Irving W. "Bill" Christensen
15 Sep 1918 - 22 Aug 1998
Memories of Irving Williams Christensen
His sister Noreen Christensen Burton wrote this to her
niece Linda Christensen Scoggins in February 2000.
Born September 15, 1918 in Cardston, Alberta, Canada to Irving Fuller Christensen and Mabel Williams Christensen. He was born while his father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force serving during World War I. His father was released when the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, and he returned home just before Christmas. They were living in Twin Butte on the Ranch. Twin Butte is a small town just west of Cardston. Irving and Lyde and their father worked on the ranch and it was extremely hard work. But they probably had good times too when you look at the pictures, they had lots of friends and Billy (as he was called) and his cousins were very close.
However, because the work was so hard and the weather was not wonderful, Uncle Lyde and Aunt Sadie and their four children left the ranch and moved to Sacramento, California, where the family still lives. With Lyde gone the work was just too much for my parents, Irving and Mabel, so in May 1923 they had an auction and moved to Brigham City (where Irving Sr. was born and where his grandmother still lived). Bill(y) began first grade at the Brigham City Elementary School.
In 1925 Noreen was born in a house on 2nd West in Brigham City. After our great-grandmother, Emma Lundgreen Christianson, died I believe we moved into her house. But because our father was not able to make a living we later moved to Ogden, Utah. I don't remember much about living in Ogden, but I guess Bill went to 2nd grade there.
That didn't work out for Irving's work so he got a job that took us to Logan, Utah. I begin to remember more here--at least I remember my 4th birthday. I also remember we lived by a small river or stream, and one day when bill was playing with his friends, he all of a sudden disappeared. All the neighbors came out and the search was on and Mother was frantic. Mother was afraid he had fallen into the river and had been swept away. However, after all the pain and crying and prayers, they found him asleep somewhere. Mother told and retold that scary experience many times.
It was while we lived in Logan that there was a family reunion up in Logan Canyon. Everyone packed lunches and took blankets and we had a fun time in the canyon. Coming home Bill began to not feel so well, but he and I rode in the back seat of the car and cuddled up and went to sleep. The next day Bill had a high fever, the doctor was called and he pronounced that Bill had Scarlet Fever. In those days, the health department came by the house and put up a big sign on your front door that said QUARANTINED. That meant that daddy and I had to move out of the house for about two weeks. We slept in a tent in the back yard. I don't know where we got food, because mother was quarantined with Bill and she certainly couldn't bring food out to us. Anyway, surprisingly I didn't catch the Scarlet Fever and we later were able to move back into the house.
In 1928 our grandparents gave up the ranching business altogether and moved to Boise, Idaho. they decided that with Irving's experience selling electrical appliances (stoves, washers, etc.) they, including Uncle Lyde, would all go together and set up a retail business in Boise. They all put what money they could and went into business in the spring of 1929 and that was the year the stock market failed and they lost everything and the Depression began. They must have continued to try to make it go because I know I started 1st grade in Boise. Now Bill was probably in about the sixth grade. Bill and I were so far apart in ages at that time (6 1/2 years) that I really don't remember him during this time. He was a very smart student, however, and always got really good grades in school.
Then Irving got a job with Z.C.M.I. in Salt Lake City and we moved there in 1931. We lived in an old apartment house on E Street and 1st Avenue, just up the street from the service station where [Bill] worked while he was going to the University of Utah. They have now torn this apartment building down, but I remember Bill when we lived there. We had cockroaches in our sink and down the back stairs and he and his friend used to scare me with them. I hate cockroaches. We got our first radio when we lived in the apartments and we all thought that was the most wonderful thing we could ever have.
Then we moved to a house on Garfield Avenue in Salt Lake. This is when I first remember Bill becoming interested in "ham radio." He and his friends built their own equipment and could talk to people all over the world. It was quite fabulous. I remember his call numbers were W6KRL. And his bedroom or basement or wherever he functioned was always a mess--covered with mikes and wires and he sent messages on the little tapper in dots and dashes. He really loved that. And he had friends that were into that also. Mother was so proud of him--she always was. Kaye and I always said she loved Bill the most (Kaye and I still believe that). I think Bill must have been in Junior High by this time.
Then we moved to Denver Avenue in 1933, and it was here on January 1, 1934 our little baby sister arrived, and we were so thrilled. But Bill continued to do his ham radio. It always moved right along with us. I don't know why we moved so often, but I know our parents were very poor, and maybe they found rentals a little cheaper in other houses, because soon after we moved to Milton Avenue. I know Bill began to go to South High when we lived here and I actually went to 4th, 5th, and part of 6th grade here. Again Bill had his Ham Radio but we were still so poor that when Bill was 17 years old, Uncle Lyde told him if he would come to Sacramento he could work for him, and Bill moved to Sacramento. Uncle Lyde had a service station, and he also had a warehouse where he sold bales of hay and other farm products. Bill lived in a room over the service station and would go to Uncle Lyde and Aunt Sadie's home for his meals. No matter where Bill lived, he always had good friends, and he made good friends in Sacramento.
