CALVIN A WALKER
Calvin was born in Pleasant Grove, Utah on 29 August 1906 at his parents, Jim and Della Walker, home. He was the seventh child in a family of 14 children. With a lot of children close to his age he never was lonely and always had someone to do things with. The family had a large farm with fruit trees to tend and pick, a garden to weed and harvest and fields to plow and harvest. With all this the family still found time to have their own rodeo’s, picnics, climb little mountain, and go to the Indian meadow.
Calvin had two brothers close to his age; Bill one year older and Tom three years older. As youngsters “the boys” had a great time teasing and tormenting their older sisters, Row and Zola. Calvin always seem to know when to quit, but it was aggravating to his sisters.
With the family home at the base of the mountains, this was a natural stomping place for a child to go when they were sad or happy. He never lost his love of his mountains. He knew them like he knew his own yard.
The family home was in the Pleasant Grove Third ward and was on the east foothills of town. The road in front of the house went straight from the foothills to the city cemetery. (This was the town sledding hill for many years.) The Third Ward was known as “Monkey Town.” Up and down the road (east to west) Calvin had many friends who ruled Monkey Town. They played tricks and pranks that would now put them on probation, but they thought it was all in good fun and so did the adults in the area. He always remained close friends with Les, Roy and Glenn. Calvin was a tease and everyone knew this about him. His teasing was always fun and he could take a practical joke back.
Calvin attended the Pleasant Grove elementary school and high school. His father was a teacher and later the principal at the Pleasant Grove schools. He enjoyed school as this brought new people into his life to nickname and tease. With a ready grin and laugh it was easy for him to make friends.
Calvin started calling Lucille his girl at the age most of us won’t let our kids date. Though they would from time to time date someone else–it was only because the other wasn’t available. He was shorter than Lucille at the beginning. She was heard later to say it was embarrassing but he still was her choice. When Calvin finally grew up (straight up), they would sit down together and still were very close to the same size, he just had very long legs and would unwind as he stood up.
When he turned fifteen, Calvin decided to quit school, get a job, save his money, get rich, and marry Lucille as soon as she finished high school. His Dad helped him find a job working for Great Granddad Holman and Grandma Walker in Lindon. At the Holman’s he was too far out to come in every day after work, so he stayed at the home all winter. As he wasn’t in school and was now a working man, the high school activities were a no-no. During the long, long winter and snowed in and the evening hours with nothing else to do, he became a captive audience for his great grandfather’s stories of the early days in the church. This man personally knew the Prophet Joseph Smith as a young child and had sat on his lap and Brigham Young. He frequently bore his testimony to Calvin that winter of the truthfulness of the gospel and how he knew these men were the prophets of God. He described them in such detail that Calvin could see them in his minds eye (so strong were the stories in minute detail). At times he felt like they were right there with them. He listened to stories of crossing the plains and settling the new country. The hunger and thirst the pioneers felt were very real to him. His great grandfather was one of the young men sent back with teams to bring the saints in to Zion from Nebraska and Iowa. Before the winter was over Calvin decided to go back to school because of this man. His great grandfather told him to always, no matter what, follow the prophet for that was the way to true happiness forever.
Because of the year out of high school he graduated a year after his girl. During the summer, he worked mining coal in the Bingham coal mine. Then on to Logan to USAC (Utah State Agriculture College) for Calvin, Bill and Tom. He milked cows at the school dairy to earn enough money to stay in school. He majored in Civil Engineering the first three years at the AC and then changed to education. He planned to teach on the Junior High School level. “The boys” earned their B.S. degree in 1929.
The summer of 1928 found Calvin working at Yellowstone. He worked on the road from Yellowstone to Bozeman, along the Madison River. The construction workers would go into town to get drunk after work and Calvin was the worker assigned to go to West Yellowstone after them in the dump truck each evening. He would load them in the back of the truck, drive back to camp, raise the dumper and roll them out. The boss trusted Calvin because he knew he wouldn’t drink with the other men. One evening after work he was taking the harnesses off the mules, got behind them and one, 2200 pound mule, kicked him tossing him 100 feet. The accident resulted in a popped spleen and one out of commission kidney; leaving a scar from his sternum to below his belly button because of the operation performed to find the extent of the injuries. His father and Josie went to him immediately. For a long time they were not sure he would survive. His skinny frame was even thinner. When he was finally released to go home with his family he was told that he had only a few years to live because of the loss of his spleen. The pain killer given to him while he recuperated was morphine; which left him an addict. Though he would overcome the dependency, he would always be an addict and couldn’t take it again. He always had an empathy for those with similar problems. He would always have to be careful with infections because of having only one kidney.
