Irving with wife Mabel and daughter Noreen.
Irving Fuller Christensen Autobiography
Note: Irving Christensen was the younger brother of our Harold Elijah Christensen.
My father, Harold August Christensen, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He came to America with his mother, Emma Frederika Schmidt Christensen, when he was three years old. Grandma Emma had been converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Denmark and after divorcing her husband, Hannibal Leopold Christensen, decided to join her friends who had joined the church. They made their home in Brigham City, Box Elder, Utah.
When he grew to young manhood, he met my mother, Sarah Rosetta Fuller, whose father owned a Livery Stable in Brigham. Father was interested in horses and spent time at the Livery Stables. They were married 15 April 1891 in the Logan Temple.
They had three sons. Harold Elijah (Lyde) was born 28 Feb. 1892, Fred Fuller was born 1 July 1893 (He died in infancy), and I was born 12 July 1896.
I am told that I was quite a worry to my parents as I made no effort to either walk or talk until I was nearly three years old. It was through persistent therapy by my mother and blessings of the priesthood that I finally learned to walk and talk.
Some of my first memories as a child are riding on the spring seat of a wagon beside my father to the field where he fed hay to quite a large number of cattle he owned. My father was a bricklayer and contractor by trade and he had his own brickyard in Brigham City. I remember the mud was mixed and then pressed into forms and dried then put into ovens where they were fired to cure the brick Father always had an ambition to be a rancher and when some friends of his told him about the beautiful country and the ranching opportunities in Canada, he decided he had to see for himself. In 1901, when I was five years old, my father left his family and traveled to Alberta, Canada to find about the beautiful fertile land he had been told existed there. He was truly impressed and took up a large section of land which we always referred to as the "ranch."
Soon after, he sent for his family. I well remember the train trip my mother, my brother and I made going to Coutts, Alberta, Canada, where my father met us and took us on to Twin Butte in a covered wagon. It was a two or three day journey over some very rough terrain.
Father still did some contracting work along with his ranching, so from time to time we moved where he was working. As a result I attended school in Twin Butte, McLeod, Cardston, Calgary, Logan and Brigham City.
When my father took the family to Canada, he left Grandma Emma alone in Brigham and she was lonely for her family. He promised Grandma that when he had accumulated $10,000 he would move the family back to Utah. In the spring of 1907 he reached that goal and we left McLeod where he had constructed the Hudson Bay Store, and we returned to Brigham City to live. At this time I was baptized.
We lived In Utah that summer, but father had work in Logan, so we moved there for the winter. In 1907 the country went into a depression and by 1908, father decided to return to Twin Butte and resume the farming and cattle raising business again.
Two years later I was sent back to Brigham City to keep my grand-mother Emma, company and to go to school. Grandma was a very religious woman and insisted on my attending all my meetings. She was good company and was gifted with the ability to tell stories in an interesting way. That year I was ordained a Deacon and in the spring a Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. Also that spring she had me go to the Patriarch Wm. L. Watkins to have my patriarchal blessing.
In the spring of 1910, my father took a contract to build a large market building in Calgary so I returned to Calgary with my parents. The following fall, Grandma joined us in Calgary and again persuaded me to return to Brigham City with her. I graduated from the 8th grade in Brigham City and then again returned to my parents. I wanted to enter the Calgary High School that next fall, but found I was not prepared with a Utah 8th grade diploma, so I took the ninth grade at Western Canada College, a boy's school.
In the meantime, my brother, Lyde, had married Sadie Bevan, and they lived on the ranch in Twin Butte. When school was out, I went to the ranch and spent the summer helping with the work.
In 1912, a branch of the church was organized in Calgary by Pres. E. J. Wood. Father had not been too active in church at this time but their home was always open to friends and also 'cottage meetings.' One night a group of church people were in their home and Pres. Wood stood and told the group that a branch was to be formed in Calgary and they would like Harold Christensen to be the Branch President. Father was really taken by surprise, but accepted. I believe these were really the happiest years of father's life, and it was the most successful years of his business.
