sent to Treasure Island, San Francisco. In June, Mother and the children started in their car to join him. They drove to Ely, Nevada where Dad’s brother, Uncle Ivan, sold the car because it was in too poor of condition to make it further. Then Uncle Ivan drove the family to San Francisco in his car. Uncle Bill, another of Dad’s brothers, invited the family to stay with him but that lasted only two days due to the children.

They found temporary housing in the Saint James Hotel, but it was so dirty that Dad finally found an apartment in officer housing in Visitation Valley. They would only allow three children, but Mom was so desperate to get clean housing that she listed three and moved in with four children. For years we’ve joked about which one she disinherited. The officers quarters had supervised play time and the navy paid people to entertain the children. They went on sight seeing trips each day and had a fantastic summer. The baby at the time, Alan, was afraid of nothing and would wander off quicker than lightning. Since all the houses looked just a like, he would get lost and couldn’t find the way home. Several times, someone would come knocking on each door with Alan in hand asking if he belonged there.

That fall, Dad got orders to be shipped out but wanted to get the family back to school in Salt Lake first, He left after muster one morning and started home with the family on the train. On the return trip, the train was wrecked and he was late getting back so he was court martialed. He lost his berth on the ship the “Aaron Ward.” We feel that this was a blessing because the ship was hit and most of the men killed. Dad’s court martial was excused and he was reassigned to the Bilie Ship, a large destroyer.

He was later assigned to the USS Zellers from Sept of 1944 to May of 19145. It was the first ship sent into Okinawa and on April 12, the day they got the news of President Roosevelt’s death, they were hit by a Japanese Kamikaze plane. It killed 86 men, sent 140 to a hospital ship and left 250 men less seriously injured. The radar shack where dad was practically leveled and he was the only survivor from that part of the ship. He burned his hands crawling out from the flattened radar shack, All the ship doctors were killed and so there was no help. Dad had to help a non — skilled person amputate twenty — three men’s arms or legs. Dad held them while the other man cut. After this ordeal, he passed out and was unconscious for five days.

The men were able to salvage steel from another hit ship and make theirs sea worthy enough to return to Long Beach for permanent repairs. Dad called home to say he was going into the hospital when Mother had news for him. She had been calling the ships at sea with the help of the Red Cross, to tell him that Linda had been run over. She had been riding a tricycle with Alan standing on the back step of the bike. A car came toward them and Linda pushed Alan to Safety but couldn’t get out of the way herself. She had been run over and critically injured. She had a broken pelvis and other internal injuries and was taken to L.D.S. Hospital. Just as Mother told him o the accident, the phone went dead and they make connection again. –

Mom spent some anxious moments wondering if Dad had passed out or was injured worse than he had said or worse. He had no idea that condition was either, so he got permission to change the leave from survivors leave to emergency leave. The men took up a collection and he came home on a military bomber into Hill Field that night. When he came in at two or three A.M. he found Mother sick, but ironing.

The next morning, they went to the hospital, took Linda a big teddy bear, and she began to improve from that time on. In the meantime, Dad’s father had a stroke and lived about a week, All his family rallied around him as he passed away. Dad was to have gone right back to the navy but they extended his leave.

While Dad had been gone, Mother had struggled with war problems. She’d worried and worked hard and the ration coupons didn’t really stretch far enough to feed four growing children. Having Dad home had been wonderful for her and when he had to report back Grandma Call and Aunt Leah stayed so that mother could accompany him to San Pedro to rest and recuperate. They lived in a clean camp With a 2 hour cafeteria with an abundance of food while Dad was assigned to give insurance lectures to the new men while he as being mustered out of the navy.

During his navy days Dad was in Radar and was an assistant Chaplain. His Patriarchal blessing had promised him that he would preach the gospel “among the islands of the South Pacific.” Dad feels that his work during the war may be the fulfillment of that promise.

One month after returning home, in Sept. of l945, Dad was called to the Bishopric of Bryan Ward, Sugarhouse Stake as a councilor to Charles Sorenson. Arid then he was first councilor to Bishop Keith Caser.

