Interview of Dr. J. Harris Walkerby William R. Walker
Tape Number Four. 5 November, 1977 (JHW #4)
Bill: I remember Mom showing me a newspaper clipping from the "Toronto Star" that had a picture of you winning a race.
JHW: It was the "Montreal Star". The race was in Montreal.
Beth: I went to a track meet to see Dad when he was at McGill. What was the name of that black boy at the meet from Sierra Leone? He is now the United Nations Ambassador from Sierra Leone. He was in the hurdle race running against Dad. Dad won. We have a picture of Dad crossing the tape with two or three guys behind him, and the black fellow way back behind him.
JHW: He didnít know how to run the hurdles. He just wanted to run the hurdles.
Beth: He yelled out: "Wait for me. Iíze a cummin." (laughter)
JHW: Everybody in the stands just nearly died. His name was Kharifa Smart. He was on the McGill Track Team. He used to do a different event. It wasnít hurdling.
Bill: Did you play basketball at McGill?
JHW: I went out to practice the first few times, and decided Iíd better forget about it. It looked like I could make the team but I probably would have ended up on the bench and flunked medical school, so I gave up basketball. However, I did play on the medical school intramural team. We had a pretty good team. We just murdered everybody else in the intramural league.
The first year I was at McGill they still had a fifth year medical class. Up until then McGill Medical School had been five years. They had a fifth year team that had beaten everybody before, and we played them and beat them by 20 points.
We had one guy in our class who played on the McGill team, but he gave it up after the first year. Itís too hard.
Our intramural team was really good. We had college players from all over back East.
Bill: Tell me about your Mom? I remember you told me how mad she was when Grandpa released her as Stake Young Womenís President.
JHW: Well, she was pretty upset about that. She had been the Stake Young Womenís President for years. She sure didnít want to lose that. That was her favorite thing in life. (laughter) She was pretty upset when she got released.
Bill: How did your Dad tell her she was released?
Beth: The visiting General Authority (President Ezra Taft Benson) told her. He said: "Your husband is going to be the President of the Stake now, and he needs you by his side. Somebody else is going to have to take over the mutual."
(Billís note: This was obviously a memorable experience for President Ezra Taft Benson as indicated by this experience: On May 23, 1982, President and Sister Benson came to Atlanta and spoke at a special conference for the stake, where Vicki and I were living. After the meeting, the Stake President (Gerald R. Scott) introduced us to President and Sister Benson. I wrote this in my journal: "I told President Benson we had met before, and how we were connected. He proceeded to tell the Stake President how he had called Grandpa Walker to be President of the Taylor Stake in Raymond, Alberta. He then told us the story of how upset Grandma was when he insisted she be released as Stake Young Womenís President Ė saying it would be too hard on the family if she continued in the assignment. President Benson summed it up with: "She repented though, because the next time we met she told me she certainly could see the wisdom of her being released at that time.")
JHW: She had been with the young women for a long, long time. First in the ward, and then in the Stake.
Beth: I think when they released her, Beth (Zemp) took her place. I donít ever remember your mother in the Relief Society.
JHW: Well, she was Relief Society secretary for a while, but that was before you knew her.
Bill: I remember when I was growing up that they always had Grandma come and speak for "Eternal Values night" and events like that. She was always a popular speaker.
(Billís note: I received a letter from Elder Le Grande Richards, of the Quorum of the Twelve, dated December 16, 1976, which included these comments about Grandma and Grandpa: "I arrived on my first mission in Holland in April 1905, and I didnít labor personally with your grandfather but he later, as I recall, became president of the mission, at one timeÖ.I stayed in his home a number of times and enjoyed him very much while he was the stake president. His wife, who would be your grandmother, was the chairman of the work of girls committee under the Presiding Bishopric, and I have always felt that she was the best chairman in the entire Church. I think the girls program of that time was the best missionary program for the girls of the Church that I have ever known Ė she was one of the very best.")
JHW: Mom wasnít very old when she came to Raymond. Out of high school she went to LDS Business College. She was a very good typist. She came to Raymond to work for James E. Ellison, who had been her Bishop in Layton. He was President of the Knight Sugar Company. So he took her up to Alberta to be his secretary. Thatís how she got to Alberta. She met Dad after she got up there.
I think James E. Ellison became a Bishop in Raymond.
Bill: How did Grandma and Grandpa meet?