Pres. Wood later influenced father to become superintendent of construction on the Cardston Temple. So my parents moved to Cardston that spring which was not too far from Twin Butte. That fall I joined my parents and went to high school in Cardston until Christmas when the work on the Temple shut down for the winter and we moved back to Calgary. I finished the school year at Calgary Collegiate Institute.
During the first day or so at the Cardston School, I was standing near the door to our room at recess and a number of girls from another room in the school came in and out of our room. As one group was passing me, I inadvertently stuck out my foot and one of the girls tripped over it. I learned her name was Mabel Williams. We were both 17 years old.
On March 17, 1915, the Relief Society held their annual party with a dance in the evening. I didn't have a girl, but decided to go anyway. I asked Mabel Williams if I could walk her home. She consented. We went together for the next two years.
In 1915, my father organized a company, H. A. Christensen and Sons, Ltd., to run the ranch and he, my brother and I were equal share-holders in the Ranching Company. The next few years were a lot of hard work, ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week.
I had to spend a great deal of time at the ranch and sometimes I was in Calgary with my parents, but Mabel and I corresponded regularly. I visited her in Cardston and one day Mabel came to our home to do some sewing with my mother. It was July 12. I took her back to her home and on the way to her home, we decided to get married. On July 13, we took her mother and father and drove to Lethbridge, Alberta, and were married on July 14, 1917. We made our first home at Twin Butte.
The following year was one of very hard work for Mabel and me. In May 1918, with World War I in progress, I was conscripted into the army and by choice went into the Royal Canadian Air Force. I received a letter almost every day from my wife and I wrote as many to her. On September 15, 1918, our son, Irving William, was born and I didn't get home to see him until December 12, 1918.
Following my release from the air force, we spent more time on the ranch, but in the fall of 1920 we moved to Calgary where I took an office job with Gorman and Clancy Ltd., a mine and mill supply house. In the fall of 1921 this business closed down and we went back to Twin Butte. In May 1923, we decided to give up ranching and return to Utah.
In I Corinthians 11:11, Paul says: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man in the Lord." In being one, it would be folly to write about one half without some mention of the other half. I feel that I have been blessed in getting Mabel for my wife. She has been a big influence in my life in affiliating myself with the church. It was she who got the recommends in 1936 that took us to the Salt Lake Temple to be sealed and have our children sealed to us. She is a wonderful cook and homemaker and a concerned and good mother. In 1935 my father passed away in Boise, Idaho, and mother came to live with us. In 1948 Mother developed an incurable cancer, and she was bedridden in our home. Mabel was her nurse, dressing sores that broke out on mother's body, and completely caring for her until her death. I love Mabel very much, and hope that I can reward her at least partially in these senior years. She also has researched my father's genealogy back for four generations and the temple work has been done for them.
After our return to Utah, I tried several different jobs, but none of them provided us with financial security. In 1929, we decided to go to Boise, Idaho, and set up a retail appliance store. Dad and Lyde also put some money into it. However, we had chosen a very bad time to do this. Unbeknown to us at this time (1929) the country was slipping into the worst depression our country has known and the business was not successful. So Mabel and I left Boise that same year and I accepted work with Z.C.M.I. in Salt Lake City in their appliance department. The years with Z.C.M.I. was a relief for me from the tensions I had gone through in Boise.
We had two more children, both daughters. Noreen was born February 8, 1925 in Brigham City. Clara Kaye was born January 1, 1934, in Salt Lake City. Soon after Kaye's birth, with the depression still taking its toll, Z.C.M.I. let me go, and I was again without work.
In the meantime, Lyde and Sadie had moved to Sacramento, California, and were doing quite well. We were persuaded to try our luck in California Financial wise, this was not a good move for us. However, it did have its bright side. This was a period of spiritual growth for us. We were very active in the church in Sacramento. I was called to be the Stake Clerk and Mabel was called to be the Ward Relief Society President, and we made some wonderful friends in Sacramento. But we just could not seem to get ahead financially and by 1939 we decided we wanted to go home to Utah.
