Heritage Halls, BYU, Provo, Utah 1961
Although it seemed at first that I might need to find housing with a relative when I began attending the BYU in January of 1961, we were able to find a vacancy at Richards Hall in Heritage Halls, an on-campus apartment complex for young women that still stands after 50 years or more of use.
I would share a three bedroom apartment with six other young women. I was simply grateful for finding a place in the dorms, the consideration of having friends among my roommates was not addressed. In the first bedroom in from the door of the apartment were the odd couple of Carma and a pretty girl from California. Carma was the kind of person who has no basis for pride in accomplishments, talents or appearance, yet who moves steadily along in her modest, kindly way acquiring abilities and trust from others. I would not be surprised to find out that she has led a fine and useful life, with husband, children and friends who treasure her. Her roommate was a wild flower from California with parents who seemed to have confused the BYU with a nunnery. Her life had been filled with motorcycle gangs and risky behavior. We only gathered this from hints and indications. She was too subtle to be blatant and was quite friendly to us, although we must have seemed as strange to her as she did to us. She kept her coffee discretely concealed in a jar of 'coffee-flavored' Postum and when her
boyfriend drove up from LA on his motorcycle, she signed out to spend the weekend with her 'grandmother'.
She did nothing to alter her clothing to look more racy or immodest except when she left to meet her boyfriend, but there was something in her attitude toward the many rules and mores of our religious campus that signaled that she was just marking time until she turned eighteen and could ignore her parents' hopes for a real change and return to California as an adult who was free to do whatever she desired.
I shared the middle bedroom with a girl from Wyoming named Delora. Delora and I could probably have coexisted easily if we had not shared a room. Since we shared an interest in singing, we might even have had a friendship based on that similarity, but Delora could not admit that anyone else had a voice that could in any way rival her own. She took offense when I merely mentioned that I enjoyed singing and pointed out that she had an unusually arched palate for the production of an impressive voice.
I arrived with my one suitcase to find that she had moved into most of the room. She had a twin speaker, furniture style stereo. One speaker was placed at the foot of her bed, the other was placed next to the head of my bed to give her a balanced sound. She had placed small ceramic statuettes of famous composers on each speaker and informed me that I was not to disturb her things. I was also forbidden to ever borrow any of her clothing. She had worked for a year in a clothing store that sold the coveted line of Jantzen skirts and sweaters and she had quite a few sweaters in autumn shades ranging from mustard yellow to dark brown, with plaid skirts in the same tones. I assured her I would never dream of trying to borrow any of her clothing.
Every evening Delora would play music on her stereo until it was time to sleep. With the bass speaker only inches from my ear if I stayed in my room and tried to study, I soon learned to spend as little time there as possible. My friends in other dorms in Heritage Halls provided refuge and a place to do my studying.
The final room held a couple of girls from Ogden. They were both moderately pretty and had been friends for years. One of them was the granddaughter of a well known writer on gospel subjects. She favored a perfume that I didn't care for. I seldom visited their room. The common room in the
apartment was combination dining room and kitchen.
The duties of cleaning the bathroom, shopping for and cooking the meals and cleaning up the kitchen, and helping maintain the building with its large assembly rooms, yard and laundry room were rotated between the various roommates.
My high admission scores had qualified me for the fledgling Honors Program and I soon found my friends among the people in my classes, spending as little of my time as I could in my apartment where I had little in common with my roommates.
The classes offered in the Honors Program in the early sixties were a marvelous assortment. We were taught in small classes by some of the BYU's finest scholars and teachers. I took Philosophy from Truman Madsen, Geology from the head of the department, Levi Hintze, Sociology from Professor Sorensen, a writing class from Edward Hart, Rhodes scholar and published writer of hymns and poetry, and Culinary Arts from a woman who was a professor in the department. I was interested in
every class and several of my professors indicated that I would do well to major in their field. Both the Sociology and the Geology professors gave us exams which they usually gave to their graduate students. I did very well on both of the exams, getting the highest score in the class. Nancy Jeppsen was in several of my classes. She was a lively redhead with a wry wit and a sense of fun. We soon became good friends.
