Note: Leo was one of JHG's best friends. They met while dad was in charge of the buildings in the Stake and remained friends. Dad said Leo was the most honest man he ever met.
Warning! Some of the material in this journal is very graphic. It is my personal history and experiences, and I am not changing it for anybody because this is the way it was.
Table of Contents
1. Table of Contents
3. Mother’s Prayer
4. For The Love of Work
5. Enemy Aircraft
7. Bad Habits
9. Crash Landing
11. Home Teacher
12. Temple Tour
13. A Near Fatal Mistake
14. Utah Girl
15. His Departure
16. Las Vegas Nevada
17. Ultimate Compliment
18. Troop Train
19. Enemy Fire
20. Just Girls
21. On The Road
22. Close Call
23. Shooting Stars
26. No Keys
27. Temple Buddy
28. Pen Pal
30. Hard As Nails
32. Standing Tall
34. Saturday Bath
35. Blood Soaked
36. Harley Motorcycle
37. Memorable Ride
39. A Lone Sniper
40. Pistol Packing Mamma
41. One Thin Dime
42. Journal Entry
43. A Helping Hand
44. Freight Train
45. Freight Train cont.
46. Ditch Water
48. Spiritual Experience
49. I Heard the Bugle
50. No Regrets
52. Getting Old
54. Homeward Bound
56. Wild Cats
57. Elmo the Dog
58. The Year Is 2010
|1930 Leo Joseph Mathias Sr. family 1908-1983. Leo Jr is behind. |
Sister is Martha Jean 1932-2013. Wife is Alice Emily Dossigny 1909-2011
I was born in Goodland, Kansas only because my mother and father were driving through at the time of my arrival. My parents were living in Grand Junction, Colorado. I spent some of my childhood there when I was five or six. My mother was infected with TB and sent to Arizona to recuperate. I was sent to live with my grandparents in a farming community near Basalt, Colorado. I started school there. My sister, Martha Jean was sent to live with Nelson and Edith Cane, my mother’s sister, in a nearby community. After a few years, I was sent to live with my Uncle Sy and Sylvia Dossigny, my mother’s brother, on a nearby farm. My mother finally returned from the TB sanitarium in Arizona. My father worked for the railroad. Work was scarce, so he and my mother moved to Los Angeles, California. My dad got on the Southern Pacific Railroad. When they got settled, they sent for me and my sister. I had a number of cousins. My Uncle Sys' sons were Leslie and Clifford. His daughters were Gayle and Bonnie. Uncle Nelson and Aunt Edith had a son and a daughter, Curtis and Leona. My Aunt Edith had a daughter named Irene Henry.
This incident took place in 1950, during the Korean War. As our tank company advanced northward, we encountered heavy fighting at times. However, the enemy was not inclined to fire on a column of tanks unless they were well armed with bazookas and had a lot of manpower. They were well armed; however, we could be ambushed from the side of the road. They used a long stick or pole with a large charge of dynamite at the end of the pole. They would run out from the bushes and put the charge of dynamite under the tank track. This would blow the track off. But they would still do it. Bump and run attacks by gorillas are very effective. The Russian made T-34 tanks which we had a lot of respect for, could cross a rice patty full of water and mud and not get stuck. Where in our M-46 patton tanks would get stuck.
One evening we started looking for a place to spend the night. We found a cornfield that had been cut and harvested. The field was clear and flat; a good location for tanks. Beyond the cornfield, there was heavy brush. The tanks would form a circle, with tanks pointing in every direction, much like the covered wagons in the pioneer days. I was fortunate to pull an early guard that night, 9 to 11 pm. I was on outer guard, which means I was outside the tank circle. There was a partial moon that night, and as I looked about, I thought I saw the enemy moving. The enemy figured we would spend the night there, and they were waiting for us. All of a sudden, the bushes started moving toward me. Then came the charge. They came hollering and shooting. Wave after wave, they just kept coming. The tank crews got in their tanks and moved out. I was not assigned to a tank and had nowhere to go. In the darkness, I could not distinguish the enemy from our own troops. Somehow, I escaped. Sometime later, I rejoined my tank company. When the company commander saw me coming, he said to me, “Mathias, someone upstairs likes you. How did you manage to get out of there alive?” I told him I wondered about that myself. The answer came some weeks later when the mail caught up to us. I received a letter from my mother. She wrote, “The other night I was awakened in the middle of the night from a sound sleep and knew you were in grave danger, and that I should pray for you.” And as I thought over the night she was talking about, I realized it was the same night we were attacked. Then I knew why my life was spared.
For The Love of Work
I have always enjoyed working, even in my younger years. On a farm with my Uncle and Aunt Dossigny on their cattle ranch in Basalt, Colorado, I would mow the alfalfa fields with a mowing machine pulled by two horses. We would then rake the hay and stack it in a huge pile, 30 or 40 feet high. While I was there, I had the privilege of going on a bona fide cattle drive, and it was fun.
When I was older and out of the service, we were living in Los Angeles. Our neighbor had a plumbing business and asked me to work for him. I worked in the plumbing trade for some years. It was ok, but there was not much variety. I got a job with the Los Angeles County Road Department. There was much more variety there, and I liked it. That kind of work involved operating heavy equipment and hauling bulldozers and scrapers on a low bed truck and trailer. Some of the equipment we moved weighed upwards of 60 tons, and some of our transport trucks had 42 wheels.
One day, one of our transport trucks broke down in the High Desert north of Lancaster, California. I was assigned to pick them up and bring them back to the yard in Los Angeles. It was customary for the driver who was assigned to pick them up to provide them with some liquid refreshments, because they had spent most of the day in the heat of the desert and were probably thirsty and out of water. That was ok with me, but I had no money to buy the refreshments with. I wondered how I could face them with no refreshments. I stopped at a wide place along the road where people stopped to relieve themselves. As I walked back to my truck, I noticed an ice chest just sitting there by the side of the road. There was no one around. I opened it, and it was full of iced down beer, whiskey and sodas. Apparently, someone had taken it off of their vehicle for some reason and forgotten to put it back in. I put it on my truck and drove off. When I arrived at my destination where I was to pick up the crew, the first words out of their mouths were, “What did you bring us to drink?” I opened the ice chest, and they were delighted. They whopped and hollered and drank and drank, and patted me on the back. I also worked on snow removal in the winter at Mount Wilson. I drove a snowplow and operated an auger-driven snow blower that blew snow 60 feet in the air. It was fun.
Then I got on with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. They hired me for my expertise in heavy equipment. I worked with the bulldozer and helicopter crews on brush and grass fires. It was a pleasant place to work. It was fun and exciting. During the fire season, we were always on the go. After 20 years with them, I reluctantly retired. Retirement was hard on me. The excitement of fun and work was gone. Sometimes I work with my wife in her flower garden and think of how unproductive I have become. But I still have dreams and aspirations of going on a proselyting mission. When it comes to pass, I will tell you about it in my journal.
This incident took place during the Korean War, in 1950. Our tank company, the 6th Heavy Tank Battalion, along with the 24th Infantry Division, was traveling northward to reach the 38th Parallel, which divides North Korea from South Korea. North Korea is a communist county that invaded South Korea, and had taken all but a small portion of South Korea.
As we traveled northward that day, we encountered little enemy resistance. The infantry troops would ride on our tanks, maybe 15 on each tank. They were supposed to clear the road one mile on each side by walking through the brush to ensure no enemy troops were in the area. But they never got off the tanks. We traveled along the road, and a lone piston driven enemy fighter plane appeared out of nowhere. He then began shooting at us. He came in low. One of the kitchen trucks had a 50 caliber machine gun mounted next to the driver on one of our trucks next to the driver seat. There was no roof on the truck, so the gun could rotate 360 degrees. One of the cooks manned the gun and would shoot at the plane point blank, face to face. That plane had six 50 caliber machine guns to one. That took some courage. The infantry had dismounted from our tanks and spread out along the road and up the hillside. After the plane made a pass, it would turn and come at us again. Everyone that had an M-1 rifle, a pistol, a carbine, a burp gun, or a slingshot was shooting at that plane. The third pass the plane made was its last. There must have been 200 soldiers shooting at that plane. I saw a puff of smoke come from the plane, and it crashed. A loud cheer came from the troops. It was exciting. War can be dangerous, and it can also be very exciting. It was almost fun shooting at such a large live target, and it was good for our morale to bring it down.
In 1987, I was driving down the 405 Freeway, thinking about Harley Davidson motorcycles, when a thought came into my mind that I should move out of Los Angeles. I really didn’t want to move. I nearly had my house paid for, the taxes were $150 a year, no charge for trash pickup, and I was three miles from my work. But the feeling persisted, and I made it a matter of prayer. Then I told my wife to look for a place to move in North Los Angeles County. She protested, and said she had gotten her house fixed up the way she wanted, and she was not going to move. I said ok, but I knew her curiosity had been aroused.
She said, “Where shall I look?” and I said, “Just drive north. You’ll find it.” And she found a place off of Hasley Canyon, on Gilmour Rd in Castaic. But she said, “We can’t afford it.” And I said, “That’s ok. We’ll buy it anyway.”
We moved into the Valencia 2nd Ward. Then Castaic Ward was organized, and Larry Wood was called to be Bishop. I was serving as Priests Quorum Advisor, which I really enjoyed because we did everything I like to do. Our activities included bike riding on the beach path from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach, driving Malibu Grand Prix race cars, and going to the drag races.
Bishop Wood found out about how much fun I was having and called me to be second counselor in the Bishopric. But that also proved to be fun. I was always amazed at his awareness. He was on top of everything. He could handle anything the world threw at him. In our Bishopric meetings, we would take turns discussing the scriptures. It didn’t matter what scripture we studied, he could talk three days on each one.
When I was released from the Bishopric, I was called to be the Ward Librarian. Michael Johnson, who has Down syndrome, was called to be my assistant. He was a hard worker and very dependable.