In 1936 we all moved to Sacramento (why--I don't know), but we rented a house just across the street from Uncle Lyde's. There is a picture of this house in the ones you [Linda] sent me and I explained that in the spring it rained so hard that the streets flooded right up to our front porch and Bill would come home for lunch in a mortar box. Uncle Lyde was also a builder and contractor; he specialized mostly in fireplaces with brick. The mortar box is what he mixed his cement in, and it looked like a flat-bottomed boat.
Bill started to go to Sacramento Junior College and I think he went for about two years. He worked hard and paid his own way. Mother loved Bill but she could see he was doing all right and in 1939 she gave my father an ultimatum--either move back to Utah or she would go without him. So we went back to Utah and Bill stayed in Sacramento. I think actually Bill was making more money in Sacramento than Daddy was. I remember how protective he was of me. I remember one time Mother let me walk to my girlfriend's house, which was about a mile away along a busy street. He came along on his motorcycle and saw me walking and he picked me up and took me to my friend's and then he came back and really gave mother a bad time for letting me walk alone on a highway. He took me riding behind him on his motorcycle quite often. I also know that one Christmas I wanted a two wheel bike so bad, all my friends had one, and I really doubted I would get it. Surprise, Christmas morning I got a most beautiful two wheeler. I was later told that Bill bought and paid for it. I don't know of anything I ever received that I enjoyed more than that bicycle. Even when we moved back to Kaysville, I continued to ride it. We didn't have much transportation in those days. I always loved him for that. In fact, I still had that bike when your [Linda's] family came to visit us in Kaysville.
We moved to Kaysville in 1939 and as you know the War began in December 1941 and Bill joined the Air Corps. He did have a cute girlfriend in California named Rozella and she even came to visit us in Kaysville when Bill was in the service, but that was not to be. You know he met your [Linda's] mother in San Antonio and marriage followed. Your mom came to Kaysville to get acquainted with us and I don't recall that Bill came with her. But she fit right into our family so wonderfully and we all loved her. And I think my brother truly loved your mother a lot. I remember well the day Bill called home to tell us about losing John Allen. It was a sad time.
Soon after that Bill was stationed in Tonopah, Nevada at an airfield. Mary decided to drive to Kaysville to visit with us for a few days. While she was in Kaysville, he called and said he was being transferred immediately and she better return to Tonopah. Mother and Daddy decided I should drive back to Tonopah with her and I did. While we were on our way we stopped at some little service station in Nevada and the man ran out to our car and said President Franklin D. Roosevelt had just passed away. It was really a sad day. But Mary and I continued on and we had such a good time. We reached Tonopah and immediately Bill and all his buddies and their wives and Mary and I left Tonopah for Las Vegas and we stayed in a big hotel. This was before the "Strip" was built. We stayed in a hotel in downtown Las Vegas and we all went to a magnificent dinner. I was probably still in high school and I was overwhelmed with all the glamor. The next morning, the officers and wives continued on their journey and Bill and Mary put me on a train to return to Salt Lake. For some reason or other I remember Mary and I peeling boiled eggs in the car and the shells stuck to the eggs (why would I remember that?). Maybe because we laughed and giggled about it!
Now, as I read back over this, it sounds as though we were always poor. But, remember during the years of 1929 to 1941 everyone was poor. At least Daddy always had a job--there were many people who did not have jobs and had to eat in soup kitchens. We were blessed--we always had food on the table, and you know what a good cook Mother was. After we were in the war the defense depots and Hill Field opened up and daddy went to work for the government and the folks were able to buy their first house--the little brown bungalow in Kaysville. I would hate to have to raise a family and live through a depression like that one. However, as a child, I never realized we were poor. I never remember going hungry or not having a nice warm bed at night. I had good friends and their parents were going through the same times. So we were happy in spite of that. Bill, I'm sure, was more aware of it than I ever was.
Of course, you now know that after the war your Dad and Mom moved to Salt Lake City so Bill could go to the University of Utah. They lived on 9th East in Salt Lake; your dad went to school, and worked at the service station. They were hard years for your folks. They had Carolyn and you know better than I, but I think Gary and you were born in Salt Lake. Mary was one of my bridesmaids when I got married. Carolyn was just a baby.
Actually, Linda, when I think back on my childhood, I don't remember a lot of interaction with brother or sister. I felt like an only child most of the time. I was only 10 when Bill left home for Sacramento and I was nine years older than Kaye. I envy people like your family and my children who grew up in a home with siblings that you could actually play with and interact with. But when we became adults and got married and had our own families, we became very close and I have wonderful memories of Bill and Kaye and their families after we all grew up.
You probably know the rest of the story.
I have a P.S. = During our years on Denver Street and Milton Avenue your dad made homemade root beer every summer--you know--the kind with yeast, sugar, water and Root Beer extract (maybe more ingredients, I don't know). Anyway, we had pop bottles and caps and I remember helping cap. Then he would put it all in the basement and we would have to wait about two weeks while it fermented, before we could drink it. Sometimes, without warning, we would hear an explosion downstairs--one of the bottles would explode--but with patience, we ended up with the most wonderful Root Beer and it would last all summer.
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