Calvin married his childhood sweetheart, Lucille Wright, on August 29, 1929 (his birthday) in the Salt Lake Temple. They immediately loaded up in their car, newly purchased and in hock for, and left for Duchesne. Here Calvin had a job to teach High School (grade 7-12). He taught everything from girls P.E. to shop, with a smattering of math and science. He often laughed at the P.E. assignment. While living here he hiked all over the Granddaddy’s and fished all the lakes and streams. Often after school he would fish right there on the Duchesne River for supper. This was a much needed necessity as the country was just coming out of the depression and money was scarce when it came to buying anything but the necessities. In fact it was here that he gained a strong testimony of tithing, as they put the promise to the test many times, paying tithing first and working the budget after. They would find produce or flour and sugar on their porch the next day. The principle of tithing never failed them.
He left Duchesne after one year to teach in the Junior High in Lehi for three years. The next summer Calvin went back to summer school in Logan to get a elementary certificate. He had decided that younger children would be the place to teach and more fun. He later transferred to the Spencer Grade School in Orem. One of his former students from Lehi tells about a class project he had. He started out to make a cedar chest. Everything didn’t square up so he cut a little off here and sanding a little more there until all he had left was a small cedar jewelry box. Calvin never got after the student and let him keep at it until finished. This student later became a teacher and was influenced by the role model set for him by Calvin especially the patience Calvin had exhibited.
Calvin loved to play on words. A stop sign wasn’t just a stop sign, it was a s-te-o-pe sign. He could so confuse anyone that he had them saying union for onion or onion for union. Both ways worked for him.
He also had a favorite math problem: A rich man had 7 camels. He had three sons. In his will he left his oldest son half of the camels, his second son one quarter of his camels and the youngest son one of his camels. He stipulated that they were not to kill any of the camels to make the division. How did the sons make the division? He taught this to his fifth and sixth grade math classes. (This problem is now in the pre-algebra books in the school systems.)
As his children were growing up Calvin taught them to love the mountains. He taught all his family the beauty of the world around them and how to listen to nature. The family frequently hiked the foothills on the east side of town above his folks place and played in the Monkey Town jungle. He took the children to all his favorite places in the local mountains–Grove Creek Springs, Battle Creek Spring, the “G”, Indian Meadow behind Little Mountain, top of Timp, Sam Green;s Grove, Pittsburgh Lake, Dutchman Mine, Granite Flat and the old tram at Tibble Fork. When Calvin and Lucille built their new home in Pleasant Grove, it was placed to get the best view of Timpanogas.
A favorite Saturday activity might be a ride up to the dump for the whole family with a burst of speed over the bumps so everyone lost their stomach. Other times they went nutting in west canyon or just around the Lake. There was many trips with his sons to go fishing in the Granddaddies. One of these trips Glen was carried 8 miles each way because of his foot problems.
He taught his children to ski in the winter on the wheat field at his folks place and at Mutual Dell. He taught them to play tennis, basketball and fast pitch soft ball. He was the city recreation director for many summers and his family was expected to get involved. Being physically active was important to him. He often (more often than not) got up in the mornings and would walk from his home to the lake and back before the rest of the family got up. He was a very fast walker.
During the World War II, Geneva Steel was built in the valley down by Utah Lake. Calvin was drafted into the service, but was exempted because of his family size, twice. He would work at Geneva during the summers and sometimes after school. That was his war duty and effort.
For many years Tom and Calvin checked the moisture on top of the divide at Timpanoke. (The divide was the top of the pass between American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon. The big argument in the family with the children quite often was which side was the prettiest and the best.) In the winter they took their sons on skis and climbed from Mutual Dell up to the top and then rode the skis down after they finished their measurement of the snow and moisture content. In the summer the families went up in cars and played in the meadow and picnicked. Here he taught his children the names of the plants and trees; also which were edible and which not to eat and how to tell sometimes which were which.