I also attended the temple weekly. Bishop Huffaker kept me busy with Family File names that needed initiatory, endowments and sealing’s performed in the temple. It was a challenge because there were so many.
I can’t remember how old I was, but I was quite young. I lived with my Aunt and Uncle Edith and Nelson Cane on their farm near Basalt, Colorado. My uncle was a professional cowboy, hired to ride the range, where ranchers sent their cattle to feed on the grass in the high country. He had 75 different cattle brands to identify. He would ride his horse 22 miles to get to the area where the cattle were grazing. He would then ride through the herd to check for sick or downed cattle.
One day, he bought a 1929 Chevy coupe with a horse trailer. He would load the two horses on the trailer, and we would all ride to where he worked. I enjoyed the ride in the old car. As we traveled up the winding dirt road, he would put it into second gear, and the gearshift lever would rattle and vibrate. I would then hang onto it. I loved to hear the engine labor and the gear noise the transmission made. It would often lull me to sleep.
One of my duties was to roll cigarettes by hand for him. I would take some cigarette paper and loose tobacco and roll it into a cigarette. I would roll 25 cigarettes for him and 20 for my friends and me. In the evening, we would smoke them. We looked forward to that each day. It was fun. It was like a reward. When I got older and entered the service, I never really continued the smoking habit, except in the evening after a successful day. It was like a reward. Some years later, when I joined the Church, I had to quit the habit. When you develop a bad habit it becomes part of you like a fabric woven in your body. But even now after a good day, I will take a toothpick and make believe I am smoking it.
When I worked for the Road Department, they called me Brigham, after the Prophet Brigham Young. Because I was a Mormon, they thought that was appropriate, and the foreman used me as a threat against the crews. Occasionally, all the equipment operators and foreman would get together in an outlying district to discuss equipment and procedures. It would be an overnight affair. There was usually a lot of drinking and unruly conduct. The foreman would tell them to behave themselves or he would send Brigham with them.
They would say, “Oh no. Don’t send Brigham. He don’t drink and he don’t party.”
I was always happy not to go. Then I didn’t have to drive them home because they were all drunk. One day we were working in a hilly area. We looked down on many swimming pools. There was a lady that would sunbathe next to her pool without her top on. This caused some commotion among the crews.
The next day the foreman asked me, “What are we going to do about the sunbather?”
I said, “Don’t worry about it. She won’t be there today.”
“How do you know that?” he asked.
I said, “She knows we’re looking at her.”
We never saw her again. If there was a risky subject, they would ask me about it to get my opinion. Then they would razz me about my comments. But I felt comfortable with those guys. We were always kidding each other, and it was a fun place to work.
I was serving as the Priest Quorum Advisor over the 17 and 18 year old boys. I think the year was 1993 and we were in the Castaic Ward. Someone invited us to go skiing at Big Bear Lake and spend some time in their cabin. One morning, we got up early and headed for the ski area. I had never been on skis before so I was given some preliminary instructions along with the other beginners. I spent most of the morning falling down.
Later they told me I was qualified to take to the slops. We went to the chair lift area and were taken to the top of a very high mountain, where everyone began to ski down. As I started down, I noticed my skis were crossed at the tips. I struggled and finally got them parallel. I started to pick up speed and I mean lots of speed. I thought, this is the closest thing to flying I had ever done. They failed to tell me in the ski class, you never ski straight down the hill. You are supposed to ski back and forth on the hillside to control you speed.
By now I was going way too fast and I was sure I would break the sound barrier. I was headed for the chair lift at the bottom of the hill. All the skiers were lined up to get on the lift. As they saw me coming, they made a large opening for me to pass through and they flashed the slow down sign at me. The ski instructor told us to point the skis inward to slow down. I tried that, but at this speed the skis were not paying attention to me.
I then realized I was running out of mountain and I could see the highway and parking lot below. I then noticed the snow bank and it was coming up fast. I hit it with full force and it threw me into the sky. At this point, I knew a crash landing was inevitable. I landed in the parking lot and skidded to a long painful stop. Just then the ski patrol lady showed up and asked if I was hurt. I told her I hurt all over. She asked if I could get up. I told her I could but I didn’t want to. I was tired from fighting those skis, trying to stay on the course, keeping my balance and remaining upright. We talked for awhile then she helped me up. When we got back home, my son Jon who was with us, told his mother about the trip. The very next day she took out more insurance and that is no joke.
In 1950, I was serving in the Korean War. On occasion the kitchen crew would give us a treat. Sometimes they would make donuts for us to eat. At about 2 am, I was on inner guard duty, which meant I was near the kitchen. The baker had just completed making donuts and went off somewhere to sleep. I looked at the pile of donuts and they smelled so good. I tried one and it was still warm. I had never tasted anything that good! So I had several more. I couldn’t stop until I had eaten a dozen or more. The outer guard soon picked up the donut aroma and he came to investigate. He also helped himself to the donuts, among others. In the morning, there were no donuts to be found. When the company commander found out about the disappearing donuts, he was furious.
Sometime later, the baker said he would make us some more donuts. This time the company commander said he would assign a special guard to watch the donuts. I was assigned to watch the donuts. During the night, a friend of mine approached me and asked me for a donut. I told him if I gave him a donut, I would have to kill him. I had been given special orders to shoot and kill anyone who takes a donut. If there were not 200 donuts on the table in the morning, the donut guards would be held responsible and would be shot. In the morning there were 200 donuts on the table.
I was living in the Highland Park Ward in the Glendale Stake in the 1980’s. My junior companion and I had many widows to home teach. We had orders from the Bishop to bring our work clothes, our tool box, a song book, and the sacrament tray when we made our visits. Whatever was needed, we provided. If the door didn’t open properly, we fixed it right then; if there was a gas leak, we crawled under the house, found the problem and repaired it. We sang them a song and administered the sacrament.
There was one very elderly lady that we visited. One day, the visiting teacher contacted me and said that she would be out of town for two months so would we look after the elderly lady. We made our visit the first month. That Sunday as we drove by her house, there was an ambulance there. We stopped to ask the driver what had happened. He said that the elderly lady had passed away. I asked if it was from old age. He said, “No. It was from malnutrition because she had no food in the house.”
When we told the Bishop, he was very angry. He told us we were supposed to look after her and we let her starve to death. He told us that if this was not a volunteer service, he would have fired us. He was very unhappy with us and he didn’t let us forget it. The next family that he assigned us to visit, he told us not to let them starve to death. I don’t think he really ever forgave us for the elderly lady’s death and can you blame him?
Before the Los Angeles Temple was dedicated in 1954 or 1955, I was invited to attend an Open House with my girlfriend, Marilyn Peterson. I was not a member of the LDS Church at the time we took the tour. As we visited the various rooms, I was impressed.
After the tour, Marilyn, her parents and I went to their home. Someone had given me a new pipe with some good smelling tobacco. I lit it up and started blowing smoke rings. This drew a crowd. After a while, I got very sick so I went in the backyard and started to vomit. They saw me through the window. They whooped, hollered and laughed all the time pointing an accusing finger at me.
Not too long after that, I joined the church. Marilyn wanted to get married, but I felt strongly that this was not the thing to do. My feelings were from a spiritual source and I knew it was not to be. I didn’t know how I was to break off the relationship. The answer came the following Friday. There was a ward dinner and the missionary who had baptized me approached me there. He told me that when you have a problem, you are to see the Bishop. I said that I don’t take my problems to the middle man; I take them directly to the Lord.
Their advice puzzled me. I wondered how they knew I had a problem. As it turned out, during dinner I found myself sitting next to the Bishop. So I told him that I would like to talk to him. We went to his office and I told him about my feelings about not marrying Marilyn. He asked if that was a spiritual feeling and I told him it was indeed. He then told me that he would contact the ward where I should be attending church. Then he said that he didn’t want to see me around here again, “you jerk”. (He called everyone a jerk because he was a down to earth guy.) I liked him. I asked him what about Marilyn and he said he would take care of that. By the way his name was Bishop Schollack.
Many years later, I saw the Bishop at the Little Rock Peach Farm. He was coming towards me through a row of trees. For some reason, I did not want him to see me so I hid in the bushes. He walked up to where I was hiding and said, “Get out of the bushes, you jerk. You don’t have to hide from me.” He then proceeded to tell me about Marilyn. He said that she had been married and divorced four times.
A Near Fatal Mistake
During the war in Korea in 1950, our tank company had been engaged in heavy fighting for some time. We were all very tired. I was on guard duty. It was 2 am; I was exhausted, and kept falling asleep. My knees would buckle, and I would crash to the ground. This happened a number of times and was becoming quite painful. There were some nearby bushes and trees. I managed to hook my field jacket shoulder strap on the branch of a tree. As I hung there, I must have fallen asleep. Suddenly, I woke up and realized a figure was coming toward me. I tried to shoot, but I could not get my safety switch to release on the rifle. Try as I might, I could not get it to release. When you are on guard, you are supposed to holler out loud, “Halt, who goes there?” Then the passwords are exchanged. If the passwords are not correct, then you shoot. I did none of that. It was my error.
The next day I overheard the sergeant telling the captain, “If you go around checking on the guards at night, find out where Mathias is on guard and don’t go there, because he will try to shoot you.”
One day I stopped at the Camp Eleven Prison for lunch. When I entered the facility, I noticed a 1966 Mustang with a Utah License Plate. When I went into the kitchen, there was a young lady standing beside the head inmate, Cook Harry. Standing with them was a preacher and a sheriff. I asked the second cook what was going on. He told me that Harry and the girl were getting married. They had been pen pals and they fell in love. I then asked what Henry was in for. The cook told me that he was in for murder. I asked who he had murdered and the cook told me it was his wife. Then I asked how it had happened. Harry and his wife had been drinking and they were playing Russian Rolette with his six shooter, and he won. I asked how much time he had and he told me eleven years. Then the cook told me that Harry only had to serve seven years and his time was about up. I asked how he was to work with and the cook told me that he always tries to be nice to Harry. He said that there are a lot of meat knives around here and I don’t want him parting my hair. He claimed that Harry had a violent temper and had been in and out of prison many times. I knew Harry quite well, so the next time I visited the facility, I talked with him. I reminded Harry that I had been there when he married that girl from Utah. I asked if she was a Mormon. He told me that she was. I said that the Mormons could be very strict and I asked if he had met her folks and told them that he was doing hard time. He informed me that they knew all about him, they had accepted him as one of the family and had forgiven him for his past mistakes.
