Monday, December 5, 2005

Howard Thomas Pitts

Howard Thomas Pitts was born in Myton, Utah, on September 27, 1918 to Thomas Vivian and Ruth Edwards Pitts. He was the second child in a family of what would become seven children. Bernice Ruth was just older than he (1917). Following him, in birth order, were Morgan (1920), Kenneth Vivian (1922), Vera Pearl Pitts (1923), Patricia Evelyn (1927), and Robert Leonard (1931). 

Howard and Bernice grew up around the animals and farm life for the early years of their lives. The Edward’s family, Ruth’s family, owned a ranch in the Myton area and that was where Ruth grew up. After Vera was born they moved to Price. Vera died shortly after her birth, within 11 hours, and was buried in Myton. The last two children were born in Price.

The Tom Pitts family lived on the north east part of town when they first moved to Price. Later, they moved to the south west section of town, just off Carbon Avenue. They were still living there when I was born. Tom Pitts actually built the house they lived in. It was just two blocks south of where his mother lived on Carbon Avenue.

On his way home from school, which was located in the center of town, (Central School for the younger grades and Harding School for the older grades of elementary school) Howard would stop by the library and read books. (The high school was east of the town along the irrigation canal.) As a young man, his favorite hobby was reading though he also liked working on cars and any engine. In those days, there were few garages where automotive work was done. He found he had an aptitude for it and, even as a boy, could figure out why equipment wasn’t working and what could be done to repair it. People would bring their cars to him to get them repaired.

It was his job to keep the old treadle sewing machine his mother owned, which she used to make much of their clothing, in good repair. Because of that, he learned to sew and, even as an older man, still liked sewing. He took all of his flair-legged pants and cut them down to regular legs once they were no longer in fashion. He also helped Edna sew. He could take a complicated pattern and make it into a simple thing to understand and construct.

The Pitts family bought a farm in Carbonville where they worked as farmers and had cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and grew fruit on their own trees. Ruth Pitts added to the family income by selling milk, eggs, peaches, apples, garden produce and sewing aprons (which everyone wore during the late 30s and early 40s). She also made bread daily. They built a house on that farm and moved there. Howard was an adult by then but Bob, who is nine-years older than Myrna, and Myrna loved playing about that farm. By this time, Howard, who was building up a trucking and construction business, also used the farm for a shop for his trucks and, later, as an automotive repair shop.

The family had always had milk cows. Howard’s job was to milk and separate the cream from the milk. Each milking, he always had a glass or two of fresh, warm milk which he highly enjoyed.

Howard graduated from Carbon High School, where he had played football, and then moved to San Francisco, California, where he worked for his uncle as an apprentice in the plumbing business. He did not like the work at all and returned to Price where he began his own trucking business. 

He met Elaine at a dance in Huntington where she was singing with a trio, After their performance, they joined in the dancing. She saw him and told her mother, who was present, that was the man she was going to marry. He saw her and told his buddy that that was the girl he was going to marry. It must have been love at first sight. Two years later, he married Elaine Smith on December 3, 1939. Incidentally, during their courtship, they sang together. Howard was a baritone and Elaine an alto.

Howard and Elaine had a rough time making a success of the trucking business but kept on working at it. Howard started to do lots of construction work to keep the roof over their heads. One time Vivian Smith (Elaine’s mother) went to one of those job sites  in Salt Lake County and found them sleeping under a dump truck. She owned a recreation trailer which they promptly “bought.”

Howard enlisted the help of his father, Tom, to drive truck back and forth to Vernal hauling coal. They made quite a bit of money doing this but they had to load the coal by shovel, human-manned. 

Prior to Myrna’s birth, December 24, 1940, they moved into a house just below the irrigation canal in northeast Price. They were living there when Howard became very ill with pneumonia and was moved to his parent’s house and into his parent’s care. Mom stayed at the little apartment. When it was time for Myrna to be born, she called Morgan who drove Elaine and unborn Myrna to the Price Hospital a few blocks away. They went in style in one of Howard’s dump trucks. 

Elaine died November 24, 1940 as the result of an automobile accident. They were at the Pitts’ home in west Price and, with friend Ferron Gardner at the wheel, were just pulling onto Carbon Avenue when they were T-boned by a speeding northbound car. Howard and Ferron had spent the day working on the car, had it running well and decided to take their wives to a movie using that car. Myrna was left with the grandparents so that Howard and Elaine could have an evening out. Elaine was pinned under the car and Howard and Ferron were thrown clear and suffered “road rash” only. Howard pried the car off of Elaine using a light post that had been standing at the corner.

