Short Stories on Clarkston, Utah

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| Frankenstein Masquerade | School Bell Pranksters | School Conflict in the Town | Memories of Taking Cows to Summer Pasture |

1. CLARKSTON’S FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER OF THE 1940s

By Dennis Griffin – as personally related by him and his wife Grace, compiled in a narrative format.

As a matter of background, in the post World War II era Clarkston was a small Mormon town of 550 persons with agriculture being its economic base. Its was one of the most close knit communities in Cache County, oriented to a conservative practical way of life. There was an acceptance of and conviction that they had found the better part in their way of life and belief with unity stressed. While much was done in unison, there had been from the beginning an independent streak by some from the earliest days who struck off from the general or consensus course. It showed itself again in a small way in the mid-1940s in a rather innovative way. Many years earlier British novelist Mary Shelley wrote a book with a character named Frankenstein, who was portrayed as quite sensitive and articulate with some strangeness inasmuch as he, a doctor, allowed his brilliant mind to get the better of him. But her Frankenstein character was quickly re-shaped from the original depiction, and more than a century later reached its iconic place as a monster played by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film "Frankenstein." Here he was finally an uninformed crude creature or monster in the eyes of the popular culture. Other films quickly followed with the "Bride of Frankenstein" in 1935, "Son of Frankenstein" in 1939, and "Ghost of Frankenstein" in 1941, all carrying the same monster theme with horror and exaggeration. This was capped in December of 1945 when Classics Illustrated brought forth a Frankenstein issue that included a front cover picture of the monster. This publication was thought at the time to be the thinking adolescent’s comic, allowed where many parents refused to let their children read comics. It remains unknown as to how much impact these films and publications had on the young minds in Clarkston which the following story will briefly trace, but it is likely that some monster seeds had been planted in fairly fertile soil and ready to come forth in some manner as the world war ended. The following is an insider’s disclosure of how he started a monster scare in Clarkston in the mid-1940s as recalled in July of 2008.

Dennis Griffin, born in 1932, lived in Clarkston in a time before television, computers, electronic games and devises, where youngsters created some of their own entertainment with the best coming when much forethought and ingenuity were put into play. A major component in this was the telling of scary stories with a bit of "are you afraid of the dark" ambiance.  From memory, recalling back over sixty years, Dennis believes that when he was about twelve or thirteen he saw an advertisement for a Frankenstein mask in a catalog that caught his interest and sparked it to the point that he envisioned various ways he could use it. This was an endeavor which he kept from his parents. However, he told some close friends and cousins about his idea, and two of these contributed money so the mask could be purchased. Now that the enterprise had been initiated, the three boys waited anxiously for delivery of their mask and began making preliminary plans as to how they would use the mask. Within a short time the mask arrived and was found to be far from the cheap Halloween type masks seen in Clarkston. This one was more lifelike, being made of a flexible rubber with a horrific face of Frankenstein at his worst. When they had the mask in their possession, they began their venture of spooking Clarkston in small cautious steps. The three boys took turns with the prized mask becoming a Frankenstein monster while the others took in the scene and/or acted as watchmen or sentries in a fashion. Their objectives were to frighten those they choose to surprise with their monster, see them jump, yell, race way and get their hearts to beating faster while ensuring the monster didn’t get trapped or caught in the act.

Over six decades later specific details concerning those first monster activities were not recalled except that they established the presence of the monster in the community’s mind. In addition it whetted the appetite of others, who knew of the mask, to get in on the fun of scaring others, thus expanding the scope of the monster business. Not only did Dennis and his two associates start the ball rolling but possibly their ways and means provided a "beginner’s guide to spooking" followed by others who also used the mask in their efforts in a cross between scaring and haunting. If there was a cardinal rule in this guide, it would have been along the line that monsters work best at night with not too much light. Other rules would be to target an individual or small groups for larger groups posed too many unknowns and too much risk, and to be extremely selective if private property was involved. From experience it was found that the very citadel for such activities was the public square (the focal point of activities) where the prospects were walking to and from along the trails across the square or the public streets.

A couple of specific experiences were recalled. In the first, one of Dennis’ cousins asked to use the mask one night and went directly to his own home and waited for an opportunity to scare some of his family. It came when his sister and girl friend went into the family bathroom, and the monster in some manner caught the notice of the girls through the window and scared the daylights out of them and for a short time caused enough commotion in this house that the spook thought it wise to quickly leave and not reveal his part. In the guide to spooking, a further rule of thumb, scaring the home folks may not be ideal.