I wonder if her parents will be so willing to forgive him when he does their daughter in. I believe in forgiveness. We have to forgive each other, but she will have to forgive him 70x70 daily if she lives that long. This is not a nice guy. Sometimes a little wisdom and prayer are required when making those kinds of choices. It is helpful to know a little about the person you are going to marry. Look at his track record. He is a killer. I know what you are thinking, don’t judge!
This took place in 1980 in the Highland Park Ward, in the Glendale Stake. I was serving in the Bishopric and the Bishop was out of town, so I was acting Bishop. It was Fast and Testimony Sunday. An elderly gentleman stood up to bare his testimony. He suddenly gave a very loud penetrating cry. I had heard that same cry on the battlefield and I knew it signaled his departure from this earth. If you have ever heard it you will never forget it; It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard. We carried his body into the bishop’s office. His wife wanted me to give him a blessing to revive him. I explained to her that he had been called home but she insisted that I give him a blessing. So I simply blessed him in the name of Jesus Christ and left it at that.
Las Vegas Nevada
While my wife Leona and I were driving through Las Vegas on our way to her mother’s home in Hurricane, Utah, we stopped at McDonalds for a soft drink. As we approached the building, a hobo asked for some change. You may not be familiar with the word “hobo” but they are like homeless people that prefer to be called hobos, because it is a very distinctive title. I told him I would give him something on my way out. I had a pocket full of change. I put the change in one hand and a five dollar bill in the other hand. I told him what each hand contained. I then extended my arms, fists closed, fingers down and told him to choose either hand. He chose the five dollar hand. When I asked how he knew where the big money was, he said he was psychic. He then told me because he liked me; he was going to give me something that he gives to very few people. He took my right hand and gave me the hobo handshake. He told me that whenever I was in the hobo community and used that handshake, I would be immediately accepted.
The Ultimate Compliment
In 1953 I was stationed at Camp Irwin, CA where we trained soldiers to be tank crewman. Today it is a much larger fort. I had gotten myself in some kind of trouble and ended up in the goon platoon. One day while we were training the troops on the 90 mm cannons a friend of mine approached me and said, “We have a new guy in our platoon.”
I said, “What did he screw up to get in our platoon?”
“He didn’t screw up there was no more room in the other barracks, so they put him with us temporarily.”
“What’s he like?” I asked.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“It’s 115 out here and he’s got his long johns on.”
I said, “That’s just what we need, another goofy in our platoon.”
It turns out they were not long johns they were LDS garments. Apparently in them days the garments came down to your ankles. I met him that evening and he was very friendly and likable. The weekend was coming up and he asked what we did on weekends. We told him where we went and he said he didn’t drink or smoke or chase women and he didn’t feel comfortable in that atmosphere. He asked us for other suggestions, and he had his roller skates so we told him where the roller rink was. There was no swimming pool at our camp so we told him where the one in town was, where the museums and library were and suggested that he go to the recreation hall in camp. There were many pool tables there and they didn’t serve alcohol so he would be safe. We kind of sheltered him because he was so innocent. As time went by we really got to liking Willy. He was very cheery and easy to live with. One day the sergeant showed up at our barracks and told Willy that he had a place for him in the preferred barracks. To our surprise Willy said, “If you don’t mind sergeant, I would like to stay here with these guys, their real cool.” To us that was the ultimate compliment. And you know we took real good care of Willey after that. I became a member of church many years after that.
It happened in Korea in 1950 at Inchon reservoir. The enemy had managed to surround our tank battalion, along with a number of infantry and artillery units. Our supplies were cut off and food was scarce. The captain called us together and advised us of the seriousness of our situation. He told the cooks that the tank crews were to eat first, before anyone else, including the cooks. A cook spoke up and asked if they had ever heard of a cook that starved to death. The captain said that he hadn’t. The cook then told him that he never will.
The paratroopers landed with supplies, food and ammunition. We then fought our way free. Sometimes people would ask me if war was always frightening. I tell them that it wasn’t in the heat of battle. The fear comes when you are pinned down under enemy fire. With their cannons and artillery guns, they are maybe five miles away. They are shooting at you indirectly but they know your location. They hurdle bombs at you all through the night. It is very nerve racking as those shells come closer and closer. After awhile you are hoping for a direct hit to put you out of your misery. This is when you become acquainted with fear and the stress of war. Then you have to identify someone in your unit that has been killed and you didn’t necessarily like him. Maybe you had not treated him as kindly as you should have and he now lies dead at your feet. Then you become acquainted with sorrow and regret and tears will fill your eyes.
In 1949, I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I was assigned to the 6th heavy tank battalion, 2nd armed division, Charley Company. I was 17 years old. The company commander was Captain Landers. He was like a father to me. We would often see each other on Sunday in church, during the mass. One of the things I liked to do was to go swimming in the pool on the base. It was a great pool and there were very few people there. Two girls were often there getting a suntan. I got acquainted with them and we would talk for hours.
One day the Captain called me to his office and asked if I knew who those girls were that I always talked to at the pool. I told him that they were just girls. He then told me that they were ladies of the night and to be careful. They may have been ladies of the night but they never mentioned it to me in any shape or form. They had never invited me to their place of business and they were always very proper with their language and manner. They were just nice girls. We talked about their school years, hobbies, family and their new convertible car. I had mentioned that they must work nights because they were always there during the daytime. They admitted to working nights and owning their own business. Then they said that they had to go but they hoped to see me there next time. I told them that I hoped so. They may have been prostitutes, but to me they were just girls and not much older than I was.
On the Road
Before we left for Korea, we were given two weeks leave. I immediately left Fort Hood and headed for Colorado to visit my relatives and say good bye. One morning about 10 am, I arrived in Aspen, Colorado. I went to my favorite cousin’s house. My Uncle Nelson and Aunt Edith were not home. I told my cousin Leona Cain that I was very hungry. She said all they had was bread, milk and eight frying pan size trout. She fried them and I ate them all. I then told her she looked cute with her freckles. She told me to try wearing them and I wouldn’t think they were cute. Anyway I had to leave. We hugged and kissed good-bye. It was a very long kiss good bye. Then I headed for the west coast and arrived in Los Angeles a few days later. I stayed with my mother and dad and I visited my girlfriend. Soon it was time to go back to camp. Every Saturday, we would meet with the local farmers in one of their fields to play baseball and eat chicken and grits. They were real down to earth folks. After the game, they would say, “You all come back, ya hear?” Then we would all hug and kiss. One time when we were saying good bye, this elderly lady that had no teeth, grabbed me and kissed me on my mouth. I mean my girlfriend never kissed me like that. That is one kiss I would like to forget.
After I was discharged from the service, I returned to Colorado to work in the Logging Industry. For the summer, I operated a bulldozer. After the trees were cut, I would wrap a steel cable around the logs and pull them to the saw mill. There they would be cut into lumber to be used in building houses. It was a great job but it was quite dangerous, not only in the forest, but also in the barracks. Most of the workers were young and we all carried guns. Occasionally a mouse would come out of a hole in the wall and everyone would draw their pistols and shoot at it. One evening while we were in the barracks, one of the guys was practicing his quick draw. As he returned his pistol to his holster, it fired. The bullet went down his leg and out the ankle.
One day as I was traveling down a narrow dirt logging road, the push blade on the front of the dozer clipped a tall pine tree. Leaning against the pine tree was a dead tree of equal height that became dislodged and came right for me. The dozer had no safety canopy or roof, so I jumped off and tried to run out of the way. The bushes were so thick that I could not move. As I looked up to see that the tree was half way down, I thought too bad it has to end this way. Luckily under the brush was a large tree that had previously fallen from old age. I crouched down next to it just as the falling tree landed above my head. I then heard my fellow workers yelling that the tree had landed on Leo and it was a direct hit. They said they were sure I was a goner. After hearing all that, I thought maybe I was dead. They took their axes and started chopping the limbs around the tree, where I was buried. Finally I was able to crawl out. The workers wanted to know why I hadn’t let them know that I was alive. I told them it was because they had convinced me that I was dead and I was too frightened to speak.
I worked there until the snow got so deep that I could no longer locate the logs. The boss told us that if we couldn’t bring in enough logs to keep the mill going, we would have to shut down the operations until the next summer. As the snow got deeper and deeper, I headed for California. When I arrived in Los Angeles, the sun was shining bright, the birds were singing and there wasn’t any snow.
In 1953, I was stationed in Camp Irwin, California. I was assisting in training, along with the Captain. We trained soldiers to become tank crewman. We traveled around in a jeep. One day, we got word that a General was coming to visit our camp and to observe our training techniques. We were very eager to please him.
Our tank unit was out in the desert training when he arrived. It was late in the afternoon. He was supposed to stay with us overnight, but he did not have his sleeping bag. The Captain told me to drive him to camp and find a bed for him, and see to his needs. I was to bring him back early the next morning. After I picked him up, we left camp. Somehow, I became disoriented. There were so many dirt roads, heading in every direction. I picked one that was going north.
We traveled for some time when the General said to me, “I didn’t think we were so far from camp.”
I said, “They are out there a ways yet.” I was thinking to myself, here we are in the middle of the Mojave Desert; I have no idea where the tanks are located, I am not even sure I am going in the right direction. There are no road signs, it is so dark that I can’t see any landmarks, and the General is starting to feel uneasy. But I kept driving like I knew where I was going.
