John L. Sorenson
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This little resumé will stretch my memory in sequence around the few dozen dwelling places where I have lived in order to provide a framework for expanding associated recollections I will later attempt. I will concentrate on the physical setting because that is more open to memory than the social relationships involved. First, of course, was my parents’ place in Smithfield, where I was born just about 88 years ago. We had no numbering system for houses in those days (nor anytime I lived there), but if someone wanted to find us we would say that we were at Second East and Center Street on the southeast corner. Smithfield (in its earliest days called Summit Creek) was positioned on high ground deposited by centuries of deposition by Smithfield Creek, coming out of it own extensive canyon. (On my bookshelves are two books about the town: Lawrence S. Cantwell, A Brief History of Three Canyons, 1969, and Smithfield Historical Society, Smithfield … As a City on a Hill, 2001). In my growing up years I was convinced that our place was one of the most ideal spots in Smithfield for position and beauty. I don’t recall Dad ever saying from whom he purchased our property (around 1907); that was made possible by a loan from his brother, my Uncle John Sorenson, who lived in Logan (on “the Island,” the low, flat area south the USU campus near where the Logan River emerges into the valley, only a couple of blocks from where son Joe now lives). He was a postal worker and thus had a steady income. Our lot encompassed a full acre plus a small adjoining area of less than an eighth of an acre “behind” the neighbor’s lot and which served as a pasture for our cow. Neighbors on the east were the Timmins (husband deceased), Ewings on the south, and west across Second East, George Thornley, all on lots almost as large as ours. Our residence area was on the north portion of the lot. Across the back ran a diagonal ditch that carried irrigation water (for an hour or two once a week, according to schedule, anytime in the night or day). The section (two-thirds of the total area) “below the ditch” was one third a very large garden and two-thirds a hay (alfalfa) field. After the hay was mowed (hired) and dried in the field, Dad would carry it, a large pitch-fork full at a time, the 200-300 feet to our small barn to store. In an ideal year there would be three crops of hay per year. In the residential zone was a small orchard of five large apple trees (Jonathans, the best), a couple of plums and a big grape vine, as well as a large plot to grow flowers for sale. (The apples picked were stored in the fall in large barrels; we ate them as we chose throughout the cold season.) This acre of open space provided a very comfortable, open location for my growing up. There were trees to climb, places to be alone at times, distance from neighbor noises, and distant scenic beauty. And only a block away was the 13-acre James Mack Memorial Park with all sorts of nooks and crannies amidst wild growths of shrubbery and trees, a favorite rustic hang-out for me. During my military service I was (very briefly) at Fort Douglas (Utah) for induction, then by train went to Berkeley CA where I was supposed to receive pre-meteorology training (but the authorities decided the capacity for training was too much so did not actually use the Bay Area facility; after a couple of days in a dorm there, I and half the assembled crew were shipped by train to Albuquerque NM where we were housed in a dormitory on the University of New Mexico campus for the next six months. After that I was sent to Pasadena to the California Institute of Technology for actual weather forecaster training. We were housed on two floors of the Hotel Constance on downtown Colorado Ave. We marched several blocks to the campus for meals and study and “back home” to the hotel in the evening. My first duty station after graduation (and commissioning as a Second Lt., in mid-1944) was in Tonopah NV south of Reno. After a few months I was reassigned to Asheville NC, where Lt. Sumner Fehlberg (a Boston Jew) and I shared a room in a private house while being further trained at the Army Air Corps Weather Service world headquarters. In November 1943 I moved to Miami FL to stay another month at a commandeered hotel awaiting long-delayed (low priority) flight service to Natal, on the hump of Brazil. Almost immediately I left there for Ascension Island in the South Atlantic (34 square miles in size, 1,400 miles from Brazil, 1,000 from Africa). Housing there was in a three-person tent erected on a wooden platform atop the volcanic cinders that constituted most of the island. (The only water came by jeep in five-gallon cans from a de-salinization plant on the coast. Fresh vegetables were grown in a hydroponics/”chemical farm” installation on the island). After six months I returned to Natal for a two- month stay in barracks on the air base, followed by another six months at Fortaleza, Brazil, again on the air field. I returned to Utah to be discharged in the summer of 1946. Lived in my parents’ home until I left (January 1947) for my mission, the last six weeks with wife Kathryn. In Auckland, New Zealand, I lived for a few months in the old mission home on lower Queen St. before leaving on the Maui Pomare (very small ship) for Rarotonga. My entire two years there I dwelt in two rooms built by members for the missionaries in back of the chapel, also hand-crafted by them, in Muri Enua village (Google Earth coordinates: -21.255702°, - 159.732693°). Back in New Zealand waiting for several weeks to embark by freighter for Canada/USA I spent time in various private homes of Church members in Porirua, a Maori village near Wellington. Back in Utah our home (now with Jeffrey) was only temporarily with Kathryn’s parents in Magna. Within a couple of weeks we rented a place in Provo, at 242 West 400 North (upstairs apartment), where we lived while I started attending BYU funded by the GI Bill, a federal program. (Tea Party-ers today would call it “socialist;” I call it one of the most enlightened programs in the nation’s history). Sometime later we moved to a more comfortable apartment (in a house divided three ways) at about 540 North 200 East. Then moved into Wymount Village student housing (located about where the BYU law school is now) around August 1, 1950. Stayed there thru Fall 1952. I taught a couple of makeshift classes that Fall until leaving