JHW: I donít know. I think in church, or something. Back in those days, everybody in Raymond met. There was only one ward at first. Dad went into the Bishopric when they created the Second Ward. J.W. Evans was the first Bishop of the Raymond Second Ward. As I remember, it was 1912. (laughter)
(Billís note: In a brief biography of her mother, Aunt Jane (Walker McMullin) wrote: "Dad went to choir practice. Fannye Harris also was attending that night. This newly returned missionary saw her and he knew right then she was the one for him. My Dad told me that as soon as he saw her he said to himself: ĎShe is the girl I am going to marry.í The Lord knows how to place people who are to meet and marry in the right position, at the right time. Well and guess what happened!")
Bill: They decided to get married in the Salt LakeTemple?
Beth: There was no temple up there then.
Bill: Iím sure some people just decided it wasnít worth the effort to go all the way to Utah to get married.
JHW: Well, my Mom and Dad didnít decide that at all. They just didnít! There wasnít any decision (about whether or not to be married in the temple.)
(Billís note: Dad told me that from the time he was little, when his mother would say the family prayer she would always pray that "the children will grow up and be married in the temple." Dad said that all of the children knew for sure how their mother felt about the importance of temple marriage.)
JHW: Mom was a great gardener. She was the best phlox gardener.
Did we tell you about the time that Marilyn (Zemp) picked all the tulips? Grandma planted 400 tulips all the way around the whole yard. You know how big the yard was. They were all just in bud. I think one or two had just broken. Here, Marilyn went out and picked every one. Not nearly every one. She picked every one. She pulled the tops off the whole works. She was about five or four.
Beth: She was big enough to bring Grandma a bouquet.
(Billís note: The story of Marilyn picking the tulips was one of Dadís favorite stories. We all heard it a hundred times. On other occasions when he told it, he said that although Grandma was pretty upset, Grandpa thought it was pretty funny.)
Bill: Tell me the story about J. U. Allred.
JHW: This guy was a real character. His name was J. U. Allred. He had a brother named Clarence. I think they came from Lehi. There are a lot of Allreds down around Lehi. J. U. used to live up in Raymond for many years, then he moved down to Logan. He came back up to visit his brother Clarence. The first day he was there he brought a great big beef steak home to the house. Clarenceís wife cooked it for dinner. Clarence said: "Boy, that was good. Sure did like that." J. U. said: "I sure liked it too." Clarence said: "You bring it home and the wife will cook it. Weíll have it every day." J. U. stayed about three weeks, and every day he went uptown and brought home a big roast of beef. They really ate pretty high.
After J. U. went back to Logan, Clarence got the bill from the grocery store for all the beef. (laughter) Heíd gone and charged it to Clarence. (laughter)
Beth was telling this story in the Ensign Second ward Relief Society a few years ago, and the wife of Elder Milton R. Hunter said: "Who did you say those peopleís names were?" She said: "I didnít say." Sister Hunter said: "I can tell you. It was J. U. Allred." (laughter) Here she lived in Salt Lake. Beth said: "How did you know that?" She said: "They are my cousins." (loud laughter)
There are lots of stories about J. U. Allred. Everybody in Raymond called him "Jew You." Dad was the Bishop and they were building the church, and they just had the foundation built when the Depression hit. J. U. came into the Bishopís office and said: "Bishop, I want to donate some rocks for the foundation of that church." Dad said: "Thatís fine. Where are the rocks?" "Theyíre up on the farm." Dad knew all about it. He knew where the farm was. Dad said: "Are they piled up along the fence?" J. U. said: "No, theyíre out in the field." The cost of cleaning rock off the land was about ľ of what the land was worth. J. U. wanted to donate the rocks so that someone would go clean the rocks off his farm.
One of the prominent businessmen in town used to like to tell stories about J. U. They had known each other since they were kids. J. U. used to run cattle out south of town on the ridge. George Ralph said J. U. once said to him: "George, come and help me round up the cattle." So George went with him all day long; took his own horse and chased cows all day long. At night when they got back, J. U. said: "George, letís go over to town." So they went over to the store and J. U. went in and bought a dimeís worth of peanuts and gave it to George. That was his pay for the day. (laughter)
Let me tell you another story about him. This is a real prize story. (laughter)
Back in the Depression days, the church was having a hard time keeping enough missionaries. They really did. They went down to a pretty low base. So they started sending out a lot of farmers, and people who could go for six months. It was kind of ideal for guys who were dry farmers. In our area up there, there were quite a few went on six month missions. J. U. was one of them. He was a dry farmer.