In the fall of 1939, as the country began to emerge from the depression, I accepted a job with A. J. Kirk and Company, a notions distributor, and it started to improve our financial situation. It did involve traveling quite a bit throughout Idaho and Utah. With the coming of World War II and the gas rationing, this type of job was impossible, so I went to work for the government at the Ogden Arsenal, an essential part of the war effort. During this time we purchased our present home at 258 South 200 East in Kaysville and life seemed to be more secure.
Following the War, I was called to return to Z.C.M.I. in the wholesale appliance division. The economy of the country definitely took an upward swing, and having lived through the depression years, and the difficult living conditions which it brought, it was a relief at last to be able to provide adequately for my family.
In Kaysville, I have served as Sunday School Superintendent, 1st counselor in a Bishopric, and have been a home teacher for many years. We have also enjoyed doing Temple ordinance work on a regular basis.
I retired in 1969 at the age of 73.
I would like to say a few words about the law of Tithing. As a young man, husband and father, lacking a trade or profession, my earning capacity was low, so low at times it caused me great mental anguish. I heard them talk of tithing and donations, but wasn't my first obligation to my wife and my children?
In the fall of 1936 we moved to Sacramento, Calif., and in the spring of 1937, President Mark Cram interviewed me to be Stake Clerk in the Sacramento Stake. He asked me if I was a tithe payer, and I told him "no." He said I could not afford to not be a tithe payer; and so beginning right then I would start to become a full tithe payer, and I promised I would.
During the next four years, my financial situation changed but little, and I was much distressed of mind. Then came our move back to Utah and within a year things began to improve and have continued to improve--not that we have a lot of wealth, but neither do we want. We have bought a home and several new cars, had several large hospital bills and, while unexpected, and caused me to wonder how we would be able to pay them, ways have opened up that we have had the money to pay them in full when due.
So, in humility, I say to my children, don't try the Lord; but let him prove himself with you by your becoming a full tithe payer. I know he will not fail you.
Written in 1980.
Chronology of Life Irving F. Christensen
1896-1901 - From birth to age of five years we lived in Brigham City, Utah.
1901-1903 - We moved to Twin Butte, Alberta, Canada, then a primitive area. In 1903, Mother, Lyde and I visited Brigham City for a couple of months.
1904-1905 – A school house was built in Twin Butte and I attended school the winter 1904-05. Father contracted to build a branch [?] building in Lethbridge and we lived in Lethbridge the summer 1905.
1905-1907 – I went to school at Twin Butte in 1905-06. Father contracted to build the Hudson Bay Store in McLeod and we lived in McLeod from Spring of 1906 to Spring 1907.
1907-1908 – When my Father went to Canada, he promised his Mother that when he had accumulated ten thousand dollars (the nation was on the gold standard then) that he would come back to Brigham City. In the Spring of 1907 we left McLeod and returned to Brigham City to live. At this time I was baptized. We lived in Brigham that summer, but Father had work in Logan, and we moved to Logan for the Winter. 1907 was a national depression, and because of conditions my Father decided to return to Twin Butte Alta [Alberta] the Spring of 1908.
1908-1910 – Father went into the farming and cattle raising business again, but was away from home part of the times, following up his trade as a brick-layer and builder. The fall of 1909-1910 my Brother Lyde went to Brigham City to keep his Grandmother Emma Lundgren company.
1910-1911 – I was sent to Brigham City to keep my Grandma company and go to school. Grandma Emma Lundgren, my Father’s mother, was very religious and insisted on my attending all my meetings. She was good company, and was gifted with the ability to tell stories in an interesting way. This year I was ordained a Deacon and in the Spring a Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. Also that Spring she had me go to Patriarch Wm L. Watkins and have my Patriarchal Blessing. In the Spring of 1910 my Father took a contract to build a large market building in Calgary, so I returned to Calgary that Spring.
1911-1912 – In August 1911 Grandma Lundgren came to Calgary for a visit, and then I returned to Brigham with her. In the Spring of 1912 I graduated from the 8th grade and then I returned home to Calgary.
1912-1913 – The Summer of 1912 Grandma Lundgren met a Brother of her bosom friend Vant [?] Alena Jacobson, a man by the name by the name of Christiansen, and they were married. In the fall, I learned that I couldn’t get into the Calgary high school, with a Utah eighth grade diploma. So I took my ninth grade at Western Canada College, a boys school in Calgary, and I had no problems, to handle the lessons. I played left scrimmage on the college rugby team.