Sylvia was born in 1946 and in December of that year, other and Dad were in a terrible automobile accident. They had traveled to Bountiful for Dad to administer to a friend’s baby. They had left late because of a Bryan Ward Bazaar and had stopped in Bountiful to visit Grandmother Call. They were on their way back home late Saturday night. There was black ice on the road and a car turned directly into their path. There was a terrible crash

Mon and Dad’s car drove right through the other one. Two people in the front seat of the other car were killed and four others were badly injured. Mother and Dad were both severely injured. Merrill Holbrook, a friend of was on his way home from Provo driving a hearse. He picked them up and drove them to Saint Marks Hospital on Dec. 7, 1946.

Dad had a broken leg, several broken ribs, a broken arm, a cut across his head and a skull fracture. Mom had any one of eight things that could have killed her. She had broken ribs and punctured lungs. Her face was smashed- completely, nose cut off, both jaws broken, teeth knocked out, pallet torn loose, and face sliced from one side to the other severing both lips and� destroying the muscle that controls smiling. There was a lot of plastic surgery to be done. Her leg was broken and cut so deeply that it cut her pulmonary artery. When finally she was well again she had to learn to walk all over again. – –

She had pneumonia and meningitis set in. She bad to be in an oxygen tent because her lungs had collapsed. Dr. Trowbridge, the family doctor, went to Saint Marks just to check on patients and was there when Mother and Dad were brought in. He saw Dad first and Dad told him to take care of mom first. She was so badly hurt that the Doctor didn’t recognize her. He said she was too far gone and wouldn’t make it, so there was no use working on her. Dad insisted that he help her. He finally worked on her all night and the whole next day,

The hospital put Mother and Dad in rooms across the hail from each other and set up mirrors so Dad could see people who went into Mom’s room, People were wonderful. Mom and Dad’s names were placed on the prayer roles at the temple and the Bryan Ward people had special fasts. Through their faith arid the Lord’s graciousness, they were healed. –

They were in the hospital until December 24. Mom was told that she could go home for Christmas if she could touch her chin to her chest, She was determined and said if she got home she wasn’t coming back. On Christmas Eve, Mother’s brother, Uncle Dee Rees, took them home in a Highway Patrol Ambulance. And Mother true to her word and did not return to the hospital but recuperated at home with Grandma Call and Aunt Leah helping with the children.

In 1950, Dad was made Bishop of Bryan Ward and endeared himself to the people. Even today, Dad is called often to go back to preach funeral sermons for people in the ward who loved him dearly. Dad especially gave of himself to the old folks of Bryan Ward. He visited them regularly and made sure their needs were met.

Another Bryan Ward incident that is special in Dad’s life happened when he was Bishop. A young family, the Madsen family, was visiting Bryce Canyon when their son fell over the ledge and rolled down the mountain causing many injuries. The Madsen’s called Dad and Mom and they packed us all in the car and. left to go help them. They helped get the boy situated in a hospital and then brought the other child home and took care of her. Dad never stopped to ask if he had time or money to help others, he just helped them unselfishly and gave his all.

Several years later, Dad began having dizzy sells and kept passing out. The doctors in the Veteran’s Hospital ran all kinds of tests and decided that he probably had a tumor or pressure of some kind against his brain. They thought it may be due to war injuries but they weren’t sure. They scheduled him for surgery to explore and perhaps remove the tumor, but Dad was administered to and through the power of the Priesthood no surgery was necessary. His health, however, forced him to change occupations, from insurance to the furniture business for he wasn’t supposed to drive.

As kids we remember taking our Saturday night bath, getting on pajamas, packing a picnic and driving “Clear” out into the country to pick up Dad when he worked on 33rd South. It was a special treat because we would get to go into the store and watch the first colored TVs until closing time.

When Mom was in the hospital having the sixth baby, Blaine, dad was released from his job as Bishop. The ward gave him a big surprise party and presented both Mom and Dad with inscribed gold watches. Sylvia received Mother’s for her since she was in the hospital.