I donít know where he went. Mississippi or somewhere. He came back. I was about 12 or 14 when he returned from his mission. I can still remember. J. U. said: "I want to tell you the Lord sure did bless me while I was on my mission. Many times he did. I just want to tell you about one time. When I was coming home, I arrived in Chicago and it was cold and it was rainy. I didnít have an overcoat. I didnít have any rubbers, or an umbrella. I just suddenly got an inspiration. I just went over to the police lost and found department and walked in and said to the fellow that was there: ĎDid somebody turn in a black overcoat, a black umbrella and a pair of size eight rubbers?í The guy said: ĎThey sure did, just come right back here.í And he just walked right back and picked out that coat and those rubbers and that umbrella, ĎAnd they just fit me perfectly.í (loud laughter) I think that was one of the funniest things I ever heard in church. This was his Mission Report. He said that reporting his mission. (laughter) Oh man.
Back in Raymond, if you got a bunch of people telling stories about J. U. Allred, they could just go on for an hour. (break)
JHW: It seemed like Melvin J. Ballard came to conference all the time. It got so that when he came to speak at Stake conference, all the non-Mormons from all over Southern Alberta would come to conference. They couldnít get all the people in the buildings when Elder Ballard came. He was just real popular and he liked to go (to Canada). So they sent him back all the time. I can remember him when I was a little kid. I can tell you, nobody missed conference when he was there! Everybody would go. All the non-Mormons would go.
(Billís note: Elder Melvin J. Ballard was an Apostle from 1919, until his death in 1939. One of his grandsons, M. Russell Ballard is currently an Apostle. President Gordon B. Hinckleyís father, Bryant S. Hinckley was the author of Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard. The book includes a number of references to his visits to Canada, including a letter from E.P. Tanner, of Magrath, who thanks Elder Ballard for "his words of counsel and advice, his words of encouragement, and prophetic utterancesÖ." (p.81) The feelings of the Canadian Saints towards Elder Ballard are beautifully expressed in this expression from President Edward J. Wood, Alberta Temple President, quoted on page 124: "Elder Ballard gave us much hope and faith in our pioneering days Ďto keep on keeping on.í Many of our non-Mormon friends hearing us tell how we could depend on promises made by Brother Ballard, when they heard he was going to visit us, would go to the meeting to hear him. And, on the street after he had gone, they would say: ĎYou should all go and hear Mr. Ballard tell about the future of this country, and especially the weather conditions. We surely believe what he says.í ")
Bill: Did J. Golden Kimball ever come to Stake Conference in Raymond?
JHW: Not that I remember. Did I tell you about the last time that J. Golden Kimball talked in General Conference? In the Tabernacle. It was the last time he was there. He had been sick for a long time. It was just after somebody had written a book about him. Practically everybody there had read the biography of J.Golden Kimball. The book told all the jokes and stories about him. It came out while he was still alive.
(Billís Note: Elder Kimball was a General Authority from 1892, until his death in 1938. A son of Heber C. Kimball, he was one of the First Seven Presidents of the Seventy. His biography, J. Golden Kimball, The Story of a Unique Personality, by Claude Richards, was published in 1934.)
He stood up at the pulpit in the Tabernacle, and everybody knew all these jokes and stories about him, and most had heard him off and on in Conference. He stood up, and he just stood there for a minute, and he didnít say a word. He just stood for a full minute. Finally, there was a little ripple of laughter, and within a minute the whole Tabernacle was just roaring. (laughter) And he hadnít said a word!
I was listening to Conference in 1933, I think, when President Grant turned him off.
Bill: You mean the radio went dead?
JHW: Yes, President Grant turned him off. He was using a few swear words. (laughter)
Bill: Damn and Hell?
JHW: Yes. He didnít say anything else. President Grant turned him off and then President Grant got up, stood up while he was still talking and said he thought it was a shame that a General Authority would get up and talk like that. (laughter) Oh, he was funny. (break)
JHW: Jesse Knight went up there and bought up thousands of acres of land, and he built the sugar factory. Then the shipped all kinds of people in from Utah. They ran the sugar factory for 12 or 13 years, and they werenít quite making a go of it, so then they closed it.