1913-1914 – My Brother Lyde and his wife Sadie had returned to the ranch in Twin Butte, and when school was out in the Spring, I went to the ranch, and spent the summer helping with the work. In 1912 a branch of the church was organized in Calgary, and my Father was made the Branch President, and President E.J. Wood of the Alberta Stake became pretty well acquainted with my Father, and he influenced my Father to become the Supt. Of construction on the Cardston Temple, so my folks had moved to Cardston the Spring of 1913. In the Fall of 1913, I joined my folks and went to High School there till Xmas, when the work shut down for the winter, and we moved back to Calgary, and I finished the school year at Calgary Collegiate Institution.
1914-1915 – In the Spring of 1914, I made application with the Canadian Bank of Commerce for a job, and I was placed in a Calgary branch office and later transferred to a branch office at Nutana, Saskatoon, Saskatchawan, Canada. The winter there was really cold, as low as 72 degrees below, however this didn’t bother me, but with the first world war waging a man was made to feel like he was a piker if he didn’t join up, by the army recruiters, and so in March I quit, and visited my folks in Cardston, and then went on to the ranch.
1915-1917 – At this time my Father organized a company, “H.A. Christensen and Sons Ltd.” To run the ranch, and he, my Brother, and I were equal share-holders in the Ranching Co. So these years saw a lot of hard work, ten to twelve hour days six days per week. Mabel and I kept up a correspondence, and I got to Cardston several times, and she got out to the Ranch three different times, the last time in July 1917. We stopped in Cardston and got her folks, and went on the Lethbridge and were married. In the fall the Army called me to Fort McLeod for a physical.
1917-1918 – In the Spring of 1918 I signed up with the Royal Air force, and had to report to the draft board for their release. I remember I was paid $80.00 a month, but by accepting $11.85 per month they paid my wife Mabel $90.00 per month, which was a help to us. I left Calgary in May and went to Toronto, Canada and I was in training there until the Armistice on Nov. 11th. Our son [Bill] was born on Sept. 15th and I got home to them just before Xmas.
1919-1920 – The spring and summer was a year of ranching. The Spring and Summer was very dry, and where we would have over 300 ton of hay, we had less than 100 ton. My Father had bought a half section farm near Pincher Creek, and so we had to move the cattle to that property to be able to get hay for them. Father and Mother had to go to Utah to care for his ailing mMother, and Lyde & Sadie had planned a vacation in Utah, and so they left. With one hundred and ten head of cattle, about twenty horses and a couple of dozen sheep, Mabel and I put in a busy Winter. In the spring we had to sell most of the cattle to pay for the hay I had to buy.
1920-1921 – In the Spring and Summer I was farming and haying. In the Fall I procured work with a Mine and Mill Supply house in Calgary, and we moved there. In the Spring of 1921 they transferred us to their Edmonton Office, and in the fall of 1921, they closed their business and we moved back to Twin Butte.
1921-1922 – In the Fall of 1921, we had missionaries from Hill Spring, and we organized a branch of the Hill Spring Ward in Twin Butte. I was the Superintendent of the Sunday School. In the Spring of 1922, I took a four horse team and worked for a construction company building irrigation canals at Hill Spring, I handled a fresno (an enlarged horse [drawn] scraper) that required four horses to pull it and I handled the Jackson bar, filling and spilling and driving my horses. I earned $6.00 per day and worked for a 9 hour day. In the fall I quit and took a wagon and team and worked on a thrashing crew, about twenty-five miles north of Fort McLeod.
1923-1925 – In May 1923, we had an auction sale and moved to Brigham City. I tried to get clerical work in Ogden and Salt Lake City, but finally took work with Metropolitan Life Insurance selling and monthly collections of industrial Insurance in Brigham City. Noreen was born in Jan 1925.
1925-1926 – We moved to Ogden, I undertook selling Life Ins. But found I wasn’t able to sell Insurance fast enough that I could meet current bills.