Long before the church set up the regular family home evening program with manuals to follow, our family held family night. One night particularly stands out in our memories. Mother was just finishing reupholstering some chairs she been working on and she was busy. The kids begged Dad to let us have a taffy pull. Well, Dad’s philosophy in life has always been, “If a little is good, a lot is better.” He tripled the taffy recipe. It boiled over and over on the stove and we pulled and. pulled, betting it everywhere…In our hair, Mom’s upholstery and in every square inch of the kitchen. Needless to say, it was a long time before the next taffy pull.

Holidays and birthdays were made special times in our family, celebrated with picnics, parties, and family outings. Dad and Mom had an extra special love for their own families too and family vacations were never just taking a trip to be traveling, Their trips of visiting friends and relatives all over the country.

As children we had extra time with Dad because Mother didn’t like to drive. If we had a doctor or dentist appointment, or a practice, or a job downtown before we were old enough to drive, it was Dad who took time off work and put on the Chauffeur’s cap.

The little house on Wood Ave. was full to bursting. It started as a one bedroom home and even with the addition of rooms in the basement, it had long been outgrown with six active children. For a long time the Saturday activity of the family was house hunting. Several homes were found which would have been adequate but a reluctance to leave the beloved Bryan Ward discouraged our parents from baying sooner.

Finally in March of 1956, we purchased a home and moved to 2990 LaJoya Drive in Holladay. Old friends were not forgotten but church involvement soon made the family feel at home in their new location.

Dad worked in the Sunday School as a teacher on the investigator class and then in the superintendency. He then worked with the Aaronic Priesthood. In everything he did Dad gave his all. He even helped take a crippled deacon in his wheel chair all the way up to Timpanogos Cave. Dad was called to the High Council and then was given the special privilege of being Patriarch.

I’d like to relate an experience that Dad doesn’t even know happened of how he helped touch lives as a Patriarch. A young girl desired a blessing from him and he requested that she bring her whole family. The family was completely inactive and quite against the church, but they reluctantly agreed to go. The gir1 said that the spirit was so strong and the atmosphere so special that her family’s hearts were softened. After that time the resistance they had to her activity in the church melted and two other children are now attending church.

Dad and Mom were regular temple attenders and Dad worked at the veil. Every Wednesday, they picked up Sister Arborgast and Dad’s Aunt Amy Romney and went to the temple.

On May 7, 1975, Mother was again in a terrible automobile accident. She and Linda were going to a sale together but in separate cars as they were going different places afterwards. Mother was following Linda going west and it was almost sundown. She didn’t see a car at an intersection and crashed into it. She lingered, seriously injured in intensive care for twelve days and passed away on May 19, 1975.

Dad had an extra hard time adjusting to being alone because he and Mother had been so close and had a special feeling lacking in a lot of marriages. He spent a lot more time in the temple and was called and set apart as a regular temple worker.

He also spent a great deal of time with his six children and twenty-one grandchildren yet he still had to go home to an empty house. Various people tried to get Dad to date and to think of remarriage, but he simply wasn’t ready or interested. Then an extra special thing happened, Dad’s schedule at the temple coincided with a long time family friend from Bryan Ward, Mary Kirkham. They visited as friends and a love started growing. Before he had even taken her on one date, his children could tell he was in love and encouraged him for we could think of no one more special to share his life with than Mary. On June 14, 1977, Dad and Mary were married in the Salt lake Temple by President Boyer,

Mary’s cheerful, optimistic, happy attitude is delightful to be around. She is poised and very young acting. She makes Dad seem twenty years younger and thirty pounds lighter. Most of all we feel she is brave to join our tribe. She had to meet all Dad’s brothers and sisters and all six children and twenty-one grandchildren. She has two children of her own at eight grandchildren, so between them they now have thirty-seven direct descendants with two on the way. Counting their children’s spouses, they have 45 in their immediate family.

Mary has already endeared herself to the grandchildren. In fact, at the Wedding breakfast, Dad and Mary held and played with each other’ s grandchildren so lovingly that a friend sitting by them was confused as to who belonged to whom.

We want to pledge our love and support to both of them and especially thank Dad for the example he has been in our lives. He has devoted himself to his family and to the Lord and we pray that we might follow in his footsteps.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. This biography never gets old. Heather, I have a website idea, it might be over our heads programming wise but I think you’ll like it. We’ll talk about it soon.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *