Make your own free website on Tripod.com


Home | Family Tree | Photos | Family History | Family Statistics | TriviaLinks | E-Mail

 

 

INTERVIEW WITH J. HARRIS WALKER, NOVEMBER 4, 1977 (JHW #3)

By William R. Walker, at Concord, California

Some comments by BETH RUSSELL WALKER

 

Bill: Can you tell me about how your Dad (James H. Walker) made his money?

JHW: Well, he made his money by having so many kids. (laughter)

Iíll tell you one thing, we helped him some make part of his money, because we used to work. That was one thing my Dad knew how to do: Teach kids how to work. Nobody loafed. (laughter) When I went to high school, we lived in town, but we still had cows and pigs and stuff. We had about 200 pigs in town in the corral and we had about 300 chickens. And all the way through high school we milked 10 cows, separated the cream and that sort of thing.

When I was playing basketball, I used to have to get up in the morning and milk the cows. Bob used to help in the morning, but he would usually only get one cow milked, because he wasnít very big. Fay used to do it at night. So I had to get up and milk 10 cows and do the chores in the morning, and then Fay would do it at night.

During the summer time we would work at the farm, except Fay and I worked at the old sugar factory when we were kids, part of the time. We used to help put up hay all summer at the sugar factory.

Bill: You put up hay for the sugar factory?

JHW: Well, for Knight Sugar Company. For 5 or 6 years we would start working from the day we got out of school and keep working until the day we went back to school, in the hay fields. We would run the mowers and rakes, and bull rakes, and Fay used to run the stacking machine when he was a little kid. They had a stack horse that used to pull and lift the hay. We used to stook grain, and stuff. We would all go to the farm and stook grain after school. So we just about made our own living.

I was going to tell you about when Dad went back up (to Canada) he bought the farm where Fay lives first. He had that. I think he bought it about 1922. (?) Then he owned 80 acres out south of Stirling, bout six miles south of Stirling, which he had purchased before that. Grandma owned 40 acres out west, out by Jensenís farm. She bought that when she was working in the office, before she got married. It was out on the north road.

Bill: Did they keep it?

JHW: They had it until I was about through high school before they sold it. Then Dad bought the farm, the Sunada farm. I guess I was mixed up. He bought that one first. Thatís where Fay runs the farm over towards Stirling. It must have been 1914. I canít remember that because I was only 2, but I can remember Dad telling me about it. I think it was 1914. In 1915, Dad decided he was going to plant the whole farm in grain. The whole works. Do you know how much he made off it that year? He got 70 bushels of wheat to the acre. He got 115 to 120 bushels of oats to the acre. So he essentially paid for the farm in one year. You can tell of course, that that was a great farm to be able to do that. Everything was just right that year. The guys on that farm have won all sorts of beet prizes for Southern Alberta. Itís irrigated now, but I donít think it was for him that first year.

Then, about 1926 or 1927, he bought Section Ten where Earlís farm is. (Earl Zemp) Fay owns part of it. It is east of Raymond.

When we were kids we used to have to get up at 4am, to go out and feed the horses, and to harness them. That was when we were in high school.

Bill: When did you go to bed?

JHW: As soon as we got a chance. After you got the cows milked and the pigs fed.

Bill: How did you get up that early? Did you have an alarm clock?

JHW: Sure.

Beth: He had his Dad, he didnít need an alarm clock.

JHW: You didnít very often argue with my Dad. (laughter)

Bill: Did he always get up early?

JHW: Yes, usually. Heíd get up when he needed to get up.

It took a long time to feed the horses. Before we were using tractors, he would use a 12-horse team. Dad wasnít doing the farming, though; he was running the sugar company office in town. He just managed the farms. We had Steve Horvath working for us at that time.

They had a 12-horse team and a great huge plow. It would just plow almost as wide as this room. A 12 horse team. It was a huge outfit. Theyíd run the drill would be about the same width as this room. Cultivator and Rod Weeder, about the same. They ran these big machines.

Dad did pretty well until the time of the Depression.

I didnít know too much about the finances at that time, but I think he had a pretty good share of it paid for by the time of the Depression. But not all.

Bill: How did the Depression affect you?

JHW: Well, Dad was getting $175 per month for his job at the Knight Sugar Company. He kept their books. He wasnít getting paid very much, but it was 175 bucks. And in a place like Raymond, at the height of the Depression, anybody that was getting 175 bucks was pretty dang well off. The likes of which there were only a few people in town. Of course we werenít too bad off, but we didnít have any money. Dad produced everything on the farm that we ate, practically. We produced all the eggs and beef and pork and milk and butter and cream. We didnít buy hardly anything. We had a big garden. We always had an acre of garden, and a half-acre of strawberries.

Bill: So all winter long you ate the things you grew in the summer?

JHW: Yes. We had a cellar and Mom bottled stuff by the tubs and tubs and buckets full. Back even in those days we had lots of cherries and things like that. We always bottled them. Now we canít afford to buy them, even though you make more money than you used to. (laughter)

Anyway, I want to tell you about how Dad made his money. After the Depression started going, he had a pretty tough time making all of his land payments and everything. And he wasnít making much money. During the Depression, a bushel of wheat sold for 50cents. You couldnít raise a bushel of wheat for 50 cents. It was absolutely impossible. So you just about lost money on any farming operation that you had. After the Depression started to subside, Dad eventually got all of the farms paid for, and in the meantime, he had acquired a batch of cattle. He always had a 100 cattle or something like that. He got in the sheep business. I remember when I was 15; I used to have to drive the car out to the ridge country to take provisions to the sheepherder. I used to go out twice a week to take him supplies.

He didnít own any land out on the ridge then, but he used to rent it. He rented a piece called the coal section, which was about 15 miles south of Raymond. Heíd rent that and run his cattle on that. Then I canít remember where the sheep were all the time, but in the fall he would rent the stubble from old Dr. Rich from Ogden. Dad used to look after it, but he would arrange to rent the land and run his sheep out there through the winter. We did that and a pretty good flock of sheep. I canít remember how many.

By the end of the Depression, he was running a flock of sheep of around 3000 to 4000. We always had a flock of sheep around us. Dad always thought he was lost if he didnít have sheep.

When he was 15, (in Coalville) he wen out and herded sheep for a year. He didnít even see anybody for a year. He was out in the hills.

Bill: Was he out in one of those old sheepherder wagons?

JHW: Well, I guess it was something like that.

Bill: What did he do when he was out there?

JHW: Herd sheep.

Anyway, he had sheep all during this time. I remember about 1934, Dad made $9000 on wool. That was like a fortune in those days. Of course, he used to produce all of his own feed. He seldom had to buy any feed. He produced almost all of his own feed for the cattle and the sheep.

Bill: How many guys did he have working for him?

JHW: Not very many. He always had a sheepherder. He had Steve Horvath, a Hungarian fellow, who ran Section Ten for quite a number of years. Then he used to have somebody on each of the other farms, running the other farms. So he had four or five guys working for him all the time.

Bill: What did he do with all the wool money?

JHW: Well, he had a dozen kids, so he had lots of places to spend the money. By the time he started getting along ok, I was off to school, and the next year Beth went to Normal School, and about the next year Fay went to school. So part of the time, we had 3 or 4 kids away at school all at once. During the Depression years, that was kind of tough doing that. Of course, we didnít spend much money.

It was 14 years from me to Glen, so during that 14 years, the kids were all going on missions, and school. Sometimes there were 4 or 5 gone at one time. So he had lots of places to spend the money.

I want to tell you how he really made his money.

He told me when I was a kid in high school that he was going to buy up the extra shares of the Knight Sugar Company, the Knight Ranching Company, and that eventually Bill McIntyre was going to buy the Knights out. He told me this 20 years before it happened.

He told me that he was pretty sure that Bill McIntyre would eventually take over the company. It was the Knight Sugar Company, Knight Ranching Company. It was Ray Knight and Will Knight, and Lester Mangum, their brother in law, from Provo. They were the guys that owned most of it.

Dad really ran the company. Ray Knight was the boss. Ray would go out to the ranch and run the ranch.

Bill: What about the Sugar Factory?

JHW: Well, the sugar factory was nonexistent after 1915. Then they switched it to the Knight Ranching Company. They bought all the ridge country that is now the church ranch, and the McIntryre Ranch. They bought all that land south of Raymond, almost down to the border. Then they went into the sheep business. At one time they had 100,000 sheep. Dad used to have to hire all the sheepherders. They had 100 sheepherders. You can imagine what a hundred sheepherders was like. The kind of guys that were sheepherders.

Bill: It sounds like he was the General Manager of the company.

JHW: Well he did all of that, and he did keep the books. But he always had someone else telling him what to do. With those old sheepherders. Some of them would stay up at the Kirkaldy for 12 or 13 months, and then they would come to town and get all of their checks at one time. Then they would go to Lethbridge and get drunk and some gal would steal their money.

I remember Dad telling about one old guy who came in one Friday, and got 13 checks. He went to Lethbridge. Dad had to go to Lethbridge Monday morning to find some new sheepherders because 3 or 4 had quit. The first guy he saw was this bird, and he bummed Dad for enough to buy breakfast. He had got drunk, and some gal had stolen all his money. They used to have these guys all the time.

Beth: Theyíre the only guys who would be crazy enough to go out and live on a sheep ranch.

JHW: They had one guy who was a very interesting bird, who was the ranch foreman. It was sometime around when I was in grade eleven. His name was Dick Wolf. I knew him very well. Old Dick used to say: "Donít hire me a sheep herder who has a big bed roll, because if you do he wonít get up in the morning." (Loud laughter)

Old Dick was a really interesting guy. He was just something. You couldnít hardly believe him. One time he came in to get groceries and medicine from the store. He came in kind of late and the store was closed, so he went and got Bill Stone to go down to the store to get some stuff. He said he needed some medicine. Bill said: "Well, we donít sell any medicine." Dick said: "Well, this guy, heíll be alright, but give me a bottle of that stuff up there. Whatís that?" It was hair tonic. He said to Bill: "Tear the label off and give me that. Iíll give him a teaspoon of that every night and itíll fix him, heíll be better." (laughter) Oh, he was something. He was a real character.

Along about 1932, the FBI and the Mounties came to see Dad, and they were giving him a real go-over about Dick Wolf. Anyway, Dick must have got wind that they were coming because he disappeared, and we never saw or heard of him again.

They were looking for him for a kidnapping in Washington. Nobody around there ever heard anything about it, but he never showed up again. Never, ever. He just vanished overnight, and nobody ever heard of him again. He had lived there for 8 to 10 years.

Bill: It sounds like the Wild West.

JHW: Well, he didnít seem like that kind of guy. He was a real nice guy. We knew him very well. (laughter) Anyway, what I started to tell you about was Grandpa telling me way back in high school how he was going to buy up all the odd shares in the Ranching Company.

Nearly all the shares were owned by the Knights, and Gene Allen, who was from Provo. And I think he was a brother-in-law. Also Lester Mangum, who was a brother-in-law. He was from Provo too. As far as I know, Ray Knight, Will Knight, Gene Allen, Lester Mangum and Bill McIntyre owned nearly all of the company. Bill McIntyreís family were wealthy mining and cattle people from Salt Lake. They werenít Mormons. (Note: Barbara points out that there is a building at BYU called Knight-Mangum Hall.)

Beth: Bill McIntyre built the mansion below the LDS Hospital on B Street and 7th Avenue.

JHW: Outside of the main owners, there were 30 or 40 people who owned a half a share, or a quarter of a share or one share of the company stock. Dad didnít have much spare money with all of that tribe of kids, but through the Depression, every time he got a few hundred dollars, he was doing this over a period of years and years. Every time he got a few hundred dollars he would continually try to round up all the odd and end shares. He kept the books, so he knew exactly how many shares, and who had the shares and everything. So on his own, he just kept buying up the individual little bits here and there.

Beth: Without letting anybody know?

JHW: Well, he said: "It wasnít anybodyís business."

Eventually, he bought all the shares except what the other five people held. Then after the Depression was pretty well over, Bill McIntyre came along and bought out the Knights. He bought the whole works out. He converted it into the McIntyre Ranch.

Dad was still working for the company, of course, and now Bill McIntyre was his boss. Bill McIntyre came in one day and had found out that Dad owned all the extra shares. (laughter)

Bill: He thought other people still owned them?

JHW: Yes. So he found out Dad owned all the odd shares. McIntyre had bought out all the big partners. He said: "I see you bought up all these other shares. I want to buy them." Dad said: "What will you give me for them?" He said: "$5000." Dad laughed at him.

Bill: How much had your Dad paid for the shares?

JHW: He paid $4000 and something for them. It was less than $5000. Of course, he had paid for these over a long period of time, and through the Depression.

Beth: He sweat blood to get them.

JHW: So it was really a lot of money. $5000 during the Depression years was almost a fortune. Anyway, Bill came back after two or three months and said: "I want to buy those shares." Dad said: "What will you give me for them?" He said: "$10,000." Dad laughed and said: "No, I donít want to sell them."

It went on another few months, and Bill came in again.

Bill: Did he live in Raymond?

JHW: No, he lived in Salt Lake. He had a big house out at the McIntyre Ranch south of Magrath, and he used to live there sometimes. Sometimes he would be there for a long time at a stretch.

When he came back this time he offered Dad $30,000. Dad said: "No, Iím not interested at all." He said: "Well, what do you want?" Dad said: "I want my share of the ranch."

McIntyre said: "Well, youíre not going to get it." Dad said: "Yes I am." Bill said: "What makes you think so?" Dad said: "I know how many shares there are. There are Ďso manyí shares. I own Ďso manyí shares. There are Ďso manyí acres, and my share of the ranch according to the percentage of shares is Ďso manyí acres, so Iíll settle for that, and nothing else."

McIntyre said: "Well, Iím not giving it to you."

Dad said: "Okay, Iíll just sit tight."

Then, he was kind of mad about that. He came back a few months later, and said to Dad: "What do you want for your shares today?" Dad said: "Just what I told you."

He said: "Well, exactly what do you want?"

Dad said: "Clear title to six sections on the ridge." Bill was about having a fit, but finally he said: "Okay. Here it is." He gave him clear title to six sections. Thatís four thousand acres, you know.

Bill: What was it worth in those days?

JHW: Thatís hard to say but probably $30 to $40 per acre. Of course, that was an awful lot of money back then, too. This happened about the time we were in Montreal.

JHW: You see, that land right now could probably be sold for $200 to $250 per acre - cash. Of course then it was mostly grass; all but a half section was grass then.

After Fay got it, he had the Hutterites farm it. One of the provisions was that the first few years they broke the land. They got it pretty cheap to break the land. You should have seen the crops up there about three years ago. It is good ground. I think it was nearly four sections into grain. The barley looked like about 70 bushels to the acre. Do you know how much barley was worth at that time? $2 per bushel. That would be $140 per acre for 4000 acres. From one crop. It was just the prettiest crop you ever saw, from one end to the other.

Of course, last year they didnít have too good a crop.

I think Fay was getting $15,000 per year net from them for the first four or five years while they broke the land. Now he gets a percentage of the crop.

Bill: Well, how come you didnít want to be a farmer?

JHW: Well, I considered it a little bit, but I decided I didnít want to be a farmer after I got as old as I am today. (JHW was born 28 Nov. 1912, so he would turn 65 just a few weeks after the interview.) I probably would have been better off if I had been a farmer. Of course, you never know that ahead of time.

So Dad made more money out of that one thing than everything else he did all of his life.

When he died, he wasnít extremely wealthy, but he was pretty wealthy.

JHW: Dad used to always lead the singing in Sunday School for years and years. Even when he was a counselor in the Bishopric. He used to like to sing. He was just like Glen. Only a little more so, I think. He led the singing all the time until he got to be Bishop.

Beth: Tell him about the orchestra that you had for Sunday School.

JHW: (laughter) Fay and I used to play violin in the Sunday School Orchestra. Milt Strong had the orchestra. We used to play the hymns.

Bill: Well, they donít do that any more.

JHW: I know. But they used to do that quite a bit around the church at that time. That was when we were about 12 to 14.

Bill: Did your Dad used to like to talk in church?

JHW: Oh yes. He used to like to talk. He was a good speaker. He didnít ever study much.

Bill: He didnít study the scriptures much?

JHW: Oh he used to study some, but he wasnít any great student.

Bill: What did he talk about?

JHW: He would talk about anything.

Beth: He would talk about the scriptures.

JHW: He remembered all the scriptures from when he was on his mission. He used to talk about his mission a fair amount. He would grab every Dutchman he ever saw, and talk Dutch to them.

Bill: Did he always have Dutch hired men?

JHW: We had Joe DeMeester work for us for a long time. He was a Dutchman. When we were kids, I think all the kids knew all the Dutch swearwords after listening to Joe. You could hear him from one end of the farm to the other swearing at the horses. (laughter) Then we had VerMeers, two who were Dutchmen working for us for a while. Then the LeCluses. They were Belgians.

Oh sure, Dad talked Dutch all the time. He liked to talk Dutch.

Bill: How long was he in Holland?

JHW: Three years, I think. (Billís note: Uncle Fay says Grandpa was in Holland 39 months.)

Bill: What was his favorite Gospel subject?

JHW: Oh, I donít know. He was always talking brass tacks. Everybody were farmers around there, and he was always talking to them about practical things.

Bill: Like what?

JHW: Raising crops and things like that. When youíre in a farming community, they do it all the time.

Bill: Did your Dad talk about Tithing and Word of Wisdom?

JHW: Oh yes. He used to talk about that all the time.

Beth: He was a great advocate of tithing. (break)

JHW: I remember a 1930 model year car that we had.

Bill: Was it your Dadís car?

JHW: Well sure. We didnít have any private cars. Judast.

Our first car was a little open car. It had kind of a little buggy-type front. With a little windshield coming across that you would peer over. My seat was the gas tank. It had a front seat like a buggy, and a gas tank on behind. It was a round tank. It looked like a water tank and it sat right behind the seat. Thatís all there was to the car. My place to sit was on the gas tank.

Bill: What year was that?

JHW: Oh, I was about 5 or 6. (laughter) Anyway, it was the first car we had.

Bill: Vickiís Grandpa Van Wagenen was one of the first car dealers in Provo. (Haroldís father Alma Van Wagenen) They have pictures of him lined up with all his Ďoldí cars.

Vicki: My Grandma was the first woman in Utah to have a driverís license.

Bill: So did you get the car on Friday night to drive to Lethbridge to see your girlfriends?

JHW: I didnít have any girlfriends then.

Beth: When he was trying to get to Lethbridge, he had to try to get the car before Mary or Fay got it, or heíd never get to Lethbridge.

JHW: Thatís right.

Bill: What about you going in the ditch the night before you were married?

JHW: I tipped the car over going home the night before we got married. (laughter)

Bill: How did you do that?

JHW: Gravel. Loose gravel six inches deep.

Bill: Did you get hurt?

JHW: I donít think so. I got smacked on the head.

Beth: It undoubtedly knocked him out for a while, because he went home at 10 oíclock. To get to Cardston, you had to be up by 6 am to get there in time for the session. so I sent him home early, at 10 oíclock. He got home at 1 oíclock. So I knew he was either off seeing some other girl, or it knocked him out. He went off the road at the corner by Welling.

JHW: I canít even remember how I got home. I think I walked quite a ways. I think I went home and got my Dad and we got somebody to take us out there and tip it back over.

Bill: So you were late for your wedding the next day?

JHW: Well, we had flat tires. We had gravel all over in the tires. They kept going flat. Weíd go a ways and one would go down. Then we go a little more and another would go down.

Bill: How did you get gravel in the tires?

JHW: (annoyed response) Because there was thick gravel on the road. That was what the road was. It was thick loose gravel.

Bill: Were your mom and dad with you going to Cardston? JHW: Yes.

Beth: They didnít trust him with the car after he rolled it. (laughter)

Bill: Did you have a reception after you were married?

Beth: We went over to Juliaís home and ate. She lived in Cardston then. That was our reception. Nobody could afford receptions back then.

(end of side one, Tape Three)

Beth: As they were on their way to the temple, they got to Spring Coulee and had a flat tire. So they stopped and put on the spare. They went 200 yards and another tire went flat. They didnít have any more spares so they took off the tire and went up to the garage to get the tire fixed. The fellow who fixed tires wasnít there right then, so they had to wait for the guy. They could see that they werenít going to get to the temple. Delia (Woolf) was with them, and so Grandma, and Delia and Harris thumbed a ride to get into the temple. Grandpa stayed and waited for the car to get fixed. He got there in time to see us get married, but he didnít get there in time to go through the session with us.

So here we were in the temple Ė waiting and waiting and waiting. My Dad was reassuring me all along that the Walkers had been detained, that everything was alright. "You just have to wait a little while." They waited nearly an hour, with my Dad reassuring me constantly. Finally, they came and said: "The Walkers are on their way, you might as well go up and get ready and go up to the first room." So we were sitting up there waiting, and the guy who was in charge of the session came in and said: "Due to an accident on the highway, the Walker family has been detained."

So Iíve told him ever since, the Lord gave him every opportunity to get out of marrying me. He had his choice right then. And he made his choice, so now he is stuck.

Bill: Did you know he had gone in the ditch the night before?

Beth: No, I didnít know anything about it. The thing was - he was a careful driver. He didnít drive like Fay. Fay was the crazy driver. But he has learned. He can speed as well as the rest of them now.

Bill: Did I ever tell you about the time I was in Raymond and a couple of Louis Brandleyís grandchildren were going to ride in the car with us back to Salt Lake. Louis Brandley came over and said to me: "Bill, I want to ask you one question before you leave. Do you drive like a Walker? Or do you drive like other people?"

Beth: Mary was the speeder.

Bill: Tell me more about when Grandma and Grandpa Walker got married.

Beth: She was 25, and he was 27. They got married in the Salt Lake Temple. They went from Raymond to Salt Lake to get married.

Bill: How come they got married the same time as Uncle Elliot and Aunt Mamie?

JHW: Elliot was Dadís best friend. Mamie was his sister. Elliot and Dad grew up together in Coalville. (Billís note: The Ďdouble weddingí was performed in the Salt Lake Temple on Feb 21, 1912. Anton H. Lund, First Counselor in The First Presidency performed the ceremonies. In an August 4, 1978 interview, Elliot Taylor told me: "The President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, was at our wedding." He also said: "Mamie was the prettiest girl in Coalville.")

 

Bill: How come he grew up in Coalville, if he was John Taylorís grandson?

JHW: Well, not all of John Taylorís grandsons grew up in Salt Lake.

(Billís note: Elliot Taylor was 13 when he moved from Salt Lake to Coalville. His father, Moses W. Taylor, was called as Stake President and the family moved to Coalville when he was called.)

Bill: So what happened to the two brides after the wedding?

Beth: Some of the friends kidnapped the two girls and took them for 24 hours after the wedding.

Bill: Where did they take them? Beth: I donít know.

Bill: Thatís a rotten trick. Didnít they have receptions in those days?

Beth: No. Thatís all the story that we ever got told Ė that they took them and kept them for 24 hours.

Bill: Was Grandpa a practical joker? JHW: Not much.

Beth: Grandpa was like Dad, he liked to play jokes on others but he didnít like the jokes to be played on him.

Bill: Tell me about your track and field experiences.

JHW: Well, of course, Dad was a good runner and sprinter. My grandfather was an athlete. He was a track man. (Robert Cowie Walker) Uncle Jack was a track man. (John Walker) He was a quarter-miler when he went to BYU. Of course, Dad was always talking races. Always. (laughter) So when we were kids they started having Mutual track meets in the Taylor Stake. Grandpa was the guy who ran the meets. It got so it was our ward that usually won the track meet. Obviously. In fact, when I was about 12 to 14, we used to have about a hundred people down to our place practicing for 2 or 3 weeks before the stake track meet all the time. They used to have a Cardston track meet, too. I used to run in the meets, and on the First of July, Iíd run in the kids races. Usually I would get second. I almost never won. Frank Weaver always used to beat me. Every time. I was 16 before I ever beat Frank. But once I beat him, he never beat me again. Frank was a pretty good sprinter.

Of course, Dad could run pretty good. I think I was 15 before I could beat my Dad. He used to always be running with us, when we were practicing. I beat him one day when I was 15. The year I was 15, Mutt Ralph had won the 100yards in the stake track meet the year before, and I beat Mutt when I was 15. Of course, he was about the fastest one around right then.

Roy Stone was a real good sprinter, and Reed Kirkham was a real good sprinter. Reed is a dentist up in Ogden. They were the best sprinters around there. Ada Stone was the best girl sprinter in the stake. She was Royís wife. Her maiden name was Nelson. She was from Stirling.

So I started running in the mutual track meets. When I was 15, I went to Cardston. That was the first time I ran in an official track meet. I ran a leg of the quarter mile relay. I hadnít ever run it before. They put me in the second or third leg and I beat the kid I was running against by a long ways. I ran a pretty good race. I was surprised I ran as well as I did. Anyway, I started to get interested in running.

I remember the first mutual meet that I went to: I remember watching Orvin Hicken win the hurdle race. I donít think theyíd ever had the hurdles around there before. Anyway, Orvin won. He didnít know he was my idol. (laughter)

Beth: Did you ever tell him?

JHW: I donít think I did. I remember about that time, Harry Fairbanks and somebody else won the pole vault at about 8 Ĺ feet. I had never seen anybody pole vault before. That summer, at noontime when we were working at the old sugar factoryÖ they had some old wood stake in the horses feeding troughs. We used to get those things we used to go out and jump with them. Itís a wonder they didnít break and stick through us. So we learned to pole vault like that. We could do 7 feet or 7 Ĺ feet. I used to practice broad jumping quite a bit. The year I was 16, I had won a few sprints at that stage.

I decided I would go to the Provincial Championship track meet. It was at Wetaskiwin. When we went up, they had the under age 18, Junior class. I could beat the marks that had been made the year before in three events. At the track meet I got third in two events

I always have to laugh when I think about that. I almost didnít run the 100. I knew how fast I could run it, because I ran it every day. I could do it in 10 3/5th seconds. We got ready to start our first heat, and two of the kids in my heat were bragging that they had run the 100 in 10 flat. I thought: "Oh man, if they can run it in 10 flat, I donít even want to run because Iíll get beat so far." Anyway, I beat them both easy. I ran 10 2/5th. (laughter) That was when I was 16. I got third in the 100, and third in something else. I was quite disappointed. I thought I was maybe going to win something. Thatís how I got started at it.

(Billís note: What is now called the Long Jump, was known as the Broad Jump in those days. Also, North American track meets in those days ran their races using distances in yards: 100, 220, 440, 880 and the mile. Now almost all meets have adopted the international standards using meters in the measurement of races, which are now 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m. Although considered roughly equivalent events, the distances are slightly different, so times must be adjusted to accurately compare.)

Bill: Thatís a long way to go from Raymond to Wetaskiwin. Did your Dad take you up there?

(Billís note: Wetaskiwin is 300 miles north of Raymond. It is just 45 miles south of Edmonton.)

JHW: That was a long way in those days because it was dirt roads. From Calgary to Wetaskiwin there was no gravel or anything. Of course, it was a dirt track too. It wasnít a very fast track.

The next year they had the Provincial Track Championship in Lethbridge. By then, I had gotten on to really training. I was kind of disappointed in that one too. I didnít do as well as I thought I would. I got second in the 220. I got third in the 100 again. I won two events. I canít remember. What the devil were they? I got second in the Pole Vault. Bruce Galbraith won the Pole Vault and I got second. I got second in the Broad Jump. I got first in two events, and second in four.

Bill: Did you win the Aggregate?

JHW: I won the Aggregate.

(Billís note: Track meets would award points for placing in the various events. Usually 3 points for a win, 2 points for a second and 1 point for a third place finish. <Sometimes the scoring would be 5 Ė 3 Ė 1.> The athlete who won the most points from all events would be acknowledged as the outstanding athlete of the meet with an award called "the aggregate". Dadís track medals hang on the wall in Momís dining room. Gold medals were awarded from first, Silver medals for second and Bronze medals for third.)

JHW: The next year I started to really train. The next year the Provincial Championship was at Wetaskiwin again. When I went to the meet, I could beat the Provincial record in about 7 or 8 events. I thought I was going to do pretty well. I won three events. I think I got four seconds and two thirds.

Bill: Did you break any Provincial records?

JHW: I think I broke two or three records. Do you know what I did in the Hop Step and Jump that day? Oh, I still get upset about that. In the Hop Step and Jump they had the pit way low. (The board was too close to the jumping pit.) In my step, I stepped a foot and a half into the pit into the sand on my step. I won it on that jump, but if it had been up where it was supposed to have been, I would have gone at least three feet more. I nearly broke my leg. I was a foot and a half into the pit with my step.

(Billís note: The Hop Step and Jump is now commonly called the Triple Jump.)

Anyway, that day I ran the 100 in 10 flat. I got second. I got second by just a knatís eyebrow. I was just that far behind again in the 220. Only it was a different guy. In the 440, I was six inches behind, again, to a different guy. I should have won all three races, but got second to a different guy in each race.

I think I broke the javelin record that day.

Bill: Is that when you set the pole vault record?

JHW: I think I broke the Pole Vault record that day.

Bill: I was competing in a meet in Calgary, and they announced that someone had just broken the Pole Vault record that was held by you. (Billís note: I canít remember what year it was, but it would have been around 1960 to 1962, and Dadís record had stood for that many years.)

JHW: Well, that was the Senior record.

That particular day, the last event was the half-mile. I hadnít ever run the half-mile, and I hadnít entered it, but I went over and asked them if they would let me make a post entry and they did. Fifteen minutes before I had run the finals in the 440. That day I had run three 440s, three 220s, three 100s, three 120 yard hurdles, and then I had done the other events. So I went and got in the half mile.

Bill: I donít know how you could walk.

JHW: I didnít know how fast to run, so I decided to get out in front or I would never last. I got out in front and set the pace for them. We came around (the last turn) into the straightaway and I was still ahead. We got 50 yards from the tape and I was still ahead. Then my legs started tying in knots and I just couldnít bring one in front of the other and I just staggered in the last 10 yards. The first guy went by me just about as far as across this room from the tape, and the second guy went by me soon after that, and the third guy just nosed me out at the finish. Just like that. (laughter) If I hadnít had the 440 final just immediately before; I would have won the race.

Bill: How fast was it?

JHW: It wasnít very fast. It was about 2:08 or something.

Bill: Did you ever run the mile?

JHW: No. I ran a mile and a half once. When I was at BYU they had a Cross Country run. The first guy across who wasnít a letterman would get a letter. So I hadnít done any training for it, but I got in it and ran. The first non-letterman beat me about one yard. I had my (track) letter anyway, but they gave a special cross-country letter.

Bill: What events did you do for BYU?

JHW: Pole Vault and Broad Jump.

Bill: Were you the best Pole Vaulter on the team?

JHW: No, George Gurley was. George won the Conference. I tied for Fifth. I jumped 12í. That was back in the old bamboo pole days. When I was at BYU, they had Warmerdam come up from Southern California and vault. He held the world record, at 13í 6". He was the best in the world.

In the Broad Jump, I was jumping up to 22í. That summer as soon as I went home I started jumping further. The year I finished at Provo, I went to the Canadian Championships in August, at Winnipeg, and I got second. I jumped 22í 11 ĺ".

 

Bill: Was that your best jump?

JHW: I jumped 23í 7" in a meet in Montreal once. It was at a meet out beyond Verdun.

When I went to McGill, you could compete in athletics as long as you were a full time student, even if you had used your US eligibility. It didnít make any difference at that time. They just had track the first year I was there, but because the War started. After that they discontinued it

We went to Toronto for the Canadian Inter-Collegiate Championships. They had it late in the fall. It was cold. I got second in the Broad Jump and second in the Pole Vault.

Beth: Dad got enough points that the McGill team won the most points. Each member of the winning team won a little gold track shoe. Remember the little gold plated track shoe with the spikes on it that hangs on Dadís medals display board. Each member of the McGill track team got one of those.

JHW: We had a very good track team, and it was mostly medical school students. We had guys from all over everywhere. Did I tell you about the Olympic Trials? I went to the Olympic Trials in Montreal when I was on my mission. The Mission President let me go up and compete.

It was in a rainstorm. I got second in the Broad Jump. And I got third in the Pole Vault and third in the High Hurdles. No, I got third in the hurdles the year before in Winnipeg. In Montreal, I got second in the Broad Jump and third in the Pole Vault.

Bill: That was the 1936 Olympic Trials?

JHW: Yes. The fellow that beat me in the Broad Jump went to the Olympics and missed his take off every time.

Bill: Today they take three guys in every event.

JHW: Well, then they only took one, and only if your mark was above a certain level.

Bill: Nowadays, you would have got to go to the Olympics. Were you working out?

JHW: Iíd been working out, but I wasnít in the greatest shape. At McGill, I won all the All-Around meets that they had.

Bill: Did you ever win a Canadian Championship?

JHW: No. The best race I ever ran was in 1932, the week after the Olympics. I ran against Buster Brown from Edmonton. I ran against him in Calgary. It was in the rain. That was in the days when we didnít have asphalt tracks. We had cinder tracks, but in the rain it was muddy. Anyway, I ran against Buster Brown, who had got sixth the week before at the Olympics in Los Angeles. I knew he could beat me, or otherwise, I might have beat him. He beat me in the last stride. I was ahead of him the whole race and he beat me in the last stride. He just barely nosed me out at the tape. He had just got back from the Olympics the week before.

We both ran it in 10 flat, in the mud. We both had the same time. That was when the world record was 9.3.

I ran 9 3/5th once in Cardston with the wind behind me. (laughter)

Bill: Tell me about when you did the Pole Vault for the King of Siam.

JHW: It was about 1933 or 1934, Bill Hawkins and Bruce Galbraith and I decided to go to the track meet in Banff. I think it was the Provincial Senior Championships and the Highland Games. It must have been 1933, because we didnít have any money. Bill had an old car. It was a really old one. He said he would get the car, if Bruce and I paid for the gas. It didnít take much gas. We scrounged up six bucks a piece or something like that. We went up to the meet and when we got there, we had to pay for a room. It wasnít much, but we put our money together and paid for a room for two nights. We had about $2 left. We went downtown and bought some food. I think we had enough for some tomatoes and bread. I think that was it. And we were going to a track meet. (laughter)

It was kind of hard to find a dollar in those days. Bruce got sick. (laughter) He had always beat me up to then. But I beat him that day because he couldnít jump. We finished the Pole Vault competition,

They had the King of Siam and his retinue up there. He was staying at the Banff Springs Hotel. Siam is now called Thailand. The track was right immediately below the Banff Springs Hotel, where they have the tennis courts now. Thatís where they had the track meet. They built it especially for this.

The King came in and he wanted watch the Pole Vault. We had already finished the competition, so they came and asked Bruce and me if we would Pole Vault again for the King of Siam. So they fixed a place right over in front of where the King was for us to vault. So we went over and Pole-Vaulted for him. (laughter)

Bill: Did he like it?

JHW: I donít know. (laughter) That day, I ran against Harold Richards from Edmonton. He is a surgeon in Edmonton. He had a brother named Frank. He had won the Provincial Championship the year before in the 440. That was the first time I had run in a senior meet. I was still a junior. I got in the 440, and he beat me by less than a foot. I lost a lot of races by less than a foot.

Beth: If you were still a junior, it must have been 1930, cause if you were 19, you werenít a junior any more.

Bill: Well the summer of 1931, you would have still been 18.

JHW: I think I was still a junior, so maybe it was 1930 or 1931.

Bill: I remember you telling me about a meet you entered with all the Montreal policemen.

JHW: I got some medals from the Montreal Police Games. I get kind of a big kick out of that. I went in that meet in Montreal. I think it was when I was on my mission. They had these great huge French policemen. Some of them just looked liked giants. Some of those birds looked like they weighed 400 pounds and were 6í 8". I threw the shot against them. One guy beat me a little bit, but I got second. All these great huge guys were just about twice as big as I was. (laughter)

Bill: They couldnít believe this little guy from Alberta was throwing the shot put further than them, eh?

JHW: Everytime I think of that, I remember throwing the shot put at a mutual meet in Raymond. I was a kid, I canít remember how old I was. Ray Knight was a great powerful guy. He was a huge guy. He was very strong. He was strong as a bull. Ray had come to the track meet and he was watching us throw the shot. He said: " You guys canít throw that little ball any further than that?" Somebody bet him that he couldnít throw it as far as I could. He came over and tried, and I threw it a lot further than he did. (laughter)

Beth: Ray Knight used to come over and put on the Lethbridge Stampede. Dad used to be one of the helpers, getting the cowboys out and stuff.

Bill: You were helping at the chutes?

JHW: Dad used to be the Secretary for the Stampede and he used to check all the cowboys in an out and everything. I used to have to go help.

Beth: During a lull in the activities, Ray Knight announced that they were going to have a surprise special feature. They were going to have a race between Dad and a Shetland pony.

JHW: The pony beat me. They just turned it loose and we raced about 40 yards. He beat me by a tail.

When I went to Normal School, he had a race up there. Ken Russell won the 100 yards and I got second. He could run the 100 in about 10 flat. Ken, when he was about 16, went to a track meet and came home and told his mother it was someone else.

Beth: They had a track meet at the high school. Ken didnít tell the folks he was competing or anything. The newspaper came out and said: K. Russell won this, and K. Russell won that.

JHW: He won everything.

Beth: Momma said: "Well Ken, why didnít you tell us you were doing this?" He said: "That wasnít me, that was Harold." (his cousin)

JHW: It was Ken.

Beth: He thought it would be bragging if he said it was him.