Then all of a sudden, I thought I saw a tracer bullet heading our direction. It was very high and flew over our heads and disappeared into the night. The General said, “What was that?” and I said, “It must be a shooting star.”
The jeep we were in was closed on the sides with a canvas cover. It had plastic windows, and the vision through the plastic windows was distorted. Then I realized where we were. The tanks were north of us and we were in the target area. The tank gunners were shooting to zero in on their targets with their 30 millimeter machine guns that were mounted next to their 90 millimeter cannon, and they were using tracer bullets that glow in the dark. Just then, another tracer flew over. It was very high. The General then said, “Another shooting star.” I said, “Yes, we can see a lot of them our here, especially in this area. And they all look so close.”
The road now went in a northeastern direction. We came to a rather steep hill. When we reached the top, we could see all the tanks lined up on the firing line. As we drove into the tank area, the Captain was there to greet us.
The General then said to him, “You have a great jeep driver. At times, I thought that he was lost, but he knew exactly where he was going. He really knows this desert.” The Captain then smiled at me and said, “Good Job.”
On our way to Korea, we traveled by train to San Francisco. While in route, my name came up to pull K.P. (kitchen patrol). I reported to the kitchen car where they had temporarily set up butane stoves. Both of the sliding doors of the car were wide open and we were in a hilly part of the country. I had just completed peeling two sacks of potatoes that sat in two ten gallon pots. The cook then asked me to wash some pots and pans. A few minutes later, he came over and asked me where the potatoes were that I had just peeled. I told him they were in the middle of the floor between the two open doors. He said that he did not see them and asked if I saw them. They were gone. He asked if I thought that they had jumped off the train. I told him that I did not know but they were gone. We quickly peeled two more sacks of potatoes.
The train took us through Los Angeles and it made a brief stop in the train yard. This is where my father worked as a railroad worker. I looked out the window and saw the street that I lived on. Our house was two blocks away. I thought I would like to run home for a few minutes. Luckily the train moved on and the temptation was gone.
Then we traveled to San Francisco and boarded a troop ship. We went under the Golden Gate Bridge and out to sea. I was sea sick for thirty days. I had lost so much weight that my own Captain didn’t recognize me and asked if I was Mathias. When we arrived on the shore of Korea, our tanks were two weeks behind us. I was so eager to get off that ship; I volunteered to go to the front line to fight with only my 45 army pistol. That was impossible because I was with a tank company. There were only 35 miles of South Korea that had not been captured by the North Koreans. It was called the Pusan Perimeter. I was once offered a trip on a cruise ship and politely declined.
I suppose I should explain how the prison system works in regards to using the inmates to assist us in our duties. These inmates that work with us are called trustees. They have served most of their prison time and they do not want to jeopardize their release by doing something foolish, like running away. We also train some to fight fires. They travel in trucks, twelve to a crew. They are identified by marking numbers on their trucks like 12-1, 12-2, 12-3, and so on. The female inmates are in trucks that are marked 13-1, 13-2 and so on up to as many as 5 or 6 crews. The 13 indicates what prison camp they are from and the number after the dash indicates what crew they are with.
I was on my way to prison camp 13, which is a female facility, with 35 sacks of cement. When I arrived the 13-5 crew were there to meet me. Their leader told me that I was not allowed to help them unload the cement. The inmates then lined up to carry the cement sacks about ten feet away to the storage area. The first one approached the truck with arms stretched out. I explained that the sacks weighed close to 100 lbs and they had better carry them on their shoulders. She stood there with her arms stretched out so I put the sack of cement in her arms. They both crashed to the ground. Then they realized that the sacks were too heavy for one female to carry, so two were assigned to each sack. As they walked away, they dropped it and sent up a huge mushroom cloud. All the others got the giggles. They giggled and giggled. Finally they got all the giggles out. They then put three inmates on each bag, but they soon tired out and had to take a break. It took them three hours to unload the cement. A male crew could have unloaded that cement in 15 minutes. As I left, I looked at the storage area and most of the bags were broken. This was not their cup of tea. I then went into the office to complete the paperwork. The inmate behind the desk was somewhat teary eyed. I asked her what was wrong and she said that she was having a bad day. She said her daughter was ill at home and needed her. Then she told me that her son was graduating from High School and she would not be there. There were a lot of tears in that office.
One day I was working with an inmate crew at the Los Angeles County Fire Facility in Pacoima. This is where the heavy firefighting equipment, like bulldozers and water dropping helicopters are kept. I was working with an inmate they called Psycho. There was a disabled truck that we had to move out of our way. I took the crew truck, hooked a chain on the rear of the crew truck and also to the front of the disabled truck. I told Psycho to steer the truck and to stop when I stopped. I started pulling him but when I stopped; he didn’t and he ran into the back of my truck. It smashed the grill on his truck and I was hopping mad. I asked him if that is why they call him Psycho. Then I said because you are a Psycho He looked at me in disbelief and I could see that I had stripped him of his last bit of hope. He was devastated and he hung his head down in despair. Realizing my mistake, I tried to change my remarks to something positive. It was to no avail. He was mortally wounded as he turned and walked away. There was a tear in his eye and it was a sad day for both of us.
One day I had an inmate crew and we were supposed to do some work in one of the shops. When we arrived I discovered I had forgotten the keys to the shop. I told the crew to stay in the truck because we couldn’t get into the building. One of the inmates told me to get the crew off the truck and he would open the door. I did so and when we got to the shop, the door was open. I asked how he managed that with no keys. He told me he didn’t need keys, he was serving time for burglary.
When I was serving in the Los Angeles Temple, I had a friend who was fun to be with. We kidded each other, laughed and had a good time. One of the Temple Patrons overheard me call him Brother Worthless. She was appalled, said I was insensitive and owed him an apology. He took advantage of the situation and told her that I made him feel bad daily and sometimes he was almost reduced to tears. She reported me to the Temple authorities and they told me to knock it off. The Patrons do not know when you are kidding.
This episode started during the Korean War in 1950. A friend of mine in our tank company had a pen pal in Los Angeles. They wrote each other often. She sent him a picture of herself, and he would show us her picture and say, “I’m going to marry that girl someday.” However, he was gunned down and is laid to rest.
About that time, I was due to be rotated back to the United States. When I arrived in Los Angeles, I called her up. Her name was Katie. I told her I would like to meet her and tell her about her pen pal who would not be coming home. She said she would meet me on Friday evening at 7 o’clock, at the corner of Manchester and Main in Los Angeles. Her sister would be with her. They would then take me to their home to introduce me to their father. Her sister would tell their father that she knew me in high school and she would vouch for my character.
They were an Italian family and her father was very strict. Katie and I became very good friends. She was a lot of fun. Sometimes we would go on my motorcycle dirt bike in the hills and ride up the long, steep grades. As we did so she would stand up on the rear pegs and pull back on my shoulders. This would bring the front wheel up off the ground, and when we got to the top, the bike was almost vertical. The people watching would be amused and she also enjoyed it.
We took short trips, and one of our favorite drives was on Highway 126 to Venture and up the coast. It’s still my favorite today. Sometime after the Korean War, it was improved and dedicated to the Korean War Veterans. I like that. When I travel this road, many memories of the war creep into my mind. I think of those who did not come back, and how they would have enjoyed this ride.
Occasionally, I would take a friend of mine named Ron with me when I went to visit Katie. He would date her sister. One morning about 2 am, we were coming home from our dates. We were headed north on Alameda and stopped at a red traffic control light. A car pulled up next to us, but not all the way. We could only see the hood. He raced his engine. Ron said, “This guy wants to race.” So I raced my engine, indicating I was ready. The light turned green and we were off. He stayed with me for a while. Then I pulled ahead. All of a sudden red lights flashed. Ron looked back and told me to back off because we were racing the law.
When we pulled over, the officers approached us and wanted to know what we had under the hood. I drove a 1948 Ford. The guy I bought it from had built up the engine for racing and it was fast. We started talking about cars. Then they told us about some hot rods they were building at their homes. We talked for some time.
Finally the officer said, “We have to go. We are not going to give you a speeding ticket this time, just a warning. You boys know you are not supposed to be racing in the streets.” We knew what these guys really wanted was a little car fun.
It was 1990 and I was working at the County Fire Facility in Pacoima, near the Whitman airport. One morning I jumped on the forklift but it would not start. The engine turned over but it would not start. I called the Mechanic department because they were responsible for our mechanical needs. I asked for a mechanic and they said they would send someone out. Soon after they arrived and one of them had a white cane with a red tip. They approached me and introduced themselves. The man with the white cane said, “I am Mike and I am blind.” I asked myself if this was some kind of a joke. Whoever heard of a blind mechanic? Mike spoke up and asked what we were looking at. I said a forklift and he asked if it was gas or diesel. After I told him it was gas, he felt around for the gas cap and when he located it, he removed it. He took a rag from his pocket, pushed it into the gas tank about half way and pulled it out. He ran his fingers over the wet part of the rag and told us that someone had put diesel fuel in the gas tank. He said we had to drain the tank and put fresh gas in. They did that and it started right up. I asked Mike why I had never met him before. He replied that it was because he was the automatic transmission man and he stays mostly in the shop. I told him that I had an automatic transmission that needed work and asked if he could repair it. “Sure” he said. “Bring it to my house and I will work on it at home in my shop.” He then gave me his address.
One evening, I took it over to his house. It was late and dark. I made my way around to the back of his house, but it was so dark that I could not see anything. I called out his name and he said, “I am over here.” When I told him that I could not see him, he apologized for not turning on the yard light for me. He told me that he forgot that other people need light. I put the transmission on his work bench and asked him what car he was working on. There were cars everywhere, but he said that he was working on his race car. I asked him if he races. He told me that he doesn’t really race but the guys he works with take him out on occasion. They take him out to the desert dry lakes and let him race while they sit next to him and act as his eyes for him. He races across the dry lakes and scares them to death. He told me that he really enjoys racing around.
