Monday, December 12, 2011

More About Seabees and My Dad

My mom died on November 24 and left my dad at 22, a widower. Her death was just a short time before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which occurred on December 7, 1941. I was not even one year old and had lost my mother and was about to have my father away in a terrible war.

My dad owned his own trucking and construction business and was beginning to accumulate the necessary equipment to be successful. Therefore, when the United States Navy Seabees began advertising for recruits, it seemed like a good match for him. He could serve his country doing what he knew best.

According to the history written on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “After the attack and the United States entry into the war, the use of civilian labor in war zones became impractical. The Navy therefore created Construction Battalions (from which the abbreviation ‘C.B.’ became Seabees).”

It became clear that a militarized Naval Construction Force to build advance bases in the war zone was necessary.
On 28 December 1941, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, requested specific authority to create Navy construction units. On 5 January 1942, he gained authority from the Bureau of Navigation to recruit men from the construction trades for assignment to a Naval Construction Regiment. The regiment was composed of three Naval Construction Battalions.

The Bureau of Yards and Docks considered who should command the construction battalions and whether the newly established construction battalions be commanded by officers of the Civil Engineer Corps who were trained in the skills required for the performance of construction work.

Admiral Moreell personally inquired of the Secretary of the Navy for an answer. On 19 March 1942, after due deliberation, the Secretary gave authority for officers of the Civil Engineer Corps to exercise military authority over all officers and enlisted men assigned to construction units.

The Secretary's decision was incorporated in Navy regulations and was a significant morale booster for Civil Engineer Corps officers. The Seabees were tied into combat operations, the primary reason for the existence of any military force. Admiral Moreell's success contributed to the achievement and high esteem of the Seabees.
 Next, the Bureau of Yards and Docks was confronted with the problem of recruiting, enlisting, training and organizing the Seabees. Battalions were created and logistics ironed out to support the Seabees in their operations. Workable plans were quickly developed and improvised.

The first voluntarily enlisted Seabees were not raw recruits. Stress was placed on experience and skill. Recruits only needed to adapt their civilian construction skills to military needs. Physical standards were less rigid than in other branches of the armed forces. The age range for enlistment was 18–50. However, several men past 60 had joined.

In the early years of the war, the average age of Seabees was 37.

The first recruits were the men who had skills gained on civilian construction projects.
 Dad Howard qualified as being experienced. He owned his own construction and trucking business which he began by hauling coal. He had also, by then, built bridges, roads, and completed other construction projects.

By the end of the war, 325,000 men like him had enlisted in the Seabees. They knew more than 60 skilled trades.

At Naval Construction Training Centers and Advanced Base Depots established on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Seabees were taught military discipline and the use of light arms. Although technically support troops, Seabees at work, particularly during the early days of base development in the Pacific, frequently found themselves in conflict with the enemy.

When we went on a visit to Melanie, who lives in Milford, MA, with AnnMarie and family, we took my father along. We visited Newport on Road Island, the area where my father had been stationed for part of his training.
 He had completed in basic training in California.

As the war continued, battle-weary construction battalions and other units in the Pacific were returned to the United States to the Construction Battalion Recuperation and Replacement Center at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California. At Camp Parks, battalions were reformed and reorganized, or as was the case in several instances, the battalions were simply disestablished and the men assigned to other battalions.

Battle worn Seabees were given 30-day leaves for rest and recuperation.  Most of the time, those on R&R did not come home but went to Hawaii. My dad said he had no happy memories of the place and did not care to ever go back. I can well-imagine what it must have been like knowing the war horrors seen to contemplate a moment of peace before going back to carnage.

At some point, after I was walking and was probably about age 2, my father came back to Price. I have some photos of him with me. He must have either been between training and deployment or home for reassignment. I am not certain. He was in his Navy uniform. The visit was just a hiatus because he then returned to battle in the Pacific. I didn’t see him again until I was five, almost six.

Dad spent his entire war experience in the Pacific.

During his war service, Dad was assigned to 135th NCB, the 65th NCB, the 17th NCB and 9th NCB.

He had the rating of MM2/c and, later, the rating MM1/C (T).

It was during his assignment with the 135th that he was stationed on Tinian.
 Some of the first battalions were sent overseas immediately upon completion of boot training. The usual practice, however, was to ship the newly-formed battalion to an Advanced Base Depot at either Davisville, Rhode Island, or Port Hueneme, California for staging and outfitting.

The Seabees received six weeks of advanced military and technical training, unit training, and then were shipped overseas.

The construction battalion comprised four companies that included the necessary construction skills for doing any job, plus a headquarters company consisting of medical and dental professionals and technicians, administrative personnel, storekeepers, cooks, and similar specialists. The complement of a standard battalion originally was set at 32 officers and 1,073 men, but from time to time the complement varied in number.

As the war continued, construction projects became more complex. More than one battalion was often assigned to a base. For efficient administrative control, these battalions were organized into a regiment. When necessary, two or more regiments were organized into a brigade, and as required, two or more brigades were organized into a naval construction force.

For example, 55,000 Seabees were assigned to Okinawa where the battalions were organized into 11 regiments and 4 brigades. All were under a Navy Civil Engineer Corps officer, Commodore Andrew G. Bisset.

His command also included 45,000 United States Army engineers, aviation engineers, and a few British engineers for a total of 100,000 construction troops, the largest concentration of construction troops during the war.

Although the Seabees began with the formation of regular construction battalions the Bureau of Yards and Docks realized the need for special-purpose units. While the battalion itself was versatile enough to handle almost any project, it would have been a wasteful use of men to assign a full battalion to a project that could be done equally well by a smaller group of specialists.

The first departure from the standard battalion was the Special Construction Battalion, or as it was commonly known, the Seabee Special. These special battalions were composed of stevedores and longshoremen who were needed to break a bottleneck in the unloading of ships in combat zones.

Another smaller, specialized unit within the Seabee organization was the Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit, which was about one-quarter the size of a regular construction battalion and was organized to take over the maintenance of a base after a regular battalion had completed construction and moved on to its next assignment.

Still another specialized Seabee unit was the construction battalion detachment, ranging in size from 6 to 600 men, who did everything from operating tire-repair shops to dredges. A principal use was the handling, assembling, launching, and placing of pontoon causeways.