Later a second boy received the mask and decided to hide himself in the back of a certain pickup truck parked in such a manner to suggest the driver would shortly come and drive it away. Accordingly the driver came to his vehicle, which at the time had the standard running boards by each truck door, and drove off. While the pickup was in motion, the young monster made his move by standing up and stepping over the left side positioning himself standing on the running board and quickly made his final move of looking through the open window at the driver. Quick as a flash, all involved got more than they expected or wanted. The startled driver panicked and swerved off the street and came to an abrupt halt with a little damage to the truck. The monster was lucky to have received only a terrifying quick and rough end to his spooking ride, and he leaped or fell off the truck and made fast tracks to escape. Fortunately for all, frayed nerves were the worst casualties of the incident. Most likely a lesson was learned in this experience to not place the monster in a position or situation that he had so little or no control.

In a short time the news of the Frankenstein monster spread throughout the community, and it initiated two processes. First, more young boys wanted in on the fun with many asking and some receiving the mask to do their haunting. In addition, the town of Clarkston saw they had a situation developing that needed to be nipped in the bud before it turned into more than pranks along the line of monster madness. In this situation, Dennis donned the mask and set out to see what circumstance could be found wherein he could use the monster’s mask. While doing so, he encountered the town constable under circumstances and positioning that possibly compromised his identity to the point that he believed the constable knew the person he began chasing on this night, possibly the constable called out, "Dennis, stop!" Dennis felt sure that he could outrun the law in the chase which the youth did, but he also believed that just physically getting away was only half of his problem. Surely the constable, after being outrun, would show up at the family home. With as much speed and diversion as he could exercise.  Dennis made it to his home and did not enter by any of the doors, instead gained entrance to the home and his and his brothers’ sleeping quarters by way of a very narrow basement window. After squeezing through the window, he jumped into his bed without taking off his clothing. As this was taking place downstairs, the constable was knocking on the front door of the Griffin home. Dennis’ mother answered the door and heard the constable’s strong suspicion that her son Dennis had been out engaging in disturbing the peace by spooking activities and had been chased by the law until he disappeared. The mother was equally sure that the suspicion of the constable was wrong; nevertheless, she called down to the basement and found that Dennis was in bed. The constable insisted on seeing this for himself, and so the mother and constable went down to the basement. The mother reiterated the constable’s suspicions concerning Dennis and he quickly responded back to this parent, "Mother do you think I would do something like that?" Case closed, the mother firmly believed that Dennis was innocent, while the constable, no matter what he knew or believed about the person he had been chasing, had few options but to retreat as gracefully as he could. This was the closest call to being caught that Dennis and his two original supporters had.  Many years later this chase-and-jump-into-bed scenario was being reminisced with focus on Dennis’ words to his mother in an attempt to put Dennis on the spot, but quick as he had been years before, he explained, "I didn’t lie, I just asked Mother a question."

From memory, Dennis believes that he personally put on the mask only three to four times and was only partially acquainted with some of occasions of others to whom he lent the mask. The borrowing of the mask was frequent and sometimes evolved into the first borrower lending the mask to others to the point that the mask’s owners did not know who had it. Then an older fellow (two or three years older than Dennis) asked to borrow the mask and it was never returned.  If and what attempts were make to reclaim the mask were not recalled. Dennis only possessed or controlled the Frankenstein mask for one to two months. The actual fate of the mask is not known by Dennis today.  It could have been lost, damaged or destroyed while being used or even used until it wore out or just forgotten.  Dennis and his associates had started something in their home town, and with or without this particular Frankenstein mask, it continued for several years. There were recurring reports and rumors of such activities in Clarkston into the late 1940s or later. These later reports, which haven’t been ascertained to be reliable, take a more serious orientation and seemed to have focused or harassed a certain individual in town to a large degree.  News of the various activities of the monster at Clarkston reached the nearby community of Newton and after an episode in 1947 or 1948, the Newton youngsters feared the monster might visit their community.  As a precaution, several of the younger set who went to the weekly Thursday night picture show at the cultural hall carried good sized rocks in their hands just in case.  One last point from Dennis; in spite of reports to the contrary, the monster outfit was only a mask with the person wearing it having on his personal clothing.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to evaluation the total effect of the Frankenstein monster on Clarkston.  For at least a period of time, some of the youth engaged in MIA stopped attending due to fear of the monster unless accompanied to and from the structure where it was held. This upset some parents and officers and teachers in the organization, who filed complaints with the town leaders. Some form of monster activities extended over several years in a piecemeal fashion, involving several sets and ages of perpetrators and targets.  Probably the vast majority of adults knew it came from youngsters seeking fun, not harm.  While the younger set being targeted could have been both scared and intrigued in a sort of "Goosebumps" dichotomy wherein, some may have preferred to be in a scary situation rather than be left out.  Whatever, the community had one of its most lively periods following the end of World War II, and the Frankenstein monster was part of the reason and catalyst.  It was carried out with little to no harm to anyone, and in the end the town’s past and psyche was enhanced.  Possibly it gave the citizens something else to think about other than wheat, weeds and worries over economics, their school, the town’s roads, and even the Cold War and threat of nuclear war.