Her death occurred just a few days before Pearl Harbor. Howard, was torn between providing for his daughter and, as a healthy male, serving his country. He finally left his daughter in the care of his mother-in-law and enlisted. He was trained first in California and, for a time, in Newport, Rhode Island. He served in the Pacific Islands as a Seabee in the Navy during World War II. One of his duties, was to help construct the airstrip on Tinian that was later used for the landing and take-off of the Enola Gay which dropped the atomic bomb on Japan.

He married Edna Pilling on March 4, 1946. The Pitts and Pilling families had been friends for many years. Both were dairy farmers, among other things. Great-Grandpa Pitts was less of a dairy farmer than the Pilling family, who ran the Cloverleaf Dairy, just outside Price. At any rate, Howard had known Edna for many, many years.

Howard and Edna became the parents of three daughters: Charlotte (Wallace) Kilfoyle, Boise, Idaho; Laurel (Thomas) Marinos, Cydney (Michael) Anderson, both of Price. Myrna, his daughter by his wife, Elaine, married Leonard Trauntvein, lives in Nephi, and has eight children.

He and Lieb Miller opened a shop on Carbon Avenue. Later, his brother Kenneth joined him in forming a construction business. During this time, along with Lieb Miller, they built the two large water tanks still in use in Price. They built bridges in Utah and Idaho and completed many other construction projects. He also hauled coal for many businesses in the county.

In 1953, he and Kenneth also began another business, Pitts Brother's Wrecking and Auto. He operated this business, even after his brother's death, until he was 75 and then retired.

At first, he and Edna rented apartments and homes. They then bought an older home on 100 East. Howard began a construction project on the home that took several years. First on the agenda was to build new kitchen cupboards and update the space to accommodate modern appliances. The then living room was remodeled. Two small spaces, one a bedroom and the other the existing living room, were combined by removing a wall. Built-in bookcases were built along the north wall. Two upstairs bedrooms were made in the unused attic. The attic had to be enlarged and dormer windows added to make it a usable space. Howard then tackled the basement. There wasn’t one under much of the house--just a small space for a washer. He added a furnace, connections for a washer and dryer and dug the entire space out under the home to make a basement. He added a master bath and then put shingles on the outside of the house. He also built a huge shed for woodwork and automotive work. Added a carport and a storage area attached to the rear of the house.

He was an avid fisherman and enjoyed boating and camping. He enjoyed hunting. He always loved photography and had many cameras over the years. He kept track of each photo by mounting them in scrap books. He was good at gardening. He and Edna always had a well-kept yard. After her death, he won the monthly best-kept yard in Price award two times, once in 2004 and 2005.

He and Edna had a home where many friends loved to gather. She was an excellent cook and they were both storytellers who could recount the past with humor and enthusiasm. Edna died March 14, 1997 after 50 years of marriage. They were headed back from a visit with his brother, Morgan, in Arizona when she suffered an aneurysm. In the hospital, in Salt Lake, where she was lifefighted, she told the doctor prior to surgery: “If you are not successful in saving my life, I want my money back.”

He was a hard worker, successful businessman, loving husband, father, grandfather and a well-loved neighbor and friend. He will be missed by his family and his many friends.

Howard had 14 grandchildren, Shawn (Kimberly) Trauntvein, Layton; Melanie (Howard) Bolton, Milford, Mass.; Todd (Amy) Trauntvein, Johnstown, Ohio; Eric (Amy) Trauntvein Payson; AnnMarie (Brandon) Howard, Provo; Julie (James) Jones, Nephi; Kirsten (Jared) Waite, Colorado Springs, Colorado; David (Arbree) Trauntvein, St. George; Brenda (Nathaniel) Golden, Boise, Idaho; Bridget Campbell, Boise, Idaho; Ursula (Cris) Pereira, West Jordan; Gust T. Marinos, Price; David M. Anderson, Las Vegas, Nevada; Terri Pierce, Price.

Howard Thomas Pitts, 86, passed away peacefully at his home in Price on Sunday morning, September 18, 2005, of pneumonia a sudden illness. He was buried in Price with full military honors.

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