We talked for a while and then he said, “Come in the house and I’ll introduce you to my wife. The T.V. was on and she was listening to it. She was also blind and the only light in the house was the glow of the T.V. I kept bumping into things and I was thankful when I finally got out of there. A few days later Mike called to tell me that my transmission was ready. He said that he would bring it to work with him and I could pick it up there. I arrived at his workplace the next day at noon. Mike was sitting in the corner, facing the wall, eating his lunch and surrounded by transmissions. I asked him why he was in the corner facing the wall. I told him it didn’t look right. He asked me which way he should turn to be facing the right way. I told him to turn his chair around and he thanked me. I paid him and took the transmission home and installed it in my car. It worked fine.
Hard As Nails
Hard as nails was the way I viewed farm women in my early days. Everyone was intent on survival. Life was hard, and they were harder. The way they displayed love and compassion was to send you out to the field to work. They were all trying to prove they were as good as men. They were serious competition. My Aunt Edith was a champion potato picker in the valley. She could out pick any man. She was good and she was fast. You may accuse me of exaggeration, but this was a little boy’s view. I am sure my mother would have given me the love and compassion I needed, but she was in a sanitarium in Arizona with tuberculosis. When I was young, I was in Grand Junction, Colorado. It was Easter Sunday, and I was in attendance at St. Joseph Catholic Church. What I saw there was unbelievable. There were women with beautiful dresses, hats with veils, white gloves that came up to their elbow, and high heeled shoes. I stared in disbelief at their beauty. They were real ladies.
When I was quite young I lived with my grandparents, Joe Dossigny on their farm in Colorado. They were quite old and were no fun. All they knew was work. They had never heard of the word fun; however my grandfather had seen one silent movie and it must have been a comedy. He would tell me about it and then he would laugh and laugh. That one movie lasted him all of his life. The only way I could get to the movies was when my cousin Irene, who was older than I, was asked out on a date. She would say that the only way she would go out with the guy is if her little cousin Leo could come along with them. That did not happen often and it was a long ways to the movies.
I had many chores and duties. One of my favorite was to fill my grandfather’s gallon jug with wine. When it was empty, I would take it to the wine cellar where there were many 55 gallon oak barrels. He made his own wine. The barrels all lay horizontally on racks except the one I was to draw from. It stood upright. On top, there was a two inch hole with a ¼ inch rubber hose dangling out of it. I was to suck on the hose until the wine would start to flow through the hose and into the jug. All too often I would suck on that hose way too long and would become off balance. I would struggle to get out of the cellar. It wasn’t too long after that when I was released from that duty and for no apparent reason. It was fun while it lasted.
After a furious tank battle, the action had ceased about midnight. Battles can sometimes become confusing, especially at night. You don’t know until morning if you’ve won or lost. And our tank commander had decided to get off of the battlefield and hide out until morning. One of the tank crewmembers named Wolfinburger was sent up a dry creek bed to find a suitable location to park the tank. There are lights on the tank, but in the combat zone, we usually use only marker lights. These emit no light, but let you know if there is a vehicle or a soldier with a marker flashlight.
Wolfinburger found a suitable spot half a mile up the creek. He signaled with his marker lights for the tank to come up. The tank rolled forward slowly. When it neared its destination, we heard a loud scream that could be heard over the roar of the engines. The tank commander then broke radio silence and told the tank driver to hold a true course, not moving in any other direction. Wolfinburger was under the tank. It rolled to a stop.
We then figured out what happened. After Wolfinburger had signaled for the tank to come up, he sat down and leaned against a tree; with his legs stretched out he fell asleep. Then we rolled over him. A medical jeep that was nearby then broke radio silence and said, “We heard the noise of the tank followed by the screaming. We know your location and we are on our way.” They picked him up, laid him on a stretcher and drove into the night. We had not heard from him and we did not know if he was dead or alive. Sometime later, we got a letter from him in the hospital.
The letter said, “Don’t blame yourselves for running over me. It was my fault. Some good has come of it. When they fit me with my prosthetic legs, I asked them to jack me up four inches because I always wanted to be taller. They said that they could and today, I am standing tall at 6 feet, 2inches.
A proud moment that happened in my life, took place in 1950 during the Korean War. We had fought the North Korean Army for many days and had captured the city of Seoul. After we had settled in for the night, I decided to try and find the Battalion Headquarters. I wanted to see if the mail had caught up to us. At that time, I was serving as the Company Mail Clerk. I was responsible for locating and picking up the mail. I left the company about 2100 hours. It was very dark. I wandered through the streets of Seoul looking for the mail. The MP (military police) stopped me and asked why I was on the street. I told them I was after the mail. They informed me that there was a curfew and NO ONE was allowed on the streets. Then they asked me for the name of my company. I told them it was “C”, Charley Company, the 6th Heavy Tank Battalion, attached to the 24th Infantry Division. They called my Company Commander and told him that one of his soldiers was out in the city after curfew. He was very upset and said that the soldier was looking at a Court Martial. He then asked who it was. When they told him my name, there was a long pause….. He then said, “Leave him be, I will take full responsibility for his actions.” The MP then informed me that I was the ONLY soldier in the army that had permission to be out after curfew.
On the farm in Colorado, we took a bath once a week on Saturday. We used a washtub that was about 36 inches in diameter and about 10 inches deep. We would fill it and put it on the stove to heat the water.
The girls would bathe first then when the boys turn came to bathe, we were supposed to fill the tub with clean water. But the creek was three blocks away and we had to carry the water in buckets. So many times we would elect to bathe in the same water that the girls had already used. There must have been at least an inch of crud on the top of the water. When we got in the water we were dirty and when we got out of the water, we were filthy. When I was younger, we didn’t always have to take our Saturday bath. We would just dust off really good. But as I got older, the world got sophisticated and we had to use water to bathe.
It was winter in 1950 in the Korean War. It was very cold and our winter clothing had not yet arrived. The enemy was well prepared for the winter weather. They had what we called Ruskie caps that the Russians used in World War II. They were similar to baseball caps made of canvas and they were fur lined and had a short bill and long ear flaps. There were strings attached which you could tie under your chin or in warmer weather you could tie them up at the top of the cap. They also had padded down filled jackets that were really warm. After a battle, we would look over the enemy dead bodies and take their caps, jackets and guns. I would often think of their mothers and the sorrow they would soon feel, and a tear would fill my eye. Hopefully, we would find some that were not all full of bullet holes or blood soaked.
We never bathed. My long johns were so crusted with black crud that they lost their warmth. One day, I found a stream and I broke the ice. Then I washed my long johns with no soap and hung them in a tree to dry overnight. I shivered all night. In the morning, they were frozen stiff and I wondered how I could get them on. I did manage to get them on. They were freeze dried I guess. To my surprise, they were dry. I had lice and crabs in the hair under my armpits. To get rid of the lice, we would soak our head in motor oil or cut off all our hair. We were good candidates for leprosy I always thought.
I guess we all need some kind of therapy to cope with Life’s stresses. Activity in the church has proven to be the best for me. Guidance and direction are easily obtained through prayer. But as my days dwindle down, I remind my wife, Leona that we are in the middle of winter; however I still find joy and relief in mechanical things. One of my needs is to have a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Although I have been somewhat overtaken with age, my eyes have become dim and I can no longer keep up with traffic on the highway, I would still love to have one in my garage. My wife wonders what I would do with it. I would start it up daily and listen to the roar and thunder of the engine. As the excitement filled the air, it would become therapy to me and I would begin to heal from life’s wounds. As I walk away, I would turn for one last look and say to myself, “Is this not a thing of beauty?” Not to worry, I have a number of Harley’s and I keep them all in my head.
This took place during the Korean War in 1950. I was in Charley Co. with the 6th Heavy Tank Battalion attached to the 24th Infantry direction. Our company had been on the front line in the combat zone for some time. The fight eased up and the captain told me to get one of the tank machine jeeps along with a driver and pick up the mail. Some miles below the combat zone as we headed south to get the mail, we got behind an American truck carrying soldiers. All of a sudden, the truck was being ambushed from a band of enemy soldiers, hidden in the grass, and they were shooting at the soldiers in the back of the truck. As this was going on, the jeep driver calmly drove around the truck that was being attacked. The driver then asked me if I would like to die gunned down by the enemy or in a jeep accident. I told him I would take the jeep accident. He told me to hang on because this decision almost proved to be fatal. He went down the dirt road at unbelievable speed. The road was slick because a light rain was falling. We skidded off the road numerous times, hitting the bank on both sides of the road. This was an open World War II Jeep, with no seat belts, and no roll bars. It was all I could do to stay in the seat. I began to think I had made the wrong choice, but after awhile he slowed down and regained composure.
We finally arrived at the mail headquarters after dark. There were tents and people were sleeping on cots. We found a flat spot on the ground near the mail tent. We laid down and put a blanket and our waterproof ponchos over our bodies. We were totally exhausted. A light rain had started to fall. The last thing I heard was someone asking, “How can those guys sleep on the ground like that in the rain?” We were used to sleeping on hillsides, in the tanks, under the tanks, in the mud, and in the snow. The ground was soft and we thought we were in heaven. In the morning, we picked up 6 mail bags and headed out. We drove for some time, but could not locate our tank company. We became concerned about going too far north, because we could easily go into enemy territory. There are no signs to tell you where the front line is. We did finally find our company and we were still alive.
At Wayside Honor Ranch in Castaic, there is an area where the inmates are trained to fight brush and forest fires. It has some Disneyland characteristics. The inmates have nicknamed it Disneyland. One day, I had completed my shift at the fire station and I was driving home, when my car broke down. I put on a vest that covered my badge and uniform markings and went to a nearby intersection to bum a ride home. As the cars would stop at the red light, I would look them over and select one I thought would give me a ride. I spotted a guy in a convertible with lots of tattoos on his arms. I pointed down the road and he motioned for me to get in. He knew I worked for the Fire Department because he saw my belt buckle that had the Fire Department initials on it.