2. THE RINGING OF THE CLARKSTON SCHOOL BELL AT NIGHT

By Dennis Griffin

After losing possession of his Frankenstein mask, Dennis Griffin did not sit by idly waiting for the return of the mask, but he joined others going into further ventures including ringing the bell atop the two-story brick school house. The school’s belfry was both an impressive sight and posed an irrepressible temptation to have it used in ways other than calling students to school. Several of Clarkston’s teenagers attending both the Smithfield Jr. High and North Cache High concluded it would be nice to ring the school bell at night.  After making the ringing of the bell their goal, they faced the challenge of gaining access to the bell on the very top of the two-story building. For several reasons the use of a ladder or two were not deemed good in getting to the top of the building, ranging from getting the ladder to the building unnoticed to hiding or retrieving it in the rush after ringing the bell. They learned in some manner that by going into the school’s library and using a ventilation shaft, they could gain access to the bell. While understanding how they gained access to the school building is not known, the school was used for a host of community and church events, most of which took place at night.  Perhaps the first time the bell was rung by these teenagers came on a New Year’s Eve as they hoped to cap the celebration by ringing the bell plus add a little excitement and mystery to their town.  The bell was rung a few times and then the ringers quickly returned to the ground and from hidden positions watched in anticipation when adults made their appearance.  All knew the only bell in Clarkston had been rung, but discovering how and by whom proved troublesome.  This ringing of the bell and the aftermath took place a few more times with the same results.  However, on one of these attempts one of the ringers, after reaching the highest point, made a misstep and came close to falling off the roof which would have been serious, if not fatal. Therefore, the ringers decided on new tactics that wouldn’t involve the climb up, ring the bell, and the fast climb back down involved in ringing the bell. They would make it so the bell could be rung from a remote position some distance from the school building.  By this time the group of bell ringers included some teenaged girls.  At this point there is a difference in the tale, one account had the bell ringers making the usual climb to the belfry and attach a single wire to the bell and then strung the wire to a tree some distance from the school; while another version had four thin strong wires attached to the bell and then strung to trees at four points.

Then the bell was rung and brought forth people to see what was going on with the continuing puzzle of who did it and how. Possibly a single wire was used at first and then later three additional wires were attached to the school bell or some exaggeration entered into the story.

The ringers thought they had out-foxed the community leaders and officers, and according to a source who maintains that four wires were attached to the school bell, they put on a bell ringing spree one night for the town constable and other interested parties. It came when the bell ringers had youths stationed at all four points where the wires from the bell were attached to the trees. The bell was rung as usual and the constable and others came to the school building, but this time there wasn’t just puzzlement and quiet, but there commenced a bell concert played at different times from the four points. It started when the ringer at one point rang the bell, the constable was able to determine or suspect a certain location and he went to that point only to have the bell rung from another place and for a short time the town constable was in a tizzy, circling the area just behind the last ringing. Whatever, the bell ringers were never caught in the act, but their bell ringing was ended for good as the town leaders either disabled the bell from being rung or removed the old school bell.


3. School Conflict In The Town

By Rebecca Rasmussen Peterson

My parents, Victor and Velda Rasmussen, were well educated for the "Depression