1926-1928 – Joseph Hansen of Hansen Distributing Co. offered me work, first on a retail selling deal in Logan. Later he wanted me to work on the wholesale work, and we moved back to Brigham City. I worked with Idaho Power Co. in Idaho, and the Public Service Co. in Denver, and with smaller dealers in the area.
1928-1929 – In the Spring 1928 Vear Hansen (a son) sold Les Montrose of Logan a carload of Coulon washing machines and offered me a better deal with Montrosel than I had, so I took charge of Montrose sales. And late in Dec 1928 Montrose told me he had run a balance on his books, and after all sales & service taken [?], his own salary, office and depreciation, we had earned him better than $8000.00. For year 1929 he went back to the Coulon factory and got the distribution of the washer for Utah and Idaho. We had a lot of snow in 1929, and the winter months lowered our sales for two months, and on Feb 1st he told me he couldn’t afford to pay me the salary of $125.00 he was paying me.
1929-1930 – My father wanted to start a dealership and he and Lyde would put some money in it, and we decided to go to Boise and set up. I went to Boise and located a bank that was interested in buying our contract or time paper and we moved over. I found most of the farmers there were on lease or rental farms, and sales were difficult, and when our sales eat up our cash on hand I took some notes to the bank, only to learn that we were in a depression and they didn’t wish to buy the notes at all. I couldn’t find any finance co. that was interested in buying the contracts, so we decided we had better close our doors. In the fall 1930 Joseph Hansen called on me in Boise, and he told me Z.C.M.I. wanted a man in their appliance Department. So I called Mr. Evan Ashworth of Z.C.M.I. and took the job.
1930-1935 – The years with Z.C.M.I. (part of the depression) were a relief for me from the tentious [?] I had gone through in Boise. I was the washing machine salesman, then I expanded in all appliances. Through top management the wholesale division lost the distribution of Kelvinators and Lenard refrigerators, and they took on an unknown make. Ashworth was sent to the wholesale division and I finally wound up in charge of the appliance & radio department. About this time Dave Haight was hired as Merchandise Manager of Z.C.M.I. The Westinghouse people had just come on the market with a line of refrigerators, and Dave told me he was taking on the line. I knew this line would not help men, and we had spent considerable money advertising the line our wholesale carried, and it would hurt them, so I used my influence to stop the purchase. Dave went east with the buyers, and when he got back, he told me he had purchased about twelve gross of a little grill to toast sandwiches on, and he wanted our girl from the small appliances, to go up on the Main floor to demonstrate them, that they would sell like hotcakes. I put the girl up on the floor, and as I remember, she sold about a dozen in three days. About a month later Dave managed to hire a fellow to take my place. Kaye came to our house to stay, Jan 1, 1934.
1936-1939 – Still in Depression years, I couldn’t find satisfactory work. I tried the Cache Knitting sales work, and did a lot of traveling, but it was unsatisfactory. We were persuaded to go to California, and that was a mistake. It did have its bright side. I was up in the State of Washington, and finally got to Calif. With my family. I had been home a week or two, when Mark Cram my seventh Grade teacher called on me, he was the President of the Sacramento Stake, and he asked me to be the Stake Clerk, I didn’t feel qualified, but I accepted. And I did a lot of praying in the next few weeks, and my prayers were answered, and that time was a real satisfying experience to me. I had work with the Burkhart Advertising Co. for some months, handling their accounts receivable, but they closed their Sacramento office, and that ended my job. Much of the time we spent in California I was under a great depression, because of the inadequacy to provide for my family as I should.
1939-1942 – In the Fall of 1939 we came back to Utah. I got work with A.J. Kirk and Co., a notions distributor, and it started to improve our financial situation. Then in 1942 I went to work for the Ogden Arsenal and we were able to buy a home, and to me things were much better.
1942-1960 – After the 2nd World War was over, Ken Taylor of Z.C.M.I. called me and wanted me to come and work for them which I did, and while we have had our ups and downs we have been blessed, and things have seemed to be all right even when Z.C.M.I. closed their wholesale division in 1960 we have been OK, and I feel to thank the Lord.
To read the autobiography of Irving's brother Lyde, click here. To return to the Christensen Family index page, click here.