Additional specialized units were the motor trucking battalions, the pontoon assembly detachments that manufactured pontoons in forward areas, and petroleum detachments of experts in the installation of pipelines and petroleum facilities.
 Seabees were organized into 151 regular construction battalions, 39 special construction battalions, 164 construction battalion detachments, 136 construction battalion maintenance units, 5 pontoon assembly detachments, 54 regiments, 12 brigades, and under various designations, 5 naval construction forces. They performed in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters of Operation.  At a cost of nearly $11 billion and many casualties, they constructed over 400 advanced bases along five figurative “roads” which all had their beginnings in the continental United States. The South Atlantic road wound through the Caribbean Sea to Africa, Sicily, and up the Italian peninsula. The North Atlantic road passed through Newfoundland to Iceland, Great Britain, France, and Germany. The North Pacific road passed through Alaska and along the Aleutian Island chain. The Central Pacific road passed through the Hawaiian, Marshall, Gilbert, Mariana, and Ryukyu Islands. The South Pacific road went through the South Sea islands to Samoa, the Solomons, New Guinea, and the Philippines. All the Pacific roads converged on Japan and the Asiatic mainland.
 Dad was a Seabee in the Pacific Theater of Operations. These construction battlions earned the gratitude and respect of Allied fighting men who served with or followed them. Their actions were incomparable in history. With eighty percent of the Naval Construction Force concentrated on the three Pacific roads, they built and fought their way to victory.

In the North, Central, South and Southwest Pacific areas, the Seabees built 111 major airstrips, 441 piers, 2,558 ammunition magazines, 700 square blocks of warehouses, hospitals to serve 70,000 patients, tanks for the storage of 100,000,000 gallons of gasoline, and housing for 1,500,000 men. In construction and fighting operations, the Pacific Seabees suffered more than 200 combat deaths and earned more than 2,000 Purple Hearts. They served on four continents and on more than 300 islands.
 Many of the first Seabees were sent to the North Pacific to stop what looked like might become a major Japanese offensive. By late June 1942 Seabees had landed in Alaska and had begun building advanced bases on key islands in the Aleutian chain. In 1943, these new bases were used to stage the joint Army-Navy force that recaptured Attu and Kiska. The long arm of Seabee-built bases pointing toward Japan served as a threat to the Japanese.

Of the remaining two Pacific roads, the one through the jungles of the South and Southwest Pacific had the Philippines as one of its principal destinations. The Seabees' first stop along this road was in the Society Islands.

The First Naval Construction Battalion (later redesignated the 1st Construction Battalion Detachment because of its small size) left the United States in January 1942 and, one month later, landed on Bora Bora in the Society Islands.  This battalion called themselves the "Bobcats" after the code name BOBCAT, given to the island of Bora Bora. The Bobcats were the advance party of more than 325,000 men who would serve in the Naval Construction Force during the war. The Bobcats' mission was to construct a fueling station that would service the many ships and planes necessary to defend and keep open the sea lanes to Australia.

Soon after landing, the Bobcats discovered the island had disadvantages. Continual rainfall and disease combined to make life miserable for Seabees. The island, far from the regular trade routes, had no piers from which to unload the supply-laden ships. The Bobcats devised a method of bringing supplies ashore aboard pontoon barges and swiftly constructed fueling facilities. The island's tank farms supplied ships and planes that fought the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Two additional groups of Navy construction forces were organized into the 2nd and 3rd Construction Battalion Detachments. Less than five months after the Bobcats arrived on Bora Bora, the Second Detachment was sent to Tongatapu in the Tonga Islands and the Third Detachment to Efate in the New Hebrides.

These two islands were on the supply route to Australia and were being used as a staging area for a counterthrust by the Allies in the Southwest Pacific. The Seabees constructed fuel tank farms, airfields, supply depots, and needed facilities to support military action in the Coral Sea and Solomon Islands.

Guadalcanal was the tip of the Japanese push along the Solomon chain toward the Allied southern communications route. The big Japanese airfields nearing completion on Guadalcanal needed to be destroyed.

The Seabees of the 3rd Construction Battalion Detachment were instructed to build an Allied bomber strip. Within 20 days the detachment had built a 6,000-foot airstrip. As a result, the Allies were able to mount air attacks against Guadalcanal and destroy the Japanese air base under construction.

When the Marines invaded Guadalcanal, the 6th Naval Construction Battalion followed them ashore and became the first Seabees to build under combat conditions. They began repairing the airfield, now named Henderson Field, they had helped destroy.

As fast as the builders leveled the strip and put down Marston matting, the Japanese would send bombers to drop high explosives on their work. In the midst of battle, the Seabees were able to repair shell and bomb holes faster than the Japanese could make them. Allied pilots needed the use of the field, so the Seabees kept the airstrip in operation.

Dad said that this happened to him many times. It was neccessary, he said, to keep working on the airstrips so our planes could take off for counterattack and so they could land again.

Japanese soldiers would attack the ships in the harbor.

“I got up on the roof of a truck and was watching the bombing,” said Dad. “The other guys told me I was crazy and that I just made a good target.”

It seemed to him that the soldiers were all targets all ready, he said.

There were times when his buddys next to him would be killed and he would be left alive and he would wonder why.

The first decorated Seabee hero of the war, Seaman 2nd Class Lawrence C. "Bucky" Meyer, USNR, was among the Seabees of the 6th battalion who worked on Henderson Field. In his off-time, he salvaged and repaired an abandoned machine gun, which, on 3 October 1942, he used to shoot down a Japanese Zero fighter making a strafing run. For this, he was awarded the Silver Star. It was a posthumous award, because 13 days after shooting down the plane, "Bucky" Myer was killed in action when the gasoline barge on which he was working was struck by Japanese naval gunfire.

On the same day Guadalcanal was invaded, Marines landed on Tulagi Island. The Seabees came ashore to construct a torpedo patrol boat and repair base for the U.S. Fleet. The base played a strategic role during sea battles in the “slot.” Patrol boats darted from the Seabee-built base to scout Japanese moves, and crippled American ships came to receive temporary Seabee repairs.

As the Allies continued up the Solomon chain, other islands became centers of construction by Seabee units. At the same time, Seabees in the Southwest Pacific were driving northward from Australia to New Guinea and the Philippines.

