Grandpa’s Picture Album
The first Saturday I went to the grocery store with Grandpa Hatch seemed like an eternity. He wandered from one end of the store to the other looking for various items: a particular brand of evaporated milk, an old-fashioned kind of black-strap molasses—he knew what he wanted, but had trouble finding it. All I could think of was what my friends must be doing—probably out fishing or tubing down the river.
I was eighteen at the time, with a new driver’s license, and it was my father’s suggestion that I take Grandpa shopping on Saturdays. “Try to spend a little time talking to Pop,” my father said. “He’s a remarkable person.”
But when we got back to his house that day, all I wanted to do was drop him off and get back to my friends. After all, Grandpa and I had little in common. He had lived alone since Grandma Hatch died in 1957, and the only company he had most of the time was his television set and his memories. I helped him in with his groceries and was about to leave when he emerged from the kitchen with a cup of grape juice for me—his own special juice he bottled himself.
I sat down for a moment to drink the juice, and Grandpa walked across the living room and removed a large volume from the cabinet. I immediately recognized his old photo album. As he sat down beside me and opened it to the first page, I suppressed a sigh and resigned myself to at least an hour of polite attention and pure boredom.
He was obviously grateful to have someone to talk to, and he began telling me about the pictures—stiffly posed men with high collars, round derby hats, and gold watch chains hanging from their vests; women in black silk dresses, looking stern and dignified.
“This is a picture of my father, Ephraim Hatch,” said Grandpa, “and the man in this picture is my grandfather Ira.”
Reality suddenly swept over me like a flood: Good heavens! J. Russell Hatch, my grandpa, had once been young! He had once been my age! When I left for home late that afternoon, my mind was full of vivid pictures from the past. The world around me seemed almost foreign. Instead of cars on the pavement, I imagined wagons and horses and buggies bumping over dusty dirt roads.
The week flew by, and after our next trip to the store I again found myself sitting beside Grandpa Hatch. He turned the page to a beautiful color-tinted photo of a handsome young man. “This is a picture of me when I was about your age,” he said. On another page I saw him seated by a stream with a beautiful young woman. “This is your grandmother, Gwendelyn, when we first met.”
Again I was surprised. My grandfather had once dated girls just as I did! We talked for a long time about dating. It was surprising to learn how some aspects of dating and courtship never seem to change.
I became curious about the pictures. Where had they come from? Who had taken them? “Well,” Grandpa said, “some of them were taken almost a hundred years ago by early photo studios, but I took most of them myself.” Then he went to the cabinet again and took down a worn leather case. “This is my camera,” he said. “It was the best money could buy back in 1907.”
I examined the intricate old camera very carefully, almost reverently, thinking that with this instrument my grandfather had actually recorded his life’s history.
There were pictures of my grandmother with her first baby (my Uncle Harmon) and of my own father when he was young. Through the magic of the album I watched my father grow from a small boy into a handsome young man. There were pictures of family vacations in old tin-lizzy cars, loaded to the brim with camping gear and people.
Grandpa told me of the Great Depression and how they grew acres of onions to keep alive. An innovative and industrious man, skilled as an accountant, farmer, photographer, and businessman, he had raised his family during some of the most challenging times in recent history, teaching his children the value of creativity, innovation, and self-reliance. Then he had grown old, watching his friends and loved ones pass away one by one.
One afternoon, while we were looking through the album, we came across an old picture of a Wright biplane, flying above a cow pasture. “One of the first planes in Utah,” Grandpa said. Born in the horse-and-buggy age, he had lived to see men walk on the moon. But he had never flown in an airplane. It was something he had wanted for years to do.
Grandpa’s ninetieth birthday was drawing near, so I arranged with a local flying service to give him that long-awaited ride. They were honored to do so. They took him over the town, showing him his house from the air and pointing out interesting landmarks. Grandpa was thoroughly delighted.
Later we enjoyed other activities and became close friends. His photo album and our time together bridged what “generation gap” there had been between us.
Grandpa died in 1972, leaving an empty place in my heart. But through the magic of pictures, he lives on in my memory as a vibrant, handsome young man. And he has passed on to his family the enthusiasm for organizing both a written and a photographic history. More than this, he taught me that no barrier between people is too great to be overcome if they really try to understand each other.
Not Open on Sunday!
“If you took a look at my books, you might not be quite so anxious to open your store on Sunday! I can show you mathematically that we did not make any profit on Sunday during the years our business was open on Sunday!”
As a young couple, my wife and I worked for several years in Idaho Falls in eating establishments which were open on Sunday. During that time, we noticed that on Sunday, the business often lost money. The machinery always seemed to break down, and then we could not serve the customers. Repairmen charged twice as much on that day. Good hired help was hard to find. We vowed that if we were ever able to buy a business of our own, we would make some changes.
The opportunity finally came one year with the purchase of a drive-in. The loan we took out to buy the business was heavy, and the finance people and the owners of surrounding food establishments assured us that we did not have the slightest chance of paying off our loan if we did not compete on the biggest sales day of the week—Sunday. Because we had already paid the down payment and wanted to make a success of our enterprise we felt trapped. We stayed open.
As predicted, Sunday proved to be our biggest day. Having made the decision to stay open on Sunday, we couldn’t change. We were afraid of the business we would lose. Eventually, in the back of our minds, grew the fear that if we did not serve people on Sunday, we would lose our customers and be unable to raise the more than $60,000 we needed to make the business ours.
We had almost reached our goal when I had a heart attack. Because good Sunday help was hard to find, we agreed to close on Sunday from Thanksgiving until Father’s Day.