The Knights had bought all kinds of land. They had bought thousands and thousands of acres. Of course, back then you could buy it for just about nothing. It was great land up there. Half of Utah couldnít compare to a few thousand acres of grass land in Alberta.
Eventually the Knights got into the cattle business. Ray Knight ran the thing. He made a million dollars two or three times and lost it two or three times. That was a lot of money in those days.
They ended up with this great big ranch. It was divided into the MacIntyre Ranch and what is now the church ranch up there.
My Dad worked for them. For years and years they paid him $175 dollars per month. He kept the books for them and managed the daggone thing. He didnít run the ranch itself, but he would handle all their affairs and hire all the guys, and all that sort of thing.
(He then repeats the story of how his Dad bought up the odd shares of the Knight Ranching Company, as detailed on page 4 & 5 of JHW #3.)
This is much, much better land than you can find in Utah. You canít find land in Utah like this land. There isnít any. This was dry land. It was at least the equivalent of Heber Valley land, without the irrigation.
Three years ago we were up there and barley was worth $2 per bushel. They got 70 bushels of barley to the acre. Thatís $140 per acre for one year. But you donít very often get to do that. (break)
Bill: Tell me when you were called to be Sunday School Superintendent in the Raymond First Ward.
JHW: I was Sunday School Superintendent for about a year. Bishop J. Orvin Hicken was the Bishop.
Bill: Who were your counselors in the Sunday School?
JHW: Arlie Hudson and Phil Redd. The Bishop told me that Phil was too young to be a counselor. He was 17. I said: ĎWell, heís old enoughí. So anyway, the Bishop finally let me have him as a counselor.
Heís a Regional Representative now.
Bill: Then you were called to the Bishopric?
JHW: Yes, I was First Counselor. Murray Holt was Second Counselor. Orvin was still the Bishop. That was after they reorganized the Stake Presidency. Godfrey Holmes was the Ward Clerk. Mark E. Peterson was there for the Stake Conference and he set apart the new Bishoprics. He ordained me a High Priest. I was 35. I had returned to Raymond when I was 31.
(Billís note: The Historical record indicates that on 28 September, 1947, Raymond 1st and 2nd wards were divided into Four wards.)
Bill: Murray Holt was the other counselor with you?
JHW: We had to go get Murray out of a poker game to call him to the Bishopric. (laughter) Murray didnít go to church then; at least very rarely.
Bill: How did Orvin know him well enough to call him?
JHW: He just decided he wanted him for a counselor. (laughter) Murray was a good guy.
Iíll tell you one time we got shocked. We were having Bishopric meeting, and Bishop Hicken suddenly just said: "Weíre going up and ask Gary Christian to go on a mission." I looked at Murray and he looked at me (laughter), and we couldnít believe it. Anyway, we just went out and got in the car and went to Christianís. The Bishop asked Gary to go on a mission.
Gary nearly fell over. (laughter) He hadnít been to church for a years, and we he was wilder than a March hare.
He said: "Well, Iíll sure have to think about that."
Orvin told him to think about it for a week. And the next week Gary came to him and said he would reform and go on a mission. It just absolutely turned his life around. He wasnít doing a thing. He played in an orchestra or something, and that was about all. After his mission he came back and went to school and became a lawyer. And he was doing nothing before his mission.
Iíll tell you another story about Bishop Orvin Hicken. I donít remember what year it was. It was rainy and the farmers hadnít been able to get their crops in. It was the 28th of June. Of course, Orvin wasnít a farmer. He hadnít ever been raised a farmer, or anything. He got up in Sacrament Meeting and told them to go home and plant wheat, that they would be able to plant it and harvest it. I looked at Murray, and Murray looked at me. Murray was fidgeting and crawling out of his chair. (laughter)
Well, that was just too late to plant wheat. Everybody knew that.
So anyway, Chuck Ackroyd and all those guys followed the direction of the Bishop and went home and planted wheat.
And that was the latest fall we ever saw. All the guys who planted wheat got great crops.
Bill: Well, I remember him as a powerful Bishop. I remember that as a kid. I bet he was a good Mission President as well.