It was during the landing on Treasury Island in the Solomons, on 28 November 1943, that Fireman 1st Class Aurelio Tassone, USNR, of the 87th Naval Construction Battalion created the legendary figure of the Seabee astride his bulldozer rolling over enemy positions. Tassone was driving his bulldozer ashore during the landing when Lieutenant Charles E. Turnbull, CEC, USNR, told him a Japanese pillbox was holding up the advance from the beach.  Tassone drove his dozer toward the pillbox, using the blade as a shield, while Lieutenant Turnbull provided covering fire with his carbine. Under continuous heavy fire, Tassone crushed the pillbox with the dozer blade, killing all 12 of its occupants. For this act Tassone was awarded the Silver Star.

Since the blade of a bulldozer could be left in a position to protect the driver, my father and others, also used the blade as a shield. Hand grenades would bounce off the curved blade. When the dozer driver got to the pillbox or area where the Japanese soldiers were concentrated, he would lower the blade swiftly and bury the enemy in earth. Dad said he buried many men alive and could hear their screams.

“It was them or us,” he said. “That is war.”

Although Seabees were only supposed to fight to defend what they built, such acts of heroism were numerous. In all, Seabees earned 33 Silver Stars and 5 Navy Crosses during World War II. But they also paid a price: 272 enlisted men and 18 officers killed in action. In addition more than 500 Seabees died in accidents. Construction is essentially a hazardous business.

Another milestone in Seabee history was in the making of a film in 1943 and released in early 1944. The motion picture “The Fighting Seabees,” starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward, made “Seabee” a household word during the latter part of the war.  
 Seabees in the Southwest Pacific constructed new staging and supply ports at several Australian coastal points. By mid-1943, however, MeNew Guinea, resounded with the roar of battle and the clatter of Seabee hammers and bulldozers. After building an important bomber strip that helped fend off Japanese air attacks, they constructed a communications station at Port Moresby.

Finally, on 26 December 1943, the Seabees joined the First Marine Division in an assault on Japanese-held Cape Gloucester, New Britain. During the battle, Seabees bulldozed paths to the Japanese lines so that American tanks could attack the hostile positions. By New Year's Day, the Japanese airstrips were captured and the American flag flew over the entire Cape.

In the busy months following the capture of the Admiralties, the Seabees transformed Manus and Los Negros into the largest U.S. naval and air base in the Southwest Pacific. By 1944 the new base had become the primary location for service, supply, and repair of the Seventh U.S. Fleet. During the same month, the capture of Emirau Island completed the encirclement of Rabaul. There the Seabees built a strategic, two-field air base, huge storage and fuel dumps, a floating dry dock, miles of roads, and a base for torpedo patrol boats.

Leapfrogging ahead with General Douglas MacArthur's forces, the Seabees reached Hollandia and turned it into base instrumental in the liberation of the Philippines. The Seabees of the Third Naval Construction Brigade were still with General MacArthur when the South and Southwest Pacific roads to victory converged on the Philippine Island of Leyte in October 1944. Naval Construction Battalions operated the pontoon barges and causeway units that brought the Allied Forces ashore and fulfilled General MacArthur's famous promise to one day return.

Seabees were soon joined by those of the Second and Seventh Naval Construction Brigades, began building the facilities that were needed to make the Philippines a great forward base in the Pacific.

The Seabees of this force built U.S. Navy and Army airfields, supply depots, staging areas for men and materials, training areas and camp-sites.  Seventh Fleet headquarters moved to the Philippines and Seabees built the facilities that the fleet required: fleet anchorages, submarine bases, ships repair facilities, fast torpedo boat bases. By the summer of 1945, U.S. military forces were prepared and poised for that last step on the South Pacific road to victory.

While the Seabees in the South and Southwest Pacific were in the Philippines, those to the north were moving across the Central Pacific island chains. It was on this hazardous road that the Seabees perhaps made their greatest contributions toward winning the war.

They played a major role in the savage fighting which characterized the island- hopping campaign in the Central Pacific. After landing in the initial Marine assaults, Seabee battalions built the advanced bases from which the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the Marines, and the Army moved toward the Japanese homeland.

Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts was one of the toughest of them all. At a cost of nearly 1,000 American dead, the Seabees, who landed with the Marines in a mere fifteen hours put a shell-pocked airfield back into operation.

The seizure of the Marianas spelled the beginning of the end for the Japanese. The loss of the islands cut the Japanese line of defense and, even more important, gave the United States an airbase from which bombers could strike at the very heart of the Japanese Empire, the homeland. It was during Operation "Forager," as the Marianas Campaign was named, that the Seabees made one of their most significant contributions in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

Seabees and Marines landed together on the beaches of first Saipan, then Guam, and finally Tinian. The very same day the Marines captured Aslito, the main Japanese airfield on Saipan, the Seabees went to work repairing its bomb-damaged runways. Stopping only to fend off Japanese counterattacks, they succeeded in making the airstrip operational within four days.

During the three week battle for Guam, the Seabees participated by unloading ships and performing vital construction jobs directed at eventually turning the island into the advanced headquarters for the United States Pacific Fleet, an airbase for Japan-bound B-29s, and a huge center of war supply.

The invasion of Tinian called for yet another exhibition of Seabee ingenuity. Because its narrow beaches were covered with low coral cliffs, Seabees devised and operated special movable ramps which made the landings possible. Once ashore, and even as the battle raged, their bulldozers accomplished prodigious feats of construction on the damaged and unfinished Japanese airfield.

What was needed after the successful Marianas campaign was an emergency landing field much closer to the Japanese homeland that would service crippled bombers returning from raids and enable shorter- ranged fighter planes to accompany the giant bombers to their targets. The island chosen for this purpose was Iwo Jima, scene of some of the most savage fighting of the war.

On 19 February 1945, the Fifth Amphibious Corps, which included the 133rd Naval Construction Battalion and elements of the 31st Naval Construction Battalion, hit the beaches. During the assault, the 133rd Naval Construction Battalion suffered more men killed or wounded than any other Seabee battalion. The Seabees later built an emergency landing field and fighter airstrips needed by the Allies.

Seabees played a key role in the last big operation of the island war, the seizure of Okinawa. The main invasion forces landed on Okinawa's west coast Hagushi beaches on Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945. Off the amphibious landing craft and over pontoons placed by the 130th Naval Construction Battalion went the 24th Army Corps and Third Amphibious Corps. Right beside them were the 58th, 71st and 145th Naval Construction Battalions. A few days later, two additional Naval Construction Battalions, the 44th and 130th, landed. The fighting was heavy and prolonged, and organized resistance did not cease until 21 June 1945.