One of the reasons I had decided to attend the BYU was my romance with Fred, a boy from Saginaw, Michigan who was attending BYU. Soon after I arrived on campus I discovered that although our relationship had blossomed quickly, proximity soon made it wilt and die away. Fred had a tendency to avoid classes, stay in his room and gorge on peanut butter and saltines. He was failing his classes and was unwilling to make the trip from Helaman Halls, the men's dorm, to Heritage Halls to take me out for a walk or to see the free or cut price movies and other offerings on campus. Even if I had been willing to visit his dorm instead, the rules against visiting the rooms of opposite sex coeds were firm and Fred had come to the point that he seldom left his room.
Nancy was an artist with a bold approach and I probably owe my reawakening to being an artist to her influence. Somehow we were asked to decorate the east gym for a dance to follow a basketball game. There was another dance being held that night with a rich budget for decorations and our efforts were strictly for the overflow of those unfortunate enough to be denied entrance to the 'real' dance because of the crowd. There was no budget available for our decorations but both of us excelled at improvising.
We found that we could get roll ends of newsprint from the printing facility. We took them to one of the classrooms in the McKay building where instructional materials including markers and poster paint were freely available. We rolled out the three foot wide newsprint into eight foot lengths and started painting caricatures of basketball players in comic poses. One I recall had a basketball shaped hole in his chest and was yelling, 'Take it easy!"
With twelve or fifteen of the huge caricatures in hand, we headed for the east gym. We found ladders and tape and soon we had placed our giant comic players strategically around the huge room. The
effort was satisfying but tiring. We went home and made an early night of it while others celebrated.
Later we learned that our decor had been a huge success. The east gym was crowded that night. After the dance several of the basketball players and their friends competed for the posted artwork, hauling them down to take home and relieving us of the chore of cleaning up.
I had tried to find employment to augment the small amount of money my parents felt they could spare for my support. I read for a blind student who was studying special education and I learned a great deal more about education than I had in my rarely attended orientation classes at the U of U the previous fall. Even so, I never had any money to spare. My friends soon learned that if they wanted my company, they would either have to pay my way or find cheap ways to have fun. The latter
was the usual choice, and we did have lots of fun.
I didn't even have money for the bus fare to Salt Lake and I could rarely afford money for a long-distance phone call. My mother sent me letters accusing me of abandoning my family, but somehow she could never make the drive to Provo. I was able to spend weekends at home now and then when a friend offered me a ride.
One night I moved too broadly as I slept and a flailing hand knocked Delora's ceramic bust of Chopin to the floor. The sound of his neck breaking woke her up. She raged at me and said she knew I was stupid and couldn't be trusted to take care of her property. We had several other encounters which I tried to avoid, but which she seemed to seek out and enjoy.
My sense of 'gotcha' was satisfied as spring approached. Delora's many skirts and sweaters failed to offer much variety. Although I had far fewer pieces of clothing, they were each distinct. I had a fine black wool sweater with a mock turtle neck, a white blouse, a red sweater knitted with a reverse pattern that could be layered over either the black sweater or the white blouse. I had two winter skirts, one of them a broad plaid of royal blue and green with smaller bands of black and white, and a the other an A-line skirt in a diagonal red and black plaid. The sweaters, skirts and blouse could be mixed and matched for several effects. I had several dresses which could be worn to class or dressed up with heels and jewelry for more formal wear to church or dates.
One day Delora studied her full closet and turned to me. "Can I try on some of your clothes?" she asked me. I remembered her strictures about borrowing her clothing and nodded.
It was already evident to me that Delora wouldn't look good in my clothing. She had very long waist with short legs. Already a few inches shorter than I, she looked very dumpy when she tried on my skirts which brushed her ankles. Reluctantly she admitted that she couldn't wear them at that length but when she suggested altering them to fit her, I refused.