My doctor was pleased with our decision, happy that I could get some much needed rest. But as the months passed, I became worried about the low volume of business we had on our books. One day I told my wife that we should again open on Sunday. She looked at me in silence for several seconds, then said, “First, go look in the mirror and see if you look like a man who could stand seven days of work each week!”
“I guess I don’t have to look,” I answered slowly. “We’d better forget the whole idea.”
Later, as we sat down together to review and evaluate our business year, our fears were confirmed—our gross sales were over $17,000 lower than the previous years! But in spite of our low volume, our balance showed only $10.00 less profit! We were amazed. Pleased with such figures, we agreed to keep the drive-in closed on Sunday for another year. Again, the volume was way down but the profit was no less. Our drive-in was a success without opening on Sunday!
When I think of the poor effect on my health and all the work I did for nothing on those Sundays, I am surprised it took me as long to learn the lesson that obedience to the law of the Sabbath carries its own reward. The Sabbath is the Lord’s day. We will all be blessed for honoring it.
Growing into the Church
Each person’s conversion to the gospel comes in its own way. Mine happened the way I needed it to happen. It was not the result of a dramatic revelation. There was no glow of light, no bolt of lightning. It happened gradually, like the building of a pyramid, one stone at a time.
It began thirty-five years ago, when I first saw Ann Farnsworth, the woman who became my wife and changed the course of my life.
I’m not sure when I started to accept the gospel, but my love for the Latter-day Saints began with my love for her. The greatest missionary tool in the Church is the example of the Latter-day Saints themselves. Many people accept the missionary lessons because they had an LDS neighbor with a beautiful life-style, or knew a fellow at the office who saw good in everyone and beauty in every day, or had a friend who faced the death of a loved one with the peaceful assurance that the person was in better hands than his own.
Through the years, I found myself growing more and more like the good church members I knew. I gave up habits that did not fit in my association with them. Many close friends did not realize I was not a member. One pair of next door neighbors in Chula Vista, California, used to listen to my children and me at play in our back yard, or to our frequent work details; they never heard any fighting or screaming or cursing—just laughter. He and his wife were so impressed with our family that they sent for the missionaries, studied the gospel, and were baptized. It was some time before I had the courage to tell them I wasn’t a member.
Perhaps ten years ago I reached a crisis in my life. I had raised six children and had a wife who was not only my sweetheart but my best friend. These loved ones were the only things in the world that were important to me, and their greatest desire was for me to join the Church. What was I waiting for?
I decided to be baptized. Then I realized that if I went to our bishop and told him I didn’t really believe the gospel but wanted to join the church to please my wife and family, he would likely tell me to get converted first.
A short time after we moved to Escondido, our bishop, David Tew, called me into his office to ask why I hadn’t joined the Church and if there was anything he could do to help. Bishop Tew did not know that he was already doing exactly the right thing: he was being a marvelous example for me as a loving father, a caring and thoughtful bishop, a skilled educator, and much more.
In Escondido, we were blessed with an outstanding home teacher who came into my life at just the right time. I was struggling with trying to gain an intellectual understanding of the gospel, so I needed someone who was patient, gentle, understanding, and extremely knowledgeable in the gospel. Don Marler was that person. With his wife and children, he was one of many who worked hard to bring happy experiences to me, my wife, and our family.
In our next bishop, Guy Baker, I found a best friend who sensed immediately that I would not be pressured into joining the Church if I did not believe and understand the gospel. He never brought up religion unless I asked a question, and then his answers were so honest and logical that I questioned him more and more often.
But finally it took the strength and clarity of the gospel itself to make me a member.
Early in my association with the Church, I was struck by the beauty and ultimate logic of the precept that “families are forever.” This idea captured my attention immediately because I was raised in a large, loving family, and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be lovely if that were true?” I watched my wife at the death of her mother, only months after the passing of her father. She was so confident that her mother was now with her own husband, she found no reason to grieve deeply, except in the loneliness of the temporary separation.
It was in discovering the beauty of the Book of Mormon for myself, however, that I finally found my own testimony. Many times I had been asked to read the book and pray about it. But one night my wife asked me again to read it, in a manner that I could not refuse. “Read it and pray about it,” she said, “and if you then cannot accept the gospel, I promise never to mention it again.” I knew she was offering to make a painful sacrifice because I knew how much this Church means to her.
So I pulled out one of the many copies of the Book of Mormon strategically placed around our house and took it to the office. Each day at lunch I would read a few chapters, and each evening I went home armed with more questions. I carefully scrutinized each sentence, comparing it with Old Testament chronology. I examined the feasibility of these incidents as pertaining to the history of the Americas.
Finally, I was through. I closed the book, then closed my eyes, and prayed. Nothing happened. I prayed some more. Nothing—no bolt of lightning, no voice, no warm glow.
As I drove home that evening, I was deep in thought about the Book of Mormon. “Okay, let’s look at this analytically,” I said to myself. “This book is either completely true or completely false. It can’t be anything in between.” And then came a beautiful, memorable experience, and a feeling settling like peaceful wings on my heart and mind: I could not believe that an uneducated farm boy wrote an epic book, this complex and incredible, that blended perfectly with all existing scripture and history. Even if he could, why would he want to? It ultimately cost him his life. If it wasn’t a hoax, then it was entirely true. And if the Book of Mormon was true, then everything he said and wrote was true. The thoughts and feelings went to the core of my being.
Shortly thereafter I was baptized. When I emerged from the waters of baptism, I looked out over a sea of faces that virtually glowed with happiness. I saw tears running down the cheeks of my children. I saw in the eyes of my wife the fulfillment of a dream. And I realized how very blessed I was.