The Seabees' task on Okinawa, whose physical facilities a fierce bombardment had all but destroyed, they built ocean ports, a grid of roads, bomber and fighter fields, a seaplane base, quonset villages, tank farms, storage dumps, hospitals, and ship repair facilities.

Nearly 55,000 Seabees, organized into four brigades, participated in Okinawa construction operations. By the beginning of August 1945, sufficient facilities, supplies, and manpower were available to mount an invasion of the Japanese home islands.
 While the Allied forces in the Philippines and on Okinawa were readying themselves for the final battles that would get them to Tokyo and complete the roads to victory, decisive events were taking place on the island of Tinian in the Marianas.
 This was where my father was now located.

During the summer of 1945, the USS Indianapolis (CA-35) arrived at Tinian from the Naval Weapons Center at Port Chicago, California. Seabees of the Sixth Naval Construction Brigade helped with the unloading of the components of a newly- developed weapon. The Seabees then stored the elements in a shed built by themselves, and organized a detachment to guard the shed and its mysterious contents. Scientists assembled the weapon in the shed with several Seabees assisting as handymen.

My father helped construct the runway on Tinian where the Enola Gay landed and where the airplane lifted off on its way to drop the first atomic bombs.

“We knew something was up,” said Dad. “It was of a much stronger construction than any airstrips we had built before.”

On 6 August 1945 the new weapon was loaded into a U.S. Army Air Force B-29 bomber, named the Enola Gay. A short time later, the Enola Gay took off with its secret load from Tinian's North Field, which the Seabees had built, and started on her mission to Japan. Later in the day, the mission ended with the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Realizing that the war was lost, the Japanese government negotiated a cease fire that went into effect on 16 August. On 2 September 1945 Japan formally surrendered, and Allied forces occupied the Japanese home islands in a peaceful manner. Thus, the Pacific roads to victory reached their final destination.

With the general demobilization following the war, the Construction Battalions were reduced to 3,300 men on active duty by 1950. Between 1949 and 1953, Naval Construction Battalions were organized into two types of units: Amphibious Construction Battalions (ACBs) and Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs).

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Forgotten Carols: 20 Years of Holiday Magic

Twenty years ago, Michael McLean created a Christmas performance that has endeared itself in the hearts of thousands. This year, Alyssa was in the performance at UVU and AnnMarie bought us tickets. It was great!‏

Alyssa was in the choir and was the leader of the off-key on-stage group as well. She is a natural on stage and has a beautiful voice so we were very proud.

I can see why 'The Forgotten Carols" has been popular for such a long time. I loved, of course, that Alyssa was there and that she, and the way that she lights up a stage, were so appealing but I would go see it again because it has such heart. It was a great way to welcome the Christmas season.

Melanie wrote: Our Stake in Missouri put this on. It was good. I think Todd has seen it as well. How wonderful that Alyssa was able to perform in it. She has been very busy this year! Melanie

Todd wrote: Amy and I saw it at UVU. I really liked it. I bet she was terrific. 

Kirsten wrote: One of my FHE bros was in the "homeless" group, so i saw it at Timp High School 16 years ago.  It was great even then. Kirsten

Friday, November 18, 2011

Questions Myrna's Grandkids Asked

Grammy, please describe your favorite family activity when you were younger.

There were so many that I cannot pick just one. When I was alone with just Grandma, I liked to read, draw, play with dolls and paper dolls. I made clothes for both kinds of dolls. I learned to be very careful with scissors during these creative bouts. Once when I was cutting out a paper doll creation, I held the doll against my skirt. Grandma told me to be careful and I thought I was but when I finished I had cut the dress for the doll out of my skirt. I am certain that through some kind of patch or creative mending Grandma made it so that I could wear in again. But all I remember was her exclamation, "Myrna Rae, I told you to be careful!" I don't remember that scissors were taken away from me but I do remember that I had to sit at the dining room table to cut things out for quite a while. This was also a good learning experience for my children because I would caution them not to cut their clothes and to cut with something hard between them and their clothes like a table or a hard-cover book.

Most of my activities Grandma joined in along with me. We did all sorts of arts, crafts, reading projects and science projects together. Sometimes she would pay the fee for me to go to one of her art workshops which she attended as a teacher. I loved that. I would get involved and learned to do all sorts of different projects.

I like listening to radio series. You could listen to the radio and still draw or color or do a myriad of other things. The second version of Bobby Benson, which began in 1949 and aired until June 1955, was one of my favorites. It outlasted every other kids' dramatic show, including Superman, Green Hornet, Captain Midnight, Sky King and Straight Arrow. I also liked Roy Rogers, a singing cowboy actor, one of the most heavily marketed stars of the day. He and his wife Dale Evans, his golden palomino, Trigger, and his German Shepherd dog, Bullet, were in more than 100 movies and The Roy Rogers Show. The show ran on radio for nine years before moving to television from 1951 through 1957. He had a sidekick, either Pat Brady, Andy Devine, George "Gabby" Hayes. I liked Gabby well enough on television but he had a beard and, when I was five or so, he terrified me because he was also crotchety.

Grandma tried taking Garth and Aunt Renee to movies when I was that age. She had to take me out when Gabby came on because he looked so big on the screen that he scared the bejabbers out of me. I didn't much like Santa because of his white beard either. Once, at the movie, there was a phone that kept ringing and ringing, part of the plot, and I hollered out, from the balcony so that my voice carried, "Well, answer the phone!" That got a lot of laughs, much to my surprise. Later, my cousins and I used to go to the Saturday matinee during the daytime. The theatre would show several movies in series and would end each one with a cliff-hanger. You just had to go again the next week to find out what happened.

Picnics were may favoirte summertime activity. Aunt Renee and Uncle Max loved fishing. I never did but I sure liked to be along. So did Grandma and those picnics and being in the canyons were treasures.

I also liked singing and playing the piano though I was not very good at the piano. I thought I was a great singer. I took singing lessons for several years and sang at various places for various programs. I loved it until I was about 16 and then I started to get so frightened that my voice would shake. Rather than face down my fears, which I should have done, I just quit accepting invitations to sing. Nobody can really make a 1 6-year old do anything. They can plead, suggest and cajole but they cannot make you show up. I started volunteering to read some of my poetry for groups that would call me. I thought I would grow up to be a famous poetess. We all see how that worked out. I did win several poetry contests and, in one, was named the poet with the most promise.