For two summers he ran Mutual Dell Camp. The family spent a lot of time in the caretakers cabin. The Boy Scouts, Ward YWMIA groups, and family camps were fun for everyone to watch. The lightening and thunder storms were something to behold. They would echo and scare the kids and Calvin stayed close by to help each child through this experience.
He frequently would recite poems from memory to his family; such as the Raggedy Man, Hiawatha, and Little Orphan Annie. The latter when the electricity was out and especially on Halloween. He loved to read bedtime stories (or so we all thought); such as Brier Rabbit, Thunder Cave, all of the Aesop’s Fables and a book called Tall Tales.
He was a firm believer in early to bed and early to rise. As the children became teenagers this became interpreted as the later you stay out the earlier you’ll be getting up! The getting up early meant ice cubes or ice water to help you wake up! Then you got up because the bed was wet and so were you and it was miserable. No curfew here.
During the gas rationing time of World War II he was transferred to the Central School in Pleasant Grove to teach fifth and sixth grade. This was right across the street from his home. During the cold winter months he and other teachers kept an ice skating pond on the lower end of the playgrounds. During recess and at noon the music played and the students learned and did ice skate. Skates were passed down throughout the whole town. Every fall Calvin would take his sixth grade students on an annual Indian Trail hike around Little Mountain. They went up Grove Creek in the morning, crossing the falls and then into the meadow for lunch. After lunch it was down Battle Creek and back to the school before the last bell rang. Many of the other teachers offered to help chaperone just for the chance to go see the meadow.
Calvin received his masters in education degree after he had 7 of his eight children in 1949 from BYU. He put into a practice a saying he used a lot–“Where there is a will there is a way”. He wrote a history of Pleasant Grove for his masters thesis. The children in fifth and sixth grades for a few years helped in compiling some of the stories in this thesis as part of their social studies class. The children thought it was fun, as they toured throughout the town and found many place they didn’t know about before, such as the old fort wall.
With all his schooling, Calvin did not believe in letting his studies interfere with his education. This was his big advice to his children as they left home to further their education. I believe most of them took this advice and enjoyed the experience as well as studied.
In 1918 he registered as a Boy Scout. He never got over this experience. It was just the kind of program that appealed to him as a young man. He had terrific leaders and companions in scouting and he became instantly involved for life. He was an Assistant Scoutmaster, Scoutmaster, Troop Committeeman, District Chairman, Explorer Leader, District Commissioner and District Advancement Chairman. He had a habit of nicknaming the scouts in his troop. It just seemed the natural thing to do after being with them for awhile. These nick names stayed with the boys even into manhood. (He even gave all his children nicknames and some of his nephews and nieces. Aunt Josie did not like this happening to her grandchildren and often voiced her opposition.) One year, while working in scouts with Fred Shoell, H. Walker, and Sam Hilton, they had 34 Scouts awarded their Eagles. Under Calvin plus whoever happened to be working with him Troop 23 had 133 boys receive their Eagle award. He received his Silver Beaver in 1942. He, along with his son Jim, attended the National Court of Honor at Portland, Washington in May 1948 as the Scouter Representative for the Church and they received the National Award of Merit. This was as a result of Jim and him saving the life of Richard Cromer and his father when Richard fell into an irrigation ditch.
The family vacations were often at scout camp; such as Moon Lake in the Granddaddies, Mutual Dell in American Fork Canyon (a church campground), and Wildwood in Provo Canyon. All his children learned the Scout Spirit (Law, Oath, Motto, and Slogan), the constellations in the sky and the Morris code before the age of twelve. Why? Because the scouts met in his home (many not from his ward) and did the stars on his front lawn and the Morris code from his front porch to Sam Hilton’s front porch in the mouth of Battle Creek at the power plant.
The story of Gus (as everyone in scouting called him) and scouting wouldn’t be complete without SKUNKING. In American Fork Canyon in a cave skunking was born. Only those who were skunks were allowed to know where this cave was. A scout had to be at least First Class to be allowed to be admitted. The brew the group drank and the food they ate was often cooked in his kitchen by his wife or in the kitchen of his brother, Tom. At the end of each meeting there was a testimony bearing time for everyone. When World War 11 broke out and the boys went into the military, the skunks met to strengthen one another before leaving. When a boy received his mission call, the skunks met to bid farewell. When any of the boys returned, from the military or from a mission, they met for fellowshipping and fellowship.