I did a lot of activities with groups of friends, and I briefly dated one of the fellows in one of my classes. He was a tall ruddy faced blond with an athletic build and clothing and manner that clearly indicated that he came from a wealthy family. While we walked to our various dates he told me about how unhappy he was. He had given up a chance to attend an Ivy League school because he didn't like competition and the risk of failure. His parents suggested that he would be happy at the BYU,
and so he had come, expecting that his intelligence and good looks would make him a star among less beautiful and intelligent people. To his dismay, he found that his classmates in the Honors Program were if anything brighter than he and many of them had abilities that easily challenged his. I felt that I was dating what is called 'Eye Candy' today. I treated him kindly and listened to his whining, but I soon realized that the only reason I continued to date him was because my roommates were all smitten with his looks and evidence of wealth. One evening after an hour or so of listening to him complain about his mother, shortly after which he told me I looked a lot like his mother but was a lot nicer, I gave him my opinion. I said he should try to find a girl who was just the opposite of me. She should be small with dark hair and eyes, and not evidently intellectual. He protested that he had begun to fall in love with me, but I told him to try my suggestion.
He never called me again, but not long after I saw him on campus. He was laughing and holding the hand of a young woman who was exactly as I had described. My roommates wondered why he wasn't calling anymore, and when I told them what had happened, they all said that I was crazy.
I had a wonderful winter semester thanks to my friendship with Nancy and other friends I met in Honors Program. I made reservations to stay in the same dorm building with Nancy when we returned to school that fall.
I was able to get a job working at a restaurant during the evenings that summer and took a number of temporary jobs as well. I tried to save money for my college expenses, not wanting to repeat the penury I had experienced during winter semester.
While attending the Uof U the previous fall I had met a fellow named Blaine, a medical student who had approached me while I was crossing the quad in front of the Park building. He was the friend of a boy I had briefly dated in high school and had commented on me one day while he was with his friend. His friend told him my name and he decided to approach me. Not long after dating him once or twice I met Fred and left for Provo. During my summer back in Salt Lake Blaine called me and we dated infrequently because of my schedule at the restaurant. I was too tired to talk very much after a day of temporary work followed by several hours of serving tables. He drove a Mercedes Benz with leather seats that were really comfortable. Now and then we stopped for a late snack after he picked me up at the restaurant, but usually we simply sat in his car and enjoyed the summer night. We often spent several minutes kissing in the driveway outside my house before I said goodbye and went inside. It was a pleasant diversion for both of us as far as I was concerned. One Saturday when I was free he took me to his home in the upper avenues where he had his own apartment in his parents' luxurious home. We ate lunch with his parents, then we walked around in their lovely garden and spent some time looking at pictures of his childhood. I should have recognized that he had begun to take our relationship seriously. Perhaps he was moving slowly because at eighteen I was still quite young and he probably felt that there was plenty of time for things between us to develop.
When Blaine was too busy with his studies to drive me home I rode the bus. It was late and there were few riders at that hour. Late one night I left the bus that brought me from the restaurant and waited for the bus to Capitol Hill. Suddenly I heard the roar of the bus engine and saw the bus I planned to take racing up Main Street toward me. The driver stopped abruptly and and urged me to get in.
"There were some guys stalking you tonight. I saw them making their move and raced ahead to pick you up," he said. "From now on I'll pick you up on a different corner."
It made me feel good to know that he was watching out for me. Another woman who worked the late shift at Lamb's Grill had called his attention to the men who were approaching me. The three of us became friendly and they told me about themselves.
School started in September and I was happy to be back in Provo. My classes were not quite as select as they had been the previous semester. I had a religion class with Truman Madsen, and several other classes I really enjoyed, but my interest in the orient, particularly China, led me to take a class in Chinese language that would have a immense impact on my future. The class was small, but most of the students were returned missionaries from Hong Kong who had already learned Cantonese and were now studying Mandarin. They could already read most of the Chinese characters we studied.
On the first day of class the teacher introduced himself and something resonated in me. I wondered what about this young Chinese man with roughly bowl cut hair and a broad white smile had given me a premonitory shiver. He was there for only a couple of classes before he was replaced with a slightly older and broader man from Shanghai who would happily chatter with my classmates
in Cantonese, leaving me to struggle in relative ignorance.
Nancy and I became involved with the Chinese students' club. We attended various activities. At one of the activities I saw my former teacher across the room with a slight blond woman huddled up next to him. It was announced that someone had married that week and I mistook the name for that of my teacher. As far as I knew, he was now a married man. One of the Chinese students had the look of a man in a classic Chinese painting. He was tall with broad shoulders and narrow hips. At the dances with the club he proved to be an excellent dancer and I soon had a crush on him. Getting his attention proved to be a slippery slope and Nancy and I plotted several courses that gave little results. We decided to make boxes of cookies for the fellows we liked and we spent several hours on baking and decorating the boxes. The roommates of the fellows we were interested in assumed that the cookies were a general treat and although our efforts were appreciated, they missed their target audience.
One Saturday the club sponsored a swimming party at an indoor pool in Springville. The strap on my swimming suit broke while I was taking part in a relay race. Fortunately I was at the far side of the pool and had just jumped into deep water when I felt my suit drop. I grabbed the top of my one-piece swimsuit, jumped out of the pool and raced for the dressing rooms while the fellows at the other end of the pool yelled questions.
Eventually I learned that my former teacher, Richard Chiu, wasn't married. He was, in fact, the apartment mate of the fellow I liked and was trying somewhat vainly to impress. I saw him now and then at the Chinese Club activities but there was no repeat of that strange premonition I had felt when I first heard his voice.
I met Mary Martineau because she had shared an apartment with Nancy. She was a friendly and generous girl from California with an impish sense of humor. She was also one of the few young women with a car. We tried not to impose on her generosity, but as winter set in it was nice to have an alternative to walking everywhere. When it was near time for Homecoming the dorms had a competition for decorating the outside of the apartment houses. I volunteered to design and make our decoration. I decided to make two large figures, they were more than ten feet tall. One was a bride in a dress carrying a bouquet. The other was a young man still carrying his missionary scriptures. The bride was shown in avid pursuit of the RM. The heads were made of paper mache layered on large balloons and were about two feet in diameter. The bodies were made of inexpensive 2" x 2" s screwed together and the clothing was made of paper. We won the prize for humor.
Although I had worked and tried to save the previous summer, coming up with tuition and the beginning amount for my room and board, my mother had decided I needed some significant additions to my wardrobe. She had spent several hundred dollars on a few pieces of classic clothing. It had been on sale and she couldn't return it. She insisted that I had to pay her back. As a result, I was clothing rich and otherwise poor when school began. I tried to find a job on campus with little success. In desperation I wrote to my brother about my problems and he sent a check for a hundred dollars that met my immediate needs. I was a welcome relief, but I realized that I would have to find a way to support myself better if I planned to stay in school.
My bishop was Stephen Covey, a man who has since earned fame for his system of management, but although I tried to make an appointment to get his counsel, he was unavailable in the hours I needed to have some good advise. I remember walking across the campus, bereft of other help and turning to the Lord in prayer. I realized that He was the one true friend who would sustain me in whatever need I had and that whatever came, I could accept the final determination with a sense of peace.
My friends and some advisors suggested that I might be able to find a situation that would offer room and board in exchange for helping in the household. I found a family with a handicapped child who needed a person to help in exchange for food and housing. It seemed ideal and I really liked the people when I talked to them. I told my parents what I planned to do in the following semester, but they refused to let me take the position. My mother claimed it would be demeaning to do such a thing. As an alternative I could ask them to sign papers that would make me independent of their support and thus enable me to apply for aid as an independent adult. Once again they refused.
I had invited one of the Chinese boys home one weekend. There was nothing serious between us and he was just a friend, but my parents panicked. They both decided in a rare moment of agreement that they could not let me continue studying at the BYU. This would be my last semester with my friends. I was not happy about their decision, but I had no alternative plan.
My friends decided we would have a special party before the semester ended and I had to return to Salt Lake and my parent's home. We decided to invite Johnny Ho, the Chinese roommate of my former teacher, Richard Chiu, as well as several other fellows we liked. We fixed a Chinese meal and waited for our guests. To my dismay, Johnny didn't realize I wanted him to be my special guest and he brought his roommate Richard with him. As the afternoon progressed I realized that Johnny was somewhat dense. Some of the other fellows made stupid remarks and Richard seemed to have a way of smoothing the rough edges and turning cruel remarks into something less offensive. I was impressed. He told me he was taking a job in Salt Lake with the State Highway Department and asked for my phone number.
I had no real idea of what I could do in the coming months. I felt that I had burned my bridges at the University and my parents had decided I could not return to BYU. It seemed I would have to find a full-time job and support myself until I had independence. I left my friends and returned to Salt Lake City.