I loved painting and art of any kind. My Aunt Pat, my father's sister, became my first patron and would pay me  50-cents for one of my creations. Later I sold oil paintings to some of my teachers and gifted some to others, at their request. One I did for a wedding gift, at her request, for Miss Moleno when she was married. She was an elementary school teacher and we became friends through my grandmother. I even sat at her guest book at her reception and was a guest at her Catholic wedding and the meal that followed.

My favorite thing to do was play with my Childs cousins. When we were together, which was usually daily, we played and played and played. If the weather was good, we played outdoors with the neighborhood kids, sometimes, and sometimes with just us. We had lived with them, Grandmother and I, after she gave up her job as principal in Wattis to move to Price after my mother died. Garth was born during that time and we really thought, for several years, that we were brother and sister. It came as a shock to us both when Great-Grandmother Pritchett came to live with us and we moved to a little rented house not far away from Aunt Renee and Uncle Max. It was traumatic to the two of us. Aunt Renee made certain that we spent lots and lots of time together anyway.

We later moved to a rented home on Carbon Avenue, the two older women and I. It had a huge backyard and lots of neighbor kids our ages. We had a big garden and Aunt Renee and Grandma spent hours and hours caring for it and bottling the results of their labors. Summers were wonderful because we would spend whole days together.

We were cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, soldiers, pilots, Superman and his enemies. We played with kids at the Childs' neighborhood or at mine. We played hours of hide-and-seek. We rode trikes, roller skated, played marbles, played with plastic cowboys and small cars in my sand pile. We climbed trees though I wasn't particularly good at it. We picked tomatoes, green peppers and green peas from our combined garden. Those summers were the best because they seemed to last forever. Winters we built snowmen, sleighed, ice skated and just romped about. I didn't ever like to get too cold but I was up for some snow fun. The boys were good at ball as was Aunt Renee. I was hopeless but I was a good admirer of skill. Hang, I had a difficult time learning how hopscotch. My boy cousins had to teach me how. I think that Aunt Renee and Grandma, who were both athletic, used to just shake their heads at my lack of ability.

Like kids everywhere, we had homework. We sometimes worked at it in the same house and sometimes independently. They were better at math but we all liked to read and read and read and to be read to. What a wonderful childhood. Every day was a gift.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Howard Thomas Pitts' History

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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Factor V and Todd

Both Melanie and Todd have Factor Five. Dad Leonard has Factor Five. I do not.

Melanie had a small stroke when she was Todd's age. Todd is 45 and will be 46 on the 26th of November. His stroke was a wake-up call for me and I think that all of my children should be tested. It may prevent problems in the future.

Kirsten has also been tested and does not have it. None of the rest of you have been tested. Todd's doctor said that it was important for all of you to manage your cholesterol under 200. Dad received the gene from his mother. I am assuming that Eva and Don also have it though, to my knowledge, neither have been tested.

There is a site ( for those who are interested.

Factor V Leiden Mutation (

Venous thrombosis is a significant cause of mortality in the U.S., with an annual incidence of 1/1000. It accounts for a half a million hospitalizations and causes over 50,000 deaths annually. Hereditary disorders predisposing to thrombosis include the factor V Leiden genetic mutation, the factor II (prothrombin) gene G to A 20210 mutation, protein C deficiency, protein S deficiency, antithrombin III deficiency, and dysfibrinogenemia.

Of these, the factor V Leiden mutation is by far the most common, accounting for up to 40% of all cases, and up to 75% of cases of recurrent thrombosis. It has approximately a 5% prevalence in the general population and is at least 10 times more common than any other known thrombophilic genetic defect.

In general, thrombophilic patients are targeted. Clinical criteria for thrombophilia includes venous thrombosis or thromboembolism which occurs before the age of 45 or is recurrent, a family history of venous thrombosis or thromboembolism, or a history of thrombosis in an unusual anatomic location, or recurrent superficial thrombophlebitis.

The factor V Leiden mutation can be diagnosed using a simple PCR genetic assay. Unlike conventional coagulation assays, it can be performed in anticoagulated patients.

Genetic counseling is available by calling the Allina Molecular Diagnostics Lab. The Molecular Diagnostic Lab's team of certified genetic counselors will help with any questions about the test or issues for families.

I have not called this lab but, perhaps, I should.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's a Grumpy Day!

There goes that Pitts/Pritchett temper again. I will make three CDs. I will keep them here. If anyone wants to borrow them, I will send them one. They can copy as they choose. If any of you would still like to get the photos, as Kirsten does, let me know and I will send them. Jim and Karma have said they want the one with all the family. You must now say either yes or no. I cannot compress the files because I do not know how. I just figured out how to copy slides. I do not want to learn how to compress files the same day. Dad says he thinks I spend too much time doing all of this. He says I would be better off going for a walk. He says that when we (he and I) die, you will just send them all to the dump anyway. That is his take.

As for facebook, I don't post photos except for my own. I do have all the protections set. However, I know that they do not always work. That is why facebook is trying to make the site more secure.

We have the Trauntvein blog site and I have lots and lots of stuff on that. It is so protected, however, that I am the only one who ever visits it. You have to be invited to view it and I have invited you all. However, I don't think anyone but Melanie has ever gone there. I know, because she thanked me for my posts. I also maintain the "Grammy's Gleanings" blog and I put on there what I want about myself and Dad and I do not protect it. I actually hope that someone reads it. I don't have any followers, it has small audience appeal, so I will never become rich nor famous but I do have the beginnings of my history on there.

I began taking all these photos, as did my dad, because there were only a dozen photos of my mother when she died. That is so few that in a blink you could forget she ever lived. I wanted a photo history of each of you. I have one. It doesn't matter to me whether anyone else cares. I care. I took them for me and for my dad. He appreciated them as well. No one else from my past lived long enough to enjoy them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


By Peter B. Gardner (BA ’98)

An artist, rancher, and mother, Minerva Teichert was, at heart, a teacher who found her greatest eloquence in the wall-sized paintings she created in her remote Wyoming home.

If you lived in Cokeville, Wyo., in the middle of the last century and needed to buy a pint of cream, you might very well have taken a walk down Main Street to the end, where the Teichert place marked the border between town and the grazing fields and western hills beyond. Your knock at the door of the bustling ranch house would summon white-haired, headbanded Minerva Teichert, glad you stopped by and grateful for a break from chores.

