Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West

b.1916

Jack West

That brings up another farm incident. I remember when I was, oh, I don’t know… five or six years old, I was down fishing in the river below the house below the barn. Used a willow pole, a string and a hook. I had caught about half a dozen catfish and a guy came along, an adult that had been fishing and he hadn’t had any luck. He offered me 25 cents for those fish. Of course, I took it. That was the first money I guess I earned in my life. That was a big deal. Because I didn’t have any trouble catching fish down there. Heck, we ate catfish quite often. I would go down, dig some garden worms, had good luck with that.

Q: Why do you think he would suggest that?

Oh, he just wanted to have some fish. He hadn’t had any luck and just a matter of something to take home, something to eat, I guess as much as anything. I don’t know where he was from… Salt Lake. But he had been fishing along there. But that was the first time I ever had any money.

And, let’s see with Dad. He was so busy working that I just didn’t do the things with him that he would have liked to have done, gone on camping trips, you know. Although I did go to Idaho one time and met Uncle Al at Idaho Falls…this was after ’27 and we went up on the Snake River and camped out a couple of nights and had a lot of fun. Boy, that was really exciting to me. Dad and Uncle Al caught some big fish. I didn’t have any luck, but I….

Q: But how old were you?

Oh I don’t know, about twelve or thirteen, or probably thirteen by then. We had the car to go to Idaho Falls. But after that Dad got to where he had some time off on the weekends, a little vacation. I remember he took a trip with Ray. Uncle Ray was maybe, I don’t know, five or six or seven years old. They went to St. George and back. Of course by then I was out on my own and had my own station, but I remember that’s what I would have liked to have done when I was young, but we just didn’t have the car or opportunity. I remember when they took that trip. That was a real important thing in Dad’s life; Ray’s too. Mom, she was a hard worker. Hell, when we went to Ogden, she did housework a lot for people to make extra dough. We rented a house there on 12th Street and Washington and Judge Barker and his family lived next door. She worked for them. In that big house they had seven kids. Of course, they had plenty of bucks and they paid her well. But she did that and she made me do a lot of housework. Boy, I tell you. I helped mop floors, and Mill and I did the dishes all the time.

Q: At home?

At home… this was at home. And every weekend was bed changing day and, boy, we took the blankets out and shook the heck out of them. She was a real neat housekeeper. But she taught me how to do all that, and keep windows clean. It’s still important to me.

But, speaking about Mill and having to do the dishes, I mean that was a ritual. Mother made us do them in the evenings, of course, when we weren’t in school. And one would wash and one would dry. If we got into an argument, which happened quite often (about whether the dishes were clean enough), one or the other would end up doing both: washing and drying. And this happened often enough that we about evened out on that. And then, speaking of Mill makes me think about other than just playing. Because when we left the farm, she was only five. Other than just monkeying around down in the sand piles and the gravel piles, we didn’t do much together. Hell, we was too young. Well, we did just what kids do: run around and play.

But one time we were down on the canal bridge just below the house, about a half block from the house, and it had to be cold (cool weather).I don’t remember if it was spring or fall, because she had a fairly heavy coat on. We were standing on the bridge abutment and she slipped in, fell in the canal. And, boy, as she came back up (it was just two or three feet), I grabbed her by the hair and pulled her out, literally. I just pulled her out of the canal because if she had gone down about two or three more feet, she would have been under the bridge and with her heavy coat on, she would have been done. But, I saved her life that time. She remembers it. But from then on, I don’t know, we moved to Ogden and Mill had her girlfriends, and I, of course, had a lot of friends…boys, that I associated with in school. I really enjoyed school. Boy, I loved to go to school and math was my favorite thing. I loved math.

Yeah, I hustled up some work when I wasn’t on the farm in the spring and fall, when I was going to school and one of my very first jobs…there were a lot of Japanese farmers down Twelfth Street that had truck farms, raised tomatoes and all kinds of vegetables. One time I went to work for one of the Japs down there and helped him plant tomatoes. One dollar for eight hours, out planting tomatoes. And, about the middle of the morning, (oh, Saito was his name) he would say, “smoke time” and take a cigarette out and cut it in half. He would take his knife and cut the cigarette in half and when he had smoked that half, it was time to get back to work. That was our break during the morning or evening, his “smoke time,” a half a cigarette.

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