As we traveled, he told me that he had fought a number of forest and brush fires. I asked if he happened to be trained at Disneyland. He told me that is where he was trained and he had a certificate to prove it. One more thing he said was that he had never been on a fire that they could not put out. We then swapped forest fire stories and he drove me all the way home.
A Lone Sniper
This incident took place during the Korean War in 1950. I spent one year in the combat zone. We were required to spend a year there, then if we had not been killed, we were routed back to the United States. We lost approximately 53,000 men in that war and I should have been one of them. Our unit had been pulled off the front line to regroup and rest. However, we were pestered by a lone sniper who was shooting at us every chance he got. One evening, one of the tank gunners got a compass bearing on his position. He was perched on a tree. The gunner jumped onto his tank and loaded his 90 millimeter cannon with a round of high explosives. The tank is armed with three types of ammunition; high explosives, armor piercing and phosphorous. He fired at the tree and all that was left was an eight foot stump. We heard no more from that sniper.
Pistol Packing Mamma
I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas in 1948. I mostly got around the country by hitch hiking. In those days, soldiers were held in high esteem. One day as I walked onto the highway in my uniform, three cars stopped to pick me up. However, this one day I found myself on a lonely road with very little traffic. A lady stopped to give me a ride. As she drove, she shelled peas with one hand and drove with the other. I helped her shell the peas. I asked her where she was headed and she told me to the next town to pick up her kids. I told her that very few ladies that were traveling alone have stopped to pick me up. “You must be a very trusting person.” She said, “I don’t know how trusting I am, but I am not afraid of anyone, including you.” She wore a long flowing skirt that came to her ankles. She then lifted it up to her knees. She was wearing a leg holster and in it was a 44. It had a pearl handle and a short barrel.
One Thin Dime
I was living in Colorado on a farm with my Aunt Silvia and Uncle Sy when I was nine or ten years old. One day, three friends of mine walked to town, some five miles away to meet a rich friend of ours. He said if we would visit him he would buy us lunch. When we arrived he took us to the Bakery and bought a loaf of French bread for a dime. Then he cut it in four sections and gave us each a section. We asked for something to drink and he said what is wrong with ditch water. It is good to have friends with money.
One Sunday as I parked my car in the church parking lot, prior to attending church services, I noticed an elderly lady walking across the lot. I recognized her as Sister Fenton from a neighboring ward. As she drew near, I gave her a wolf whistle. She was delighted and said it was worth a journal entry. The following Sunday, she even mentioned it in her testimony. Shortly after the incident, she passed away.
A Helping Hand
Every summer, my Aunt Edith and Uncle Nelson Cane, would stay in a small cabin high in the mountains above Basalt, Colorado. He was a range rider who looked after the cattle. By staying there, he was at his workplace. At night, I would take the car seat out of the car and bring it to the cabin to sleep on. It was a lonely place, not a fun place to be. All there was to do were chores. That’s where I learned to hate the mountains.
Occasionally, some of the cows would eat too much larkspur, which is a kind of blue flower that makes them crazy and unpredictable. They would come to the cabin and scare my aunt. My uncle would then come and take a white dish towel, waving it in front of them. They would charge at it, much like bullfighters do. He would lure it into the corral and shut the gate. In a few days, they would come to their senses and be ok.
I jumped on a railroad spike and ran it through my foot. It was serious enough to be taken to the doctor, some distance away. As we traveled down the road, we came to a hay wagon that had lost its wheels. Two horses pulled it. It had large, wooden spoke wheels. One of the wheels had come off. My uncle could have driven around it, but instead he took an axe from the trunk of the car. He then looked around in the forest and selected a tree that was six or seven inches in diameter and about twelve or fourteen feet high. He chopped it down and removed all the limbs, brought it over to the wagon, rolled a large rock under the axel, put the log on top of the rock, and slipped the log under the axel of the wagon. The farmer and he then pushed the wagon and lifted it up. It was a lever. The wheel was then put on and secured. The farmer then thanked him and said, “Good luck” It was customary to say good luck because everybody needed a lot of it just to survive.
I then questioned my uncle on why he took the time to help him. He said, “I could never leave him there alone. He needed help.”
This experience took place in 1990. My wife Leona and I traveled to Hurricane, Utah to visit her mother. She would stay for a while, and I would take the bus home. It was decided that we would leave the car with her to return home with. They drove me to St George so I could take the bus home. When I went to buy my ticket, I was informed that the buses were on strike and none were available. Leona and her mother had already returned to Hurricane. However, I managed to get a ride to Las Vegas with a building contractor. When we arrived in Vegas I saw the train station and decided to take the train the rest of the way home. I had to walk across the train yard to get to the station. There was a long train blocking my path. I noticed a flat car with a large ditch digging machine on it that took up most of the space on the car. I crawled over it and as I did so the train lunged forward, telling me that train was leaving town. I stayed on that train and it took me through parts of town that I never knew existed. There were many hobos along the tracks living in cardboard boxes and lean-tos’. I waved to them and they waved back. After all I was now one of them and I knew their secret handshake.
It was about 4 in the afternoon, just as it was getting dark. We had reached the California and Nevada state line. I could see gambling casinos in the distance, and then the train started to go eastward. I asked myself why are we going east. Then it dawned on me that there are some fairly steep hills ahead and the train is going around them. It was now getting cold and I only had a light jacket on. The train would pull over on a side track to let passenger trains go by. When we stopped, I would walk along the tracks looking for an open box car, but there were none. The car I was on was open and I had to stand. Many times I wished for a big cardboard box to shield me from the wind. At one of our stops, a train worker cheeked the wheels on the car I was on. I was standing right above him and said very softly “hello”. He looked up and said, “Where are you going?” I told him Los Angeles. He informed me that when this train gets to Barstow, it will head for Bakersfield and I will need to get off. We were still a distance from Barstow, but we were in a part of the desert that I was familiar with. Many times my kids and their friends would spend days riding motor cycle dirt bikes in that area. There was a full moon and I could also see the little girl’s grave. In the early days this was the 20 mule team route and apparently a little 3 year old girl died and was buried in the desert. Around her grave site, is a four foot high rod iron fence (six by six feet square). It was obvious this little girl was very loved. When you are traveling to Las Vegas from Los Angeles about half way between the two cities, you will see a sign that reads Razor Road. Take the dirt road to the right about 8 miles and you will come to a few trees about 3 miles or so and near the railroad tracks and south of the trees is the little girls grave. When you find it, you will also find a tear in your eye. It is a lonely place to leave a little girl.
By now I was exhausted and could hardly stand. Finally, the train stopped this side of Barstow. When I got off the train, I could see Highway 15 and the fruit inspection center that everyone has to stop at. It was about ½ mile away and as I started towards it, it started to rain. It didn’t rain long, but I was soaked and the ground was muddy. I struggled to get to the highway. I was so cold and exhausted that I could hardly move. At last I made it and I went into the office of the inspection building. The lady inside asked where my car was. I told her that it had broken down and I needed a ride to Los Angeles. On her desk sat a box of Hersey candy bars. She was selling them for her son who was in the
Boy Scouts. She saw me looking at them and asked if I would like to buy one. I said I would buy the whole box. She was delighted because there were 24 in the box. I ate most of them right then. She then told me that she would see to it that I got a ride to Los Angeles. She had something to do with the tour buses. When a tour bus arrived, she asked the tour guide lady if there were any empty seats on the bus. The lady said they were full, but pretty soon another bus came along. The office lady asked again if there were any vacant seats on the bus. The lady said that there was one seat. The office lady told her to take me with her. The tour guide lady didn’t want to because I was all wet and muddy. The office lady told her that I would dry off and she needed to take me. I got on the bus and collapsed. Finally I got home.
I was eight or nine years old, living with my Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Sy Dossigny in a farming community near Basalt, Colorado. It was not uncommon for our family friends and visitors to drink water from the same bucket.
Occasionally there would be a community dance. There would be maybe 200 people in attendance and a water bucket with a single cup would be placed near the door, for all to use. It was my duty to replace the water when it was empty. I would then fill the bucket with fresh ditch water that ran through the cattle corral. As I was standing near the water bucket, I was approached by a couple who asked if there were more cups. I said we have only one cup; so they would not drink from the bucket. They said there were probably germs. But I hadn’t seen any germs. After the dance I told my uncle about the incident and he simply said, “City Folks”.
Sometimes we would plow and fertilize the field around the water wells on the farm. A few days later the water in the well would be very high.
It was also fun for us kids to gather around the opening of the well and spit in it. The well was quite deep and when the spit hit the water it would make a loud noise, “Smack, Smack”, that would echo through the well. One day, my aunt and I were looking down at the water in the well and without thinking I spit. That proved to be a serious mistake.
One day aboard a ship when we were returning home from Korea, my name came up to assist the cooks in the kitchen or the galley as they called it. When I reported, the cook assigned me to stir the stew in the kettle. This was no ordinary kettle. It was about eight or ten feet in diameter, eight or nine feet deep and there was a long paddle or oar to stir with. It was the kind of paddle that you would find on a row boat with the same kind of swivel system and you would row like a boat. I sat on top of the kettle that was partially filled with water. The cook hollered at me and asked if I was ready. There was an overhead rail with containers attached to it. They were full of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and stew meat. All at once they would get dumped into the kettle. When they came, they came really fast and I rowed like crazy. It was kind of fun, but I was constantly sea sick and often I would stop to barf. Most of the time, I managed to miss the kettle, but not always. It was very hot and the sweat poured off my body and found its way into the stew.