The chores she’d be referring to would depend on the time of day you called. If it were morning, it might be dishes after a 6 a.m. breakfast for a kitchen full of family and ranch hands. At midday, it might be cleaning milk bottles, churning butter, or forming a loaf of soap. In the afternoon, you might have caught her in her apron, pockets full of seed for her flock of 75 chickens.

She’d welcome you into the high-ceilinged front room and sit you on a worn couch. First thing you’d notice is the scent of linseed oil. Then you’d look up and see a painted canvas—in some stage of completion—filling every inch of the largest available wall in the room, with paintbrushes and a blotched palette nearby. You’d ask about the painting and, to be certain, you’d later leave the Teichert home with your pint of cream as well as a story—of a pioneer’s courage, an old Indian ritual, or maybe Lehi’s desert trek.

Minerva Teichert was a rancher’s wife and a gardener, a raiser of children and chickens, a maker of butter and biscuits, but at heart she was a storyteller, a teacher who found her greatest eloquence in bold brushstrokes on her entry-room wall.

Minerva Teichert is no longer selling cream at the end of Main Street in Cokeville, but she is still telling stories of the West and of her faith. Today, if you want a story from her, you can find it in galleries and in art shows, like the exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art, Pageants in Paint, which explores ways Teichert borrowed storytelling techniques from pageants and used them in her murals. Taken together, Teichert’s paintings help tell another story—her own.
The Making of a Western Artist
Minerva Teichert lived her life at the border between the rustic and the refined, walking with one foot in the frontier and the other in the circles of culture and high society.

Born in 1888, Minerva spent much of her young life on a remote homestead near American Falls, Idaho. As soon as she could sit in a saddle on her own, Minerva could be found astride her horse, Gem, exploring the countryside and filling sketchbooks with charcoal and pencil observations of the Indians on the nearby reservation, the animals she encountered, and the landscapes around her. Her parents supplemented her sporadic formal education by reading aloud history, geography, and, one winter, the complete works of William Shakespeare. She would call the time she spent on the Idaho homestead her most important training as a painter.

Her art ambitions raised considerably at age 14, when she spent the summer in San Francisco as a nursemaid. There, at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, she observed the creation of great art for the first time. After graduating from high school, Minerva taught school and pitched hay to support her father on a mission to Europe and then to raise funds to study at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In Chicago, she became known to classmates and professors alike as Miss Idaho. Renowned draftsman John Vanderpoel taught Minerva and the other students every bone and muscle in the human body. One day, feeling Vanderpoel was excessively critical of her work, which she thought was better than that of her classmates, Minerva confronted her instructor. His disappointed face and choked reply always stayed with her: “Miss Idaho, can it be possible you do not understand[?] . . . [T]hey will drop out, but you—ah, there is no end.” Minerva finished her coursework in Chicago in 1912. While there she was introduced to mural painting, a then-popular form for many artists, who saw their works as a way to educate the masses.

During breaks in her coursework, Minerva had returned to Idaho to earn more money. There she resumed teaching and tried her hand at homesteading (sleeping for months in an isolated cabin with a pistol under her pillow). She also formed an attachment with Herman Teichert, a quiet, unlearned cowboy whose parents had emigrated from Germany. Minerva’s parents were against the match because Herman wasn’t a Mormon. Herman’s parents were against it because Minerva was. In the end, Minerva’s mother made an offer: if Minerva would agree not to marry Herman, she would support Minerva at the Art Students’ League in New York City. Telling Herman to find someone else to marry, Minerva chose art.

In April 1915 the 26-year-old artist boarded a train for the East. She immediately fell in love with New York, attending operas, concerts, and suffrage meetings. When funds ran low, she drew cadavers for medical schools and illustrated children’s books. She also donned an Indian costume and performed dances and rope tricks to earn money.

Minerva quickly emerged as a top student in her crowded art classes. When people questioned her choice of subjects for her art, she’d say, “There’s too much sagebrush in my blood to forget the beauties of rugged mountains [and] dry plains.” She became especially noted for the quality of her animal paintings. Back home, Utah and Idaho newspapers spread word of her successes, including the prizes and scholarships she won to further her studies with renowned artists of the day.

A major influence on Minerva was famed portraitist Robert Henri. “Love reality, but abhor photographic representation,” he instructed his students. He also taught them to use large brushes and loose strokes and to not overwork their compositions. Minerva blended Henri’s instruction, her training in figure drawing and mural techniques, and her Western sensibilities to create a style that is recognizable at a glance.

Henri, who became a lifelong friend and mentor, lent guidance in more than just brushstrokes. “Has anyone ever told your great Mormon story?” he asked her one day. “Not to suit me,” she replied. To this he retorted, “Good heavens, girl, what a chance. . . . Oh, to be a Mormon. . . . You’ll do it well.”

From that time on, “I felt that I had been commissioned,” she said.

But this wasn’t all that turned her focus westward. In a talk at church, a speaker counseled the women who had come east seeking worldly success: “Girls, what’s a career? You go back home and marry your sweethearts and have your families and you will be much happier than you will [be] by following a career.” The sentiment struck Minerva. “I [thought] of all the men I had met in my search for ‘glittering gold,’” she later wrote, “and back on the Idaho desert, herding his cattle and branding his calves, was a man more nearly meant for me than anyone else in the world.”

With doors to the highest levels of American art opening before her, this time Minerva chose Herman and a family.
I Must Paint

Minerva Teichert chose family again and again throughout her life, as when she was invited by Henri and his wife to accompany them to Europe to study art. Herman consented, and Minerva, then a mother of three young boys, made plans to go. But then she had a vivid dream of a daughter and felt she should stay—much to the frustration of Henri. Laurie was soon born to the family.

But choosing marriage and family hardly meant forsaking art. To hear her describe it, one would think she had little choice in the matter. “I must paint,” Teichert would say. “It’s a disease.” Nothing—not the ranching duties she fulfilled, lead poisoning from her paints, or failing eyesight in later years—could keep her from painting.