Calvin was the Bishop of the Pleasant Grove Third Ward, the same ward where he grew up and his dad served as Bishop. He was a very youth oriented Bishop in this calling. Now the scouts got to go camping with their Bishop. At Christmas time, as he did during World War II, he sent “his boys” that were in the Korean War a sprig of sagebrush in a letter he wrote to them, personalized for each boy. (He did the same for his children as they moved around the country.) He had some very close friends that were inactive at this time, consequently, he gathered the group together once a week in his home. This group became active and many went to the temple. This was a big thrill in his and his wife’s life. Calvin loved serving the Church and being Bishop was just another way for him to accomplish this.
Calvin loved to go around the area telling the Legend of Timpanogas. He would dress in his Indian blanket and headdress with the feathers going down his back. He did this for church and civic groups around town and in the neighboring towns. When Glen was getting his masters degree at USU he took a class in story telling techniques. When everyone in the class had told their stories, Glen invited his Dad to come up and tell his legend with the instructors approval. The instructor was very impressed and labeled Calvin a Master Story Teller.
When his children started to leave home and move away from the area Calvin frequently traveled during the summer to visit his grandchildren. He had to make sure the children were treating their mates right but even more important were his grandchildren being taught correctly. He visited the Statue of Liberty, (asked the guide if the sign “All Walker’s Free” meant he could go to the top free as his name was Walker.), Boston, Nauvoo, Haun’s Mill where the Foutz had lived, Adam-ondi-ahman, Carthage and Liberty Jails, and the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Each place had a special feeling for him because of his experience with his Grandad Holman.
Everywhere he went he met someone who knew someone he knew or was related to a friend or they had had similar experiences. They were soon visiting about everything like they had known each other for ever. This meeting instant friends was one of his great talents. Imagine moving into a new ward and Bishop coming up to you that he expected a lot of you because of you Dad. (It happened frequently to his children as they moved around.)
Getting together with his brothers and sisters was always a big event. They frequently got together to visit or have a dinner or with their children, usually at the American Fork Cave Camp Ground. These events were always fun, especially for Calvin.
He prepared for retirement by accepting a call as a temple worker in the Provo Temple a few years before he retired. This was a calling or job he had desired for many years, but traveling to Salt Lake in the winter was precarious around the Point of the Mountain. Then the Provo Temple was announced and Calvin with his wife were ready to go to work.
At this time he also was given a call to go to the state prison as a home teacher. This was something new the church was trying our. He with Jim Hall as his companion were assigned to a man from their home town. Sometimes they would take the man’s family up to meet with them. He even took his wife once in awhile. This was done with the hope the prisoner would be able to make it in the world when released, as he would have a support group.
When he retired he had time to pursue his interests as an artist. He took classed from Carol Harding and gave pictures to his children that he finished in this class. This wasn’t his usual cartooning which was always such fun, but oil paintings to be hung in their homes. He turned to pottery making and took a class at BYU which resulted in his buying his own wheel and oven. He gathered clay from the old brickyard in Pleasant Grove and from the mines up around Occorphur. Every grandchild had a turn at the wheel as they tried to make a pot, in fact they got to keep the finished product. He made many beautiful pots that he would give to people who visited him.
The highlight of his retired years was a trip to Israel. He spent a week there with his daughter Nancy and her husband, Pat. Tears would well up in his eyes as told his children and grandchildren of this experience; how it felt to walk where the Savior walked and how short the distances were from on town to another or one spot in the Bible to another. He walked from place to place most of the trip. When he taught the Gospel Doctrine class after this experience he would use this trip in his lessons.
Gus gave his last Eagle interview the weekend before going into the hospital the last time. He wasn’t feeling well but the young man needed and deserved the interview. This young man had his Eagle Court of Honor the same night of Calvin’s funeral.
At his funeral s speaker stated that the real tribute to “Gus” was his family–children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who were there. As everyone left the church at the end of the funeral, the children of the Central School gathered on the playground and stood at attention in tribute to this man. That is the inheritance he left us all–“Love of family”.
From Mary Jean Caldwell