When the kettle had been emptied, the cook told me to clean it. I scrubbed it down and then took cold water and rinsed it out. The kettle became cool and I was very tired and sick. I climbed in and laid down and fell asleep. After awhile, I woke up and climbed the ladder to get out of the kettle. The cook asked me where I had been. I told him that I fell asleep in the kettle. He asked if I had a good sleep. He laughed when I said it was the best sleep ever.
P.S. I was once offered a ride on a cruise ship, but I said, “No, thanks!”
Sometime in the late 60’s, I was working for the Los Angeles County Road Department. I was assigned to Mount Wilson on snow removal. We stayed there year round in the winter and we were on duty 24 hours a day. In our barracks, there was a bell that would ring when it started to snow. We would then hurry out to our snow plows to remove the snow off the road. But before we started our trucks, we would lift up the hood and remove the cats that were sleeping on the warm engines.
One month, I worked the whole month without a day off and I wanted to attend church. Finally I got a Sunday off, so I jumped in my car and started out. I had only gone a short distance when my car started to act up and lost power. I managed to get back to the yard and parked it in the garage. I lifted the hood and removed the air cleaner. I looked for a problem but found none, so I thought I would try again. But, when I got a little ways down the road, the same thing happened again. With lack of power, I returned to the garage, lifted the hood and removed the air cleaner from the carburetor. I then decided to make it a matter of prayer and asked for some help locating the problem. I was distracted for a moment because the sun was shining and reflecting through the window. There was a very soft glow and then something turned my attention in the direction of the engine compartment. My eyes focused on the carburetor. After staring at it for a long moment, I heard a click as the automatic choke baffles open on the carburetor. That told me where the problem was. They were not opening and the engine was not getting the proper air flow, causing it to lose power when the engine warmed up. After disconnecting the choke baffles I went to church and even sat on the front row.
I Heard the Bugle
War is all about battles and tactics, and knowing your enemy and catching them off guard and outsmarting them. Sometimes the enemy outsmarts you. They were experts in camouflage, very patient, and knew how to play the war game. They had a bugle that would announce their arrival. One morning, I heard the bugle. I had been told that if you were close enough to hear the bugle, you were as good as dead. Once in a great while, I had a night without guard duty. An infantry company was spending the night with us. I decided to spend the night with them, because without being on guard I could sleep anywhere. I bedded down in the rear of their company.
About daylight I heard the bugle. I immediately jumped out of my sleeping bag and looked around. It had snowed about four inches during the night. I could see mounds of snow all over the ground. Under these mounds of snow, soldiers were sleeping. The enemy had overrun them and were killing them in their sleeping bags. I grabbed my boots. I always took my boots off at night because I used one for a pillow. I looked around for my weapon, but could not find it under the snow. I started running in the snow without my boots. While they were killing the infantry, I ran back to my tank company. The crews were in their tanks, and were shooting. Women bring life into the world, and men take them out.
There is a part of my life that I am pleased with and that was my military years, especially during the war. I was seventeen and could have made some serious mistakes that would be hard to live down. Although I have done some things during the war that I am not proud of.
After we had taken a town or village and had the enemy on the run, we would loot the village. While the refugees were headed south and their homes were vacant, we would ransack them, go through all of their personal belongings, I would run my bayonet through their paper thin walls and make a mess of their home. But I never defiled any female refugee, I never shot anyone unless it was in the line of duty, and I made sure that my seed was not scattered throughout the world.
I knew many who had defiled young women and mothers, and as a result children were born. Now their descendents are unattended, the soldiers grew older and realized the seriousness of their ways. They are conscience struck; full of regrets and their past haunts them. They wonder what ever happened to their children. I am grateful to the Lord and my companion, Commander Captain Landers who looked after me and shielded me from serious mistakes.
I will give you an example of his concern. After six months of duty, a soldier is entitled to go on what is called R&R (rest and recuperation) to Japan for a week. If you go there, you will more than likely lose your chastity. Prior to leaving, the Captain approached me and said, “We got shot pretty badly in our last battle and I would like you to cancel your R&R trip” and I said, “OK”. I was relieved, but six months later my name again came up for R&R. It also came up to be routed back to the U.S. The Captain once again asked me to cancel my R&R trip. I did and returned to the U.S. instead. It was obvious to me that I was receiving help from on high and as a result I now have no regrets.
In the old Highland Park ward in the Glendale stake that no more exists, I was asked by an elderly lady to give her husband a blessing. He was in the hospital and near death. My companion and I went to the hospital that evening. I had never met him before. When we found him we asked if he would like a blessing and he said, “What for?” I told him it could be for comfort, healing or whatever he wanted. He told me I was a little late for that. And I said, “So you don’t want a blessing?” And he said, “No.” I said, “That’s okay with us but what are we going to tell your wife?” There was a long pause….. Then he said, “You better give me a blessing.” So we blessed him that he would be comfortable and not suffer unduly. On the way home we stopped by his wife’s house. She asked if he accepted the blessing, we said yes he did. He thought it was the thing to do. She was very pleased.
You will know when you are getting old:
When you go into a room and look for the light switch to turn on the lights and you discover the lights are on.
When you were young and would hear old folks moaning and groaning; you would wonder what that is all about. Now you know!
When you know the plan of life; that you came to earth to gain a body and experience the ups and downs of life; that you will be tested; someday get old and your body will not respond to your request; you will get a little goofy; lose your self confidence and no longer trust yourself. Then you find out that old age is somewhat difficult and you find that the final test in life is not so fun.
When you are traveling down the freeway in your car and your wife asks you what lane you are in and you say, “I wish I knew”.
When you are on the freeway and it is getting dark, you discover traffic cones in your lane and you have run over a number of them. You realize they must be working on that lane, and then you look in the rear view mirror and see all the traffic behind you that are holding their positions so you can move over four lanes and get off the freeway.
When you have to renew your driver’s license and the DMV lady tells you to read the top line on the eye chart. When you have finished reading it she then informs you that they are letters not numbers. She tells you to come with her and by the time you leave; you have your driver’s license and it is good for five more years. You just stand there amazed.
When you are at church and you see someone waving at you only forty paces away from you and they are so out of focus that you don’t recognize them until you are nose to nose.
When someone who you have known for years, but you have not seen for awhile starts talking to you and you say to yourself, “I have never seen this guy in my life”.
The older I get the more I appreciate the time of my arrival here on earth. The Great Depression was coming to an end, but we still felt the effects of it. Life was hard, a quarter was a lot of money and a dollar had buying power. I became very familiar with the word sacrifice. If you didn’t have the money to buy something, you didn’t buy it. Those days also taught me to think of others. Sometimes I would be invited to have dinner with the neighbor. They had a large family. When we sat down to eat, I would look at the food that was set before us and look at the number of people that had to be fed. Then I would take very small portions and I didn’t always leave there plum full. There was no social security. If an older person offered you money because you did a service, you never took it, because they were saving for their old age. Now I look around and see prosperity and technology has made life so easy. We sit at our computer, watch television, jump into our cars to go to the store two blocks away and if we want exercise, we have to go to the gym to get it. An old friend asked me the other day if I missed the good old days. I told him no way!
On our way home from Korea, the ship went over the top of the world. It’s shorter that way they say. We dropped anchor off the Islands near Alaska and stayed there for some time, because we had been quarantined. We had picked up some kind of disease. What it was, I know not, but they kept giving us shots and they could not keep track of who they had given them to. So, we were constantly receiving shots. I had a bunk assigned to me below deck, but I could only sleep in it every third day. We had to share it. The other days I slept on the top deck, I had one blanket and I guarded it with my life. I slept on the hard cold steel deck. It was August and luckily it was not too cold. Finally, we arrived in Fort Louis, Washington. We were there three or four days. I had been sea sick for sick weeks and was exhausted, so I slept most of the time. Then they gave me a bus ticket to Los Angeles. I boarded the bus, but in a way, I became uneasy about returning home. I had become accustomed to a lot of shooting and killing. Civilian life would require some adjusting to and that frightened me. After arriving in Los Angeles, I did not want to go home. I know there was no turning back and I would have to adjust to the change.
I have had a number of incidences with animals where I felt some kind of communication was taking place between me and them. The first was when I was 10 years old and I was living with my Uncle Sy and Aunt Sylvia on their farm in Colorado. My Uncle had hitched up a team of horses to a dump hay rake. As I approached the rack from the rear and spoke to my uncle, the horses recognized my voice and turned their heads around to look at me. My uncle then said to me, “This team is very high spirited and they want to run, hold the rains tight or they will run away with you.”
We then started down a long dirt road. The hay rake had a wide wheel base of about ten feet and to me it was like a Roman chariot, and it was very light. When we got out of sight of my uncle the horses became very frisky and quickened there pace. I knew they wanted to run they stretched their necks forward as they did so I let the rains slip through my hands. And when they felt the slack in them they took off on a full run down the road. They went as fast as they could go and I let them run themselves out. To say the least it was very exciting and I loved it. When we got to the field where we were to rack the hay that had been previously cut, I let the horses rest and when they had settled down, we went to work. I always felt these horses enjoyed working with me because we had many good times together.
In 1976 I was working for the LA County Fire Department at the fire facility in Pacoima, near the Whiteman Airfield. The heavy fire equipment is kept there. Like bulldozers water dropping helicopters water tankers, etc. There is also a carpenter and wielding shop there. There are many open fields around and many wild domestic cats that you cannot get near. One morning I went to the wielding shop, while I was there one of those cats showed up at the open door and began meowing in a scolding manor. Meowing and meowing as she looked at me. I then said to the cat, “Why are you scolding me? I have nothing to do with you.” The next stop was the carpenter shop. I mentioned the incident to the carpenter.
“I forgot to feed her this morning, she has a litter of kittens in the attic and she needs to be fed.” He then asked if I had any food in my camper, and I told him that I had a can of tuna. He said, “Get it and I will so you where to put it.” I put it where he suggested. The cat came by shortly and ate it, she then headed for the attic.