In 1927 the Teicherts were forced from their remote Idaho log cabin in the Snake River bottoms, which were to be covered by a reservoir. When the family arrived at their high-mountain-valley ranch home in Cokeville, Wyo., they were delighted by the marvels of electricity and running water. But especially important to Teichert was a stretch of wall in her front room, much larger than any wall space in her Idaho cabin. She’d dreamt of such a space, and for the next four decades, a mural nearly always hung there. Large as it was, it wasn’t big enough to accommodate all her grand designs. Sometimes murals had to be folded over and painted one section at a time. To evaluate her work in the confined space, she’d view the paintings through binoculars turned backward.

With a dramatic nature, abundant vivacity, and unusual ways, Teichert stood out from but was appreciated by the Cokeville community. Arriving at age 39, she already had a shock of white hair, which was always encircled by a headband (she joked that this was to hold her brains in). Marian Eastwood Wardle (BA ’73), a granddaughter and curator of the current BYU exhibit, recalls her grandmother reciting poetry, sometimes stopping midline to strike an appropriate pose. Grandson Burke Teichert remembers, “When a funeral would end, she would go and help herself to a bouquet of flowers.” A day or two later she would present a still life of the bouquet to the grieving family. Eventually her neighbors caught on and began delivering the flowers to her doorstep.

But her main artistic outlet was her murals, to which she’d add strokes between chores. “She was a multitasker—big time,” says Wardle. “She’d be cooking at the stove and walk around [the corner] and put some brush strokes on the painting.” At night, once her children were asleep, Teichert gave her paintings full attention. She’d sometimes adjust the clocks to get them to sleep sooner.

While in Idaho, she had painted several works that hung in public spaces. But it was in the 1930s, early in the Great Depression, that her art began to pay off. Like most everyone else, the Teicherts were struggling to make ends meet. Minerva wanted to contribute with her brush, but she needed to reach out to a larger market. So she traveled to Salt Lake City in search of an agent. At a meeting with Alice Merrill Horne, a well-connected art dealer in Utah, she unrolled a mural and said simply, “Please look at this.” Horne was astonished. Two weeks later, Horne had arranged an exhibit of Teichert’s work. Within months Teichert would meet with the governor of Utah and receive enthusiastic reviews of her art in major Utah newspapers. In 1932, when the Teicherts’ economic situation reached a crisis, Horne found several buyers, and Teichert’s paintings saved the ranch.

The two became dear friends as Horne encouraged and directed Teichert’s efforts and regularly showed her works to potential buyers. In the 1930s alone, Horne placed some 60 Teichert murals in schools, churches, and civic buildings. When it came time for the Teicherts to send their children to college, Horne brokered a deal with BYU to provide scholarships in exchange for murals. Many Cokeville youth besides the Teichert children would eventually benefit from the arrangement.

As Teichert’s profile rose in Utah, the artist continued to explore stories of the Mormon migration and scriptural themes. By 1947, Teichert had risen to the top of the Mormon art world, winning first prize in the Church’s centennial art contest and becoming the first woman invited to paint a temple mural.

Her task was to paint the Manti Temple’s gigantic world room, which in other temples was typically rendered as a barren desert wasteland. True to form, Teichert envisioned an entirely different world room, creating a grand procession of people from every culture marching with high heads, hardly noticing the poor at their feet. “Beggars going unheeded by all these pompous people,” says Wardle. “Man’s inhumanity to man. That’s the lone and dreary world.”

Midway through her work on the mural, Teichert wrote her daughter: “The authorities told me to do this thing speedily and, believe me, as it nears conclusion it has been the speediest giant any American painter has ever concocted. . . . [The authorities] come often and are thrilled. I shall not fail them.” In her unrelenting approach and with the help of an assistant, Teichert finished major work on the nearly 4,000-square-foot mural in just 23 days.

Riding the crest of her successes, Teichert sketched out ambitious plans for the future and had every reason to expect them to materialize.
Telling the Mormon Story
Those who knew Minerva Teichert best say the only skill that rivaled her ability to paint was her ability to talk. Most often, the two went together.

Children and grandchildren universally recall coming in from the fields to use the bathroom or get a drink of water only to be detained as models for the current mural. And while they held their figures just so, Teichert provided her captives with lessons in art, scripture quotations, and commentary on the political problems of America.

“Always talking,” says Wardle, remembering her own modeling for her grandmother. “Lots of times it was quoting Isaiah.” But often she was telling the story of the pioneer or the scriptural character she was painting. Her teaching extended to dinnertime, when she’d read the scriptures or literature like Moby Dick while the others ate—saving her own meal for later. Herman, who had joined the Church soon after the move to Cokeville, supported her teaching efforts. “We had family home evening every evening,” recalls her youngest son, John Teichert.

The instruction wasn’t limited to family. “I have fond memories of her sitting on the couch with people who may or may not have been members of the Church,” recalls granddaughter Trudy Teichert Lamb (’66). “She would have her Book of Mormon or some scripture and she would be just animated telling them about this wonderful piece [of artwork] and the story that went with it.”

Teichert increasingly felt it was her responsibility to tell the Book of Mormon story in images so that “he who runs may read,” a common phrase from the time taken from the book of Habakkuk. So after finishing the Manti Temple mural, she set out on what she expected to be her masterwork—42 paintings of Book of Mormon stories, rendered large enough and simple enough to be “read” at a glance.

Finishing the paintings in 1952, the 64-year-old Teichert was aflame with enthusiasm for how the works might accompany the Book of Mormon text or be used as slides by missionaries around the world or be sold as a book of paintings.

What happened was something she never had anticipated—nobody wanted them. Many praised her efforts, but nobody would purchase the paintings, though Teichert would try for the remainder of her life to find a buyer.

A half-century later, Wardle describes two major factors that contributed to her grandmother’s declining influence in Mormon art. First, in 1948, was the death of Alice Merrill Horne, Teichert’s best critic and counselor on the art market. Then there were changing tastes. Murals had long since gone out of favor, and the Church commissioned others, such as Arnold Friberg, to paint the Book of Mormon.

Other dreams were fading too. Though Teichert had long desired to teach at BYU or another university, she had never been offered a post, presumably because in all her training she had not acquired the requisite degrees. Thus she had no true students, no one imitating her style, no one to whom she could pass the mantle she felt.

Though discouraged, Teichert wasn’t one to mope. After all, there were chickens to feed, grandchildren to tend, and genealogy to research. And she kept painting, eventually finding a new agent. Though the market for her religious work had run dry, her agent found interest in her western-themed works outside of Utah.