JHW: Momís brother Glenn was also a good sprinter. He was a specialist in the 220.

Bill: Did any of your brothers do track?

JHW: Not too much. Fay used to Pole Vault.

Beth: Fay was better at parlor rugby.

JHW: We went to a meet in Calgary once, and it just killed my Dad. He laughed himself crazy. I donít know what happened for sure. I held the Provincial record in the pole vault. I think it was the Highland Games. I couldnít get my vaulting going that day. I kept knocking the bar off, and Fay beat. Dad just killed himself laughing. He thought that was the funniest thing he had ever seen. (laughter)

Bill: It must have been hard for all your little brothers growing up after you, the big athlete.

Beth: Well, especially when their mother told them every day how perfect their big brother was, and what was expected of them.

JHW: (laughter) Oh, judast.

Bill: I thought Glen was the one that was perfect. Isnít that why they called him Angel?

JHW: Grandma used to call him her little Angel.

Beth: Especially after Dick died.

JHW: It didnít take long for Pete Witbeck and those fellows to pick that up.

Bill: I remember Jim Heninger telling me: "If you ever want to make your Uncle Glen mad, just ask him why his friends used to call him Angel."

Were Witbecks good friends with your folks?

JHW: Oh sure. Hamp was the Ward Clerk for Grandpa in the Bishopric for a long time. Dot was on the Mutual Board with Grandma for many years.

Bill: Didnít you teach Pete how to run?

JHW: I taught Pete how to run. From when he was a little fellow, just about this big. He was a pretty good long distance runner, you know.

Beth: They used to have a 100 yard cinder track out along the fence by Grandpaís garage.

JHW: It went across the ditch. (laughter)

Beth: When Dad was the head of the Raymond Athletic Association, Dad wanted the town to build some tennis courts. Melvin King was on the Town Council. He said: "Why should the Town spend money on tennis courts? Nobody in Raymond knows how to play tennis."

JHW: He said: "Thereís not a good tennis player in Raymond." (laughter)

Beth: We went to the annual ratepayers meeting, and Warren Jones was reading the financial report. There was $3000 for athletics. For the athletic department. For Recreation. After they finished reading it they asked if there were any comments. Dad said: "Iím the head of the Athletic Association, Iíd like to know what you did with that $3000 for recreation." They said theyíd have to check back and see. Everyone waited for about 15 minutes while Warren Jones went back over his records, and he said: "We spent that money on the cemetery. We didnít know where else to put it."

JHW: (Laughing) Recreation Ė he had it in Recreation.

Beth: (laughing) Dad said: "Thatís about the state of recreation in the Town of Raymond. You put the money in the cemetery." Warren said: "Well I didnít know where to put it. I had to put it some place."

Bill: I can remember going to a meet in Calgary, and you threw the hammer and the caber.

(Billís note: One spring in the late 1950s, for fun and exercise, Dad started practicing the hammer throw and went to The Highland Games track meet in Calgary where he competed in the hammer and the caber throw. The caber is a long heavy pole, resembling a small telephone pole that was part of the old Scottish Highland Games. The participant has to throw it so the top hits the ground and it flips over and falls away from the thrower. The hammer is a metal ball on the end of a wire with a handle. The thrower spins in the circle and throws it for distance. The hammer event is still done in international competition and some college meets. The caber is only done in Scotland and in some Highland Games meets.)

JHW: I couldnít get that Ďdag goneí caber to turn over. Thatís the only meet I ever threw the caber. Old George Sutherland was just egging me on to get me to go try it. (laughter)

Have I told you about the meet I went to in Blairmore? Itís about 80 miles north of Cardston. I didnít have a car to go, so I just had to hitchhike. I got there just as they started the meet. I got stuck at Pincher Creek and had to sit there for an hour and a half. I just about didnít make it. I hitchhiked to quite a few track meets.

I was about 19 or 20. I wasnít in very good shape just then. I think I had been playing a lot of baseball and not been training for track. We had a guy there, who the week before had broken the sprint records for the British Columbia high schools. He was just about the cockiest guy I ever ran against. He was telling everybody he was the best in the world and nobody could beat him and everything like that. He was just so obnoxious. I had just finished doing one race, I canít remember what it was. Oh, I remember - It was the 440. I won the 440, but it made me sick, because I wasnít in too good a shape.

Then we had the 100 finals. I had won my heat and he had won his. We ran the 100 finals and they called it a dead heat. They were giving prizes and they said: "We canít split the prize, so weíll have to have you run it over again." I wasnít very anxious to run, because I had just finished the 440, and I was already awful tired. Anyway, he really was mouthing off, and everything. He thought he should have won it. He thought he beat me and all this sort of thing. He was kind of like old Cassius Clay Ė he was the greatest. Finally, they decided they were going to run it over with the two of us to see who won.

He jumped the gun the first two times. They should have thrown him out, but they didnít. He was just gabbing all the time. I got so mad by the third time, I really went out and I really beat him. (laughter) I really trimmed him good.

Bill: What did he say to you then?

JHW: I donít know. I didnít even look at him. Iíd had enough of him.

Bill: They used to give you prizes?

JHW: Oh, they did then. I canít remember what it was. They gave us something.

That maybe made us professionals. (laughter)

End of Tape Three
Transcribed by: William R. Walker 2 March, 2001

 J. Harris Walker Interview
Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4

Home | Family Tree | Photos | Family History | Family Statistics | TriviaLinks | E-Mail

All content of this site is the sole property of the James and Fannye Walker Family
No duplication is allowed without the express permission of the site owners