(Billís note: John Orvin Hicken was Bishop of the Raymond First Ward for 19 years, until his release in 1955. Following President James H Walkerís death in December 1954, J. Golden Snow was called as the new Stake President with J. O. Hicken as 1C and Rulon H. Dahl as 2C. On January 9th, 1955, Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve and Carl W. Buehner of the Presiding Bishopric were the visiting General Authorities who reorganized the Stake Presidency.
J. Harris Walker and Murray Holt had been serving as counselors to Bishop Hicken since September 28, 1947. On February 17, 1955, Murray Holt was called as Bishop of the Raymond First Ward, with J. Harris Walker as 1C and John T. Smith as 2C, with John L. Evans as Clerk.
After nine years in the Stake Presidency, President J. O. Hicken was called as President of the Southern States Mission in Atlanta, Georgia.
President Hicken was well-known and highly repected in Raymond. In addition to his leadership positions in the church, he was Principal of the elementary and junior high schools in Raymond for decades. He was born in 1905, and died in 1987.)
Bill: Tell me about when Murray was called to be Bishop.
JHW: After Dad died, the Stake Presidency was reorganized, and J. Golden Snow was called as President. His counselors were J. O. Hicken and Rulon H. Dahl. Since Bishop Hicken went into the Stake Presidency, they reorganized the Raymond First Ward Bishopric, and Murray Holt was called as Bishop.
I was his First Counselor, and John Smith was Second Counselor. Jack Evans was Ward Clerk.
Godrey (Holmes) had been the Ward Clerk before.
Of course, Murray and Jack and I had all been in the same room in school. It was fun to be in the Bishopric together.
We used to have a Bishopric Quartet. It was a pretty good quartet. That was with Bishop Hicken, Murray, Godfrey and me. We used to sing all the time. Everytime we had any ward activity, we always sang. Murray couldnít read music, so he always sang the lead, but heís a really good singer.
I sang first bass, or tenor. We were a pretty good quartet for a Bishopric.
Bill: Didnít we have Sacrament meeting late?
JHW: I remember for a while we had Sacrament Meeting at 7:30 at night.
Bill: I can remember hanging around the church after Sacrament Meeting, waiting for the Bishopric to get finished.
JHW: Yes. We used to have Bishopric Meeting, after Sacrament Meeting.
Bill: Itís interesting to remember how we used to pay tithing. I can remember going in there to the Bishops office. Brother Evans would be sitting at the desk with the tithing book open and people would sit in the chairs and one at a time they would stand and make their tithing contribution to the Ward Clerk. He would write a receipt and hand it to you right there. He would stick the money in the crease in the receipt book, and turn the page for the next receipt. I guess they would just count it up later.
JHW: Joe Hicks used to be the caretaker of the church building. One of the little kids in the ward used to say he was the Lord, because that was the Lordís house. (laughter) I canít remember who said that. Joe was a nice old guy. He didnít live there. He lived down by the canal, way down Main Street.
Bill: Tell me about when I was born.
JHW: (laughter) You better ask Mom that. I donít know what to tell you - you were born. We lived in that old house on 1st Street East, down on 5th Street North. Ern Nilssonís house. That was right after we got back to Raymond. Mom started in labor, and we called Dr. Madill and he came down and took Mom to Lethbridge. She wasnít there very long before you got delivered.
Bill: Did you ride over with them?
JHW: I didnít go right then. I came over in the car.
Bill: Were you there when I was born?
JHW: I donít even remember. I believe I was. You were born in St. Michaelís Hospital.
Jim was telling us we better hurry, the stork was right behind the car. Iím not sure it was that time or another time when we went to deliver someone else. Jim used to have so much imagination. He could just tell storiesÖ(laughter)
I remember you sticking the plate of food on top of your head. In fact, you used to do that all the time. You used to be real tubby. You used to look just like this small boy Mark.
Bill: Well Mark doesnít stick it on his head, he just throws it off the tray.
JHW: You kind of thinned down by the time you were two. You were still pretty substantial, but you had started to thin out. Then you got kind of skinny after that.
Bill: Can you remember when we got our dog Trigger?
JHW: I canít even remember where we got him. I remember him of course.
Bill: What about Blackie?
JHW: I remember when I went and got her. I bought her from a guy down at Wrentham. He had horses advertised in the paper, so we borrowed Fayís truck with the box on the back and we went down to Wrentham and bought the pony.
(End of Side One of Tape Four. Side Two is blank.)
William R. Walker
Transcribed: 9 March, 2001