And she hadn’t lost confidence in her calling. One day a grandchild asked if she were famous. “No,” she replied with a smile, “but I will be someday.”
Lost and Found
In the spring of 1970, Teichert fell from her porch and broke her hip, possibly after suffering a stroke. She would never paint again. She died in 1976 in a Provo nursing home.

Within months of her death, Minerva Teichert would be rediscovered by the Mormon community. The thawing of awareness began quietly, when, just four months after her passing, a handful of her Book of Mormon paintings were used to illustrate a package of Ensign stories. That trickle of interest soon turned to a flood, when she was profiled in the Ensign two months later. The article called her art “sophisticated in technique and style, yet simple and direct in content and impact.”

With this growing interest, murals were dusted off and pulled from storage closets and from under stages in high schools, churches, and other buildings across the Intermountain West. Paintings were reproduced on covers of Church manuals, and murals began being mounted in temples around the world. In 1988, on the centennial of Teichert’s birth, the Church Museum of History and Art held a major retrospective exhibition.

One by one, many of Minerva Teichert’s dreams began to be fulfilled, including her hopes for the Book of Mormon paintings. In 1969 she had given the Book of Mormon paintings to BYU with no compensation or promise of publication. Upon receipt BYU showed the paintings briefly, then stored them away. In 1997, after the resurgence of interest in her work, BYU held a major exhibit of the Book of Mormon paintings and created a companion volume of the collection. BYU religion professors also lobbied to have Teichert’s Book of Mormon series line the hallways of the Joseph Smith Building, making it possible, in effect, for those who run to Book of Mormon class to read.

Wardle marvels at the revival of interest in her grandmother’s art. She was a student when Teichert donated the Book of Mormon paintings to BYU. Wardle remembers leafing through the comment book after attending that initial exhibit. “Every remark was disparaging,” she says. When she finally came upon a positive comment, she read the name below it: “Lois Dayton, Cokeville, Wyo.” Nearly forty years later, at the current Museum of Art exhibit, the comments have warmed considerably. “The colors give life to the story she tells and remind me of God’s tender mercies,” writes one viewer. “Absolutely beautiful,” adds another. “What a talent. What a spirit.”

Nowhere is the enduring spirit of Teichert’s work felt more strongly than in her hometown.

Walk down Main Street in Cokeville on a summer’s Sunday afternoon, down to where the town and grazing lands divide, and it’s easy to see that Teichert’s influence still lingers. There’s talk of making the Teichert place into a museum. But for now it remains a working ranch, occupied by a Teichert grandson and his family. Outside the house two great-grandsons relax in the shade. Adding a touch of art to their ranching know-how, they form their ropes into lassos and practice rope tricks. Soon they’ll be called in for dinner. They’ll find their places in the kitchen where Minerva Teichert once presided. And just past the stove, through an open doorway, on a large stretch of wall, they’ll be watched over by a canvas that tells a Book of Mormon story.

VIDEO: In two slideshows BYU Museum of Art curator Marian Eastwood Wardle (BA ’73) examines several Minerva Teichert murals and discusses the themes behind them. 

INFO: The Museum of Art will display Minerva Teichert: Pageants in Paint through May 2008. Admission is free. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sometimes I Only Think I Am Right

I certainly am glad that I didn't say anything about the changing of the seasons in Relief Society yesterday. The church legend is that Joseph used the words: "In the latter-days you will only be able to tell the seasons by the leaves on the trees." He didn't literally ever say that. However, there is reference enough in the scriptures that the seasons would be affected in the last days.

Bruce R. McConkie said, in Mormon Doctrine, that one of the signs of the times was that the elements would be in commotion and the seasons would be shifting and changing

Jospeh Smith did talk about the rainbow: "I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, "In the days of Noah I set a bow in the heavens as a sign and token that in any year that the bow should be seen the Lord would not come; but there should be seed time and harvest during that year: but whenever you see the bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant." (Joseph Smith Jr.. History of the Church. Vol. 6, Ch. 10, p.254)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Our Golden Wedding Invitation

More About‏ Pitts Genes

I remember once as a child telling my dad that his dad was fat. Dad said that his dad had very strong stomach muscles and that he could easily handle anyone who became rowdy. Later, as a teen, I saw him do that--he marched Ken and my dad out of the house by the seats of their pants. Grandma said he was stout, not fat, and had a very strong stomach. He said she had not gained an ounce since he married her. Fun! I think I must have the Pritchett genes--rotten thyroid function.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

After WWII, Dad Got the Contract for the Loman Bridge, ID


After WWII, Dad Got the Contract for the Loman Bridge, ID

Dad, after a long day.

 When Dad, Howard Pitts came home from World War II, one of the projects of the construction company he owned was the building of the Loman Bridge in Idaho. As a Seabee in World War II, he helped construct airfields, bridges and other construction projects in the Pacific Theater. Here he is shown driving a CAT on American soil as the owner of his own construction company.
The Loman Bridge

Some of the Pitts Construction Crew.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dad's Cousin--Aunt Olena Blackham was Grandma Trauntvein's Sister

Jack R Blackham

Daily Herald | Posted: Monday, September 26, 2011 1:50 am | No Comments Posted

Jack R Blackham
Jack R Blackham
1925 ~ 2011
Jack R Blackham died September 24, 2011 of a lingering illness. He was born November 4th,1925 in Clear Creek, Utah to Olena Elizabeth Rostron and John Rostron Blackham.
He served in World War II in Austria, Germany, & France. He escaped death twice while there. Jack worked in the coal mine in Kenilworth, Utah. He married Elna Christensen in Elko, NV. and their marriage was later solemnized in the Manti LDS Temple.
He served faithfully in many positions in the LDS Church including Ward Clerk for 32 years.
He is survived by his wife Elna, 2 sons, Earl (Annie) Blackham, Kemmerer, WY, Darrell (Penny) Blackham, Provo and his daughter Jane Blackham, Provo. He is also survived by 7 grandchildren,16 great-grandchildren and many step-grand and great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Doyl Blackham, sister Betty Buterfield, and sister Urilda Jean Potts, and his older sister was still born.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. at the Geneva Heights Stake Center 546 North 500 West, Orem. Friends may call Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sundberg-Olpin Mortuary, 495 South State Street, Orem and also 9:45 to 10:45 prior to the services at the ward chapel. Interment will be in the Orem City Cemetery with military rites provided by VFW District #4. Condolences may be sent to the family at

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