Elmo the Dog
This incident took place around 1994. We were living in Castaic on Gilmour Rd off Hasley Canyon. My dog Elmo was getting old and sick, so I took him to the animal shelter.
The attendant asked, “What do you want us to do for your dog.”
I said, “Put him down, he’s quite old.”
She said, “Ok say good bye to your dog.”
Elmo was inside the compound and the attendant held him with a lease. His back was to me and I was looking at him through a chain link fence. I said, “Elmo I guess this is good bye. We have had a lot of good times together. I took you every place we went and we lived in the fast lane. Often in the evening we would get a half gallon of chocolate ice cream and we would make it disappear together. I knew it wasn’t good for you but it was your favorite and I liked spoiling you. And when I get into the next world I’ll look you up and we will get another half gallon of chocolate ice cream and once again we will make it disappear.” Elmo then turned his head and looked back at me. When our eyes met he spoke to me with his eyes and said thank you. The attendant then led him away and he never looked back. He was ready to go and I knew it and he knew it. It was a pleasant goodbye and I left there with a good feeling.
The Year Is 2010
Bishop Parrish has moved to the southern states. He was our last bishop. He has a number of admirable traits; however I will only mention one at this time. During the sacrament service he keeps his eyes on the speaker and listens intently. I like that. It is an invitation for me to do the same. We now have a new bishop his name is, Scott Muir. He has a manor about him that puts you at ease and you feel comfortable with him and you will know immediately that he is your friend.
I have lived on the earth for some time. I told my wife Leona, that we were in the autumn of our years. “No,” she said, “we are in the last stages of winter.”
I will conclude my journal for now, but there will be more. I am excited about two things going on: A proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although that looks very unlikely at this stage of my life; the other thing is to make it to the tippy top of the Celestial Kingdom. The Lord says that those who achieve that will be rich and it will be fun to be rich for a change. I would like to buy something that I don’t need just once.
My name is Leo Mathias Jr. and I am starting the second part of my personal journal. The first part of my journal told only my experiences and did not include my wife, Leona, and my sons, Mark, Douglas, Richard, Jonathan, and my daughter, Lisa. As a result there were many complaints so a friend of mine, Don Elm, suggested that I write about my family, because he was putting together some kind of booklet and wanted everyone included.
My wife, Leona, is from southern Utah… a small town called Virgin near St. George. She moved to Los Angeles when she was 18, and I was living in Los Angeles at the time. We met at church in the Highland Park Ward. I was reluctant to ask her for a date; she seemed to be so proper. I thought I would feel uncomfortable with her. But after going with her for 5 years, I felt comfortable. I was then 30 and was not in a hurry to be wed. I had not seen too many successful marriages in my time, but we got married in the temple and our marriage worked out well. What I like about her is her common sense smarts. She can solve the most difficult problems with the simplest solutions, and she is easy to live with.
We had four boys and one angel daughter, Lisa. She was as smart as her mother and is well organized and capable and to this day when she comes to visit, she will say, “What do you need, Dad?” and if there is any yard work to be done, she will do it and make more suggestions on how to improve things. When I need anything from the boys, like a new roof on the house, they will do it, but you have to run them down. But Lisa is right there.
Lisa is married and has four children: Gerry, Justin, Alex, and Rebecca. Gerry is on a mission in Kenya, Africa, and Justin just graduated from high school and has a football scholarship to Dubuque University.
Our first son, Mark, was born with some missing parts. He had only one kidney and there were some other things missing. So he was somewhat handicapped and chose not to marry. He had a good job and retired early but had a weight problem and passed away when he was 49. His mother had always thought that his physical problems were a result of some diet medication that had been prescribed by her doctor to take while she was pregnant. Some six months after his death he appeared to her in a dream and said, “Look Mom, I am all together, and I am happy.” Then he laughed and was gone. I wish he had appeared to me in a dream. I would ask him where are the bolt cutters you said I had that I could never find.
When he was born I visited his mother in the hospital room. I had an experience I will never forget. As she lay there with the newborn next to her, she was glowing and beaming with radiance. As I stood there staring at her in disbelief, she said, “Haven’t you ever seen a baby before?”
I said, “I am not looking at that baby.” To me it was a new dimension. It was so unreal. She was exalted. She was a creator. She had achieved the highest rank that can be obtained on this planet. Nothing on this earth will ever equal what I saw in that woman that day.
Douglas was not too happy with the way I did things when he was younger. He often reminds me of how I overworked him when he was a kid. We took care of the church grounds, and we did work pretty hard. He says the way I worked him, nowadays I’d be put in jail. But what really ticked him off is that we got paid and he didn’t. But I make it up to him by telling him he is my favorite son and apologize for overworking him and say, “O, poor baby!”
Doug married Barbara and they had 3 children: Michelle, Matthew, and Timmy. The marriage failed. He now works for the Los Angeles County Fire Department as a camp crew foreman at camp 16 and is held in high esteem.
Richard was a very good student, always trying to better himself by taking day and night classes. When he was 18 he wanted to take a class that was some distance from where we lived. The only way he could get there was to borrow my old Volkswagen bus. It was hard to drive. It shook and rattled and would wander all over the road. He took it to class once and then dropped out. It was not a comfortable ride, but I liked the old bus. You could hear the engine laboring as you rolled along. When you would come to a steep hill, you would have to be at top speed, because it only had a 35 horsepower motor, and it needed help! I called it Cindy, and I used to sing, “Cindy, o Cindy, Cindy don’t let me down, and we’ll be homeward bound!”
Richard married a lady from India named Naznin. She had two small boys, Farhad and Aamir, who are now grown. They now live in Charlottesville, Virginia.
My son Jonathan, the youngest, is quite gifted and talented. He’s an artist and has painted many pictures. When he went to work for Richmand American, who build housing tracts, he started at the bottom and worked his way up to superintendant in two years. He now works for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, something he has always wanted to do. He is married Elaina, and they have three boys: Logan, Dillan, and Rylan.
There was a neighbor girl named Kristi Harris who hung out with us. She is a great gal. In fact, on my wife and my 50th wedding anniversary she was the only one who remembered it, and she showered us with gifts. We had hoped that our kids would not remember it, because my wife has bone marrow cancer and is not up to much excitement.
We had an Indian girl who came to live with us for a while. Her name is Madzina Johnson. She was from the Salt Creek Indian Reservation in Scottsdale, Arizona. She came to us through the church placement program. She was about 11 years old. At that time the Church would take Indian children and place them with families that were not on the reservation. The idea was to have them gain some experience and to get them involved in our culture. We had a good relationship with her, and she still visits once or twice a year. She has a flock of kids. When she leaves she will ask if she can leave some of the kids with us, and we will say no. Then she will ask if she can stay with us and we will say, “Of course not, you’re a wild Indian!”
When our family took a vacation it was our practice to stop and visit a park where the kids could run and play so they would not become bored with the long ride. One day we stopped at a place where there was a very large and high pile of what I thought was walnut shells. The kids were climbing up the pile and rolling down end over end and having a good time. As I stood watching, a worker in the plant walked by. I asked him what they were making, and he said this is the Bandini fertilizer and processing plant. Soon it was time to go and as we traveled down the road my wife asked what stinks. I said, “I don’t smell anything.”
All my life I have been somewhat religiously inclined, and I have felt I had the necessary faith to succeed in life. In my early years I looked for someone to pattern my life after… a hero... a great person. The thought immediately came into my mind that I should key on Christ.
My early years were somewhat difficult. I lived on a farm near Basalt, Colorado, with some of my relatives. My mother was in Arizona in a sanatorium suffering with tuberculosis. My relatives were good to me, but I missed my mother. She survived her bout with TB, and we were reunited when I was 10 or 11 years old. School was always difficult for me. I never was a good student. I dropped out of high school in my 11th year. After many years I did manage to get my high school diploma at night school, but I never bothered to pick up my diploma. I never felt I had the brains to go with the paper.
When I was seventeen I joined the army. I was assigned to the 10th infantry division but managed to be reassigned to the 6th heavy tank battalion at Fort Hood, Texas. I was there a short time when the North Korea invaded South Korea in July, 1950. We were assigned to leave as soon as possible, because we had the heavy Patton Tanks, the best the army had at the time. I have written some of my war experiences in another part of my journal. When I was discharged from the service I lived with my parents in California. The next-door neighbor had a plumbing business and asked me to work for him. One day he said to me that he had a niece about my age, and he suggested that I ask her for a date, and reminded me that he was the boss. It sounded like a direct order to me, so I asked her out. She proved to be very attractive and pleasant. We got along very well. She was a Mormon and I was a Catholic, but we go along well. She took me to the Los Angeles Temple before it was dedicated. It was very elaborate, but what confused me was they built this beautiful building, and they had no Sunday service. On Sunday, in fact, it was closed. I thought to myself they should have at least made this a matter of prayer before they built it.
Marilyn often talked about religion. One day she asked me if I would like to attend her Church. I said I would if she would go to my church first. She said OK and I took her to a cathedral in Hollywood. She was very impressed. The next Sunday we attended her church. There was a bishop who had just been released as bishop of the ward. As he talked about his bishop experiences he became very teary-eyed. I found this to be quite unusual because the men in my family never ever shed a tear. Men just did not do that, and here he was weeping openly. I talked with the Lord in my mind, and said, “Lord, this man is a phony… an imposter… an actor.”
At the close of the meeting he was at the front door shaking everyone’s hand. I also shook his hand, but when I looked into his eyes the Lord told me I had condemned and honest man. A shock went through my body and it was powerful. It was intense. I stood there in disbelief at what had just happened. What kind of church was this that the Lord would come down and personally reprimand me? Is the Mormon Church that powerful? Then the thought came into my mind… it’s not the Mormon Church, it’s the Church of Jesus Christ. Then I knew who had been talking to me. After that experience I never attended my church again. It wasn’t long after that that I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now I know that many will find this experience farfetched and you can think what you want… it’s OK with me. But I am here to tell you this really happened to me.