for Mexico in January to do archaeology, leaving Kathryn in our student housing apartment with the kids. I lived in a small hotel in Huimanguillo, Tabasco, Mexico, with two roommates for most of five months. Back in Provo I began a two-year teaching job in the Department of Archaeology.We moved into a surplus BYU house (“the Brown house, in a field north of the campus; the house’s spot was directly beneath where the BYU President’s office was located when the Smoot Administration Building was later constructed). Later that house was slated to be razed, so we had to move to another vacant house owned by the university (we had a good friend in the Housing Office), on Canyon Rd. just south of where the football stadium now is. (That house too was due to be torn down before long. This is the place where I sawed a hole in the floor to get kids downstairs to their bedrooms without having to go outside through a separate entrance.) Eventually we had to move again, this time to a small house east of where the Monte L. Bean Museum of wild animals would later be built. There we stayed a few months until it came time for us to pack up our meager belongings and leave for Los Angeles for me to attend UCLA. (I had learned in March that I had been awarded a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship which I could use at any school of my choice; I chose UCLA.) We were briefly in a house somewhere in West Los Angeles about which I can recall nothing, but eventually we bought (having obtained a personal loan of the $1500 down payment from Ernest Wilkinson, President of BYU) the house at 3952 Keeshan Drive (between Santa Monica Blvd. and Washington Blvd. a couple of blocks east of Centinela Ave. in the Mar Vista area west of Culver City. There we lived, quite comfortably, if sparely, for two years. I walked/bused the four miles to UCLA from there. (My fellowship stipend amounted to $300 per month counting dependent allowances, from which we made a house payment and subsisted, with nothing left over!) At the conclusion of my two years of graduate classes we moved to American Fork UT where I had decided to do the research for my dissertation for the PhD. We rented part of “the Boley home,” a large house divided into two apartments, located at the northwest corner of State Rd. and 500 East. At that time we bought our first car, a blue Plymouth. My work went on for 15 months, until the end of the summer, 1958, when my Fellowship ended, and I had to find a job. I still had to analyze my data and write the dissertation, which took until the Spring of 1961 when the degree was conferred. Despite using an employment agency, I could not find a job that would pay enough to support my family. Finally, desperately (after even seeking employment outside college teaching), I was hired through a friend at BYU as Social Science Librarian (in anticipation of the planned construction of the new library at the university). I also taught a class in Sociology, which turned out to open the door for my employment for Fall 1959 to teach Anthropology courses (in the newly-christened “Department of Sociology and Anthropology”) fulltime beginning Fall 1959. We bought the old two-story home at 313 East 300 North in Springville, and lived there until the summer of 1964. I was due for a sabbatical leave (every seventh year) and had puzzled over where to go, what to do, and how to pay for it. I was contacted by Defense Research (later called General Research) Corp. of Santa Barbara CA on the basis of part-time work and resulting publications I had done in 1962-63 under contract with the U.S. Navy on Vietnamese society. I worked there during the summer, living in a motel, while Kathryn arranged to sell the Springville property. The family moved in August to a home we purchased on Mesa School Lane almost overlooking Henry’s Beach on two-thirds of an acre adjoining a commercial nursery. The sizable California farm-house style residence had been built in the 1920s and was occupied then by a refugee from the Tsarist embassy in Washington when the Russian revolution took place. We were there from 1964 to 1969. My one-year sabbatical turned into a permanent job (they told me at the first that they intended to pay me enough that I would not want to go back to BYU, and it was so!) At the end of that time I lusted for more of an academic experience (again). The General Research people proposed a compromise to keep me. In Provo I would form a new subsidiary (Bonneville Research) to do the company’s social science research. I would recoup my association with BYU people but still be on GRC salary. I agreed, so we moved in August to Orem, buying a new house on west 1600 South on the rim of the alluvial terrace overlooking Utah Lake. That arrangement prevailed for two years, then GRC said no more because further research contracts were not forthcoming to Bonneville. I arranged at that (1971) point to go back into BYU employment attached to Dean Martin Hickman’s office (over the social sciences). I taught part-time and did administrative chores part-time, until in the Fall of 1977 I was installed (at the dean’s behest) as chair of the “Archaeology and Anthropology Dept.” I continued in that position until I retired in 1986. In 1974 we decided to build a home in American Fork (corner of 900 East 600 North) where we found a great secluded lot. We moved temporarily to a little home on the west side of American Fork while the new house was built, which was completed in January 1975. A peak in gasoline prices in subsequent years helped make up our minds to move to Provo. In mid-1981 we purchased the house at 317 East 3200 North. We lived there until after Kathryn’s death, when I sold it. From January to April 1986 we lived in an apartment in St. George, during my only “real” sabbatical leave from BYU. After retirement we spent two months living in a trailer court on the shore of the Colorado River near Parker AZ. In 1990 we spent the winter in a delightful condo on the beach in Carpinteria, south of Santa Barbara. When we returned there in 1991, Kathryn died the day we arrived. After her death I stayed for four months in an apartment in Springdale UT (at the entrance to Zion Natl. Park); our house was sold in the Spring, and I moved into an apartment in west Provo, then after a year into a rented house nearby. In March 1993 Helen and I were married; I moved into her house at 3401 North Canyon Rd. where we have stayed since then.
Reminiscenses by John L. Sorenson