Cambridge Reunion

In late August 1967, Dawn and I set off from Ventura, California, in our two-toned 1962 Plymouth Valiant, pulling a U-Haul trailer containing all our earthly possessions. Our destination was Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I was to enroll in Harvard Law School. We had been married slightly less than one year; I was 24 and Dawn was 20. Our emotions vacillated between anticipation, exhilaration and apprehension.

Dawn, our Valiant, and our U-Haul in front of a motel in Lodgepole, Nebraska,
where we spent a night on our trek east.

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The End of a Generation (and some Reese history)

Aunt Ruth passed away a few days ago at 97. Actually, Ruth Reese Dahle wasn’t my aunt; she was my mother’s aunt, but as she was only a couple of years older than my mother, she functioned more like my mother’s cousin.

Because I grew up in California, and Ruth lived in Utah, I didn’t know her well. I do recall seeing her at various Reese family reunions, always smiling and friendly. A few years ago I met her again and we talked about family history. Then I did one of those things you always wish you had done, but more often than not, you don’t. I set up an appointment to visit her in her home and interview her on camera about her father and how it was to grow up in the Reese household.

Ruth Maurine Reese Dahle (1914 – 2012)
I took this photograph on January 9, 2008 in Ruth’s Ogden home.
She was 93 years old at the time.

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A Letter From Grandmother to Grandmother

As I was looking through some old files inherited from my parents when they passed away, I found an interesting letter. Not earth shattering, but fascinating to a historian. It was a three-page thank-you note written in April of 1950 from my maternal grandmother, Sarah Wanda Reese Ashcroft, to my paternal grandmother, Nelsine Martine Sorensen Thurston. Since several of my sisters were too young to have remembered much about their grandmothers, I thought they would enjoy this, as would all of our children, who never knew their great-grandmothers.

Wanda didn’t like to be photographed; she felt her thick eyeglasses emphasized
her somewhat protruding eyeballs, the result, I believe, of an eye illness.
This drawing was made three years before
her note to Martina was written.

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Edson Barney and St. George

Last weekend Dawn and I attended the annual Mormon History Association Conference, held this year in St. George, Utah. I gave a presentation at the conference titled “Edson Barney: ‘The Oldest Man in the Church.'”

Edson was one of my great-great-grandfathers. A carpenter and millwright by profession, he lived in St. George from the 1860s until the turn of the century and helped build the tabernacle and the temple there. Between sessions of the conference I had a chance to shoot some photos of those buildings while Dawn patiently waited. The photographs turned out quite nice, so I thought I would share a few of them, interspersed with a few words about Edson. I hope this format doesn’t seem too disjointed.

The theme of the MHA Conference was “From Cotton to Cosmopolitan,” meant as a nod to the vast changes in Utah’s Dixie from the time of the first settlers in 1860 (sent by Brigham Young to establish a cotton industry) to the current era, where St. George has become a vibrantly growing city, a destination for snowbirds and a retirement Mecca. I took this shot of the St. George Temple at dusk, with setting sun illuminating the stream of a 21st century jet behind the 19th century steeple. I thought it captured well the theme of the conference.

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Visiting the Parretts

Another highlight of our trip to the Bay Area was visiting Dawn’s brother, Brad, who lives in Campbell, a little south of San Jose. Brad shares an interest in photography and he guided us on a photo shoot in San Francisco on Monday. I’ll post some of the photos from that jaunt a little later.

Right: Cathy Adams and Brad Parrett.

Brad’s friend, Cathy Adams, met us on Sunday morning and we spent a little time browsing at an outdoor market just a block away from Brad’s apartment. Then we drove to the charming nearby town of Los Gatos where we met Brad’s son Duston and Duston’s wife Kieu, and Brad’s daughter, Ryan, and her children, Matthew and Katelyn. We had some tasty pizzas and then walked to a nearby park and talked while the children played near the fountain. After that, we drove to Santana Row in Campbell–a really cool outdoor shopping area.

The weather was fabulous and it made us think that Northern California wouldn’t be such a bad place to live. Continue reading

“Who Do You Think You Are?”

Sharing Family Stories

The television show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” (sponsored by, is currently airing Friday nights (8:00 Eastern & Pacific; 7:00 Mountain & Central) on NBC. Although a show by the same name has been enormously popular on BBC for a number of years, this is the first season for the American version. I recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys learning about history with a personal touch.

“Who Do You Think You Are” falls into the “reality show” genre. Each week it features an American celebrity who wants to know more about his or her ancestors. Ordinarily the show looks at just one ancestral line and focuses one or two individuals from that line. This is understandable—the producers have only 45 minutes or so (after commercials) to tell each story and they want to be sure to select an ancestor whose story will create drama. Continue reading

Saturday at the Little League Ballpark

Noah Thurston backThis morning Dawn and I went to a Corona community park to watch our grandsons, Quade and Noah, play Little League baseball. It brought to mind the hours and days we spent watching our own sons, Matt, David and Tyson, play a couple of decades ago.

It was usually great fun, though sometimes it could get long. When your kid is the pitcher you have no problem paying attention, but when he plays one of the other positions (especially right field), you seldom see much action. You just wait patiently until he gets his chance to bat. That happens three or four times a game, if you’re lucky. Whether he actually hits the ball is another matter. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be the father of one of the kids who could crush the ball to deep centerfield, but I never found out.

My oldest son, Matt, was a nifty fielder. He could scoop up ground balls like a vacuum cleaner. I always admired this because I was an awful ground ball fielder. I loved playing the outfield and running down fly balls. There was something about the geometry of the ball, the arc and my running path that intrigued me. I could usually manage to arrive at the proper place when the ball came down and snag it. Ground balls, however, were my bugaboo. You could never be sure what angle the ball would take—there was always the possibility (and on some fields, the likelihood) that the ball would hit a rock on the last bounce and go through your legs or, worse, smack you in the face. I stuck to fly balls whenever possible—there were no rocks in the air. Continue reading

Uncle Bruce Thurston’s World War II

In an earlier blog entry I told of my father’s experience during World War II. In all, seven of the ten sons of Elroy and Martina Thurston served in the Great War; no family in Utah surpassed them. My Uncle Bruce was the ninth of the ten in birth order and the last to enlist—which he did the day before he turned eighteen. (The youngest Thurston boy, Robert, served later in Korea.)

Bruce Thurston I asked Bruce to write about his experience and he complied. I have edited his story, shortened it a bit, corrected some punctuation, revised some of the sentences—things an editor does—but the story is Bruce’s.

I thankful that Bruce took the time to do this. Not only will it add to the great body of stories about the war that are preserved in written form, but it will serve as a lasting source for his many descendants.

There are several things I especially like about Bruce’s story. I like that he is honest enough to mention some of his failings. This can be difficult for many of us. We want to be remembered as paragons of correctness, but to err is human. Bruce tells us of getting fired from his first job because he was caught sleeping and later of being fearful of his ship leaving port while he was visiting overnight with a friend on another ship—without authorization. Still later he was reported AWOL when he failed to call in and check after receiving an empty envelope that should have contained his orders to report. After telling of each of these instances Bruce reports, “This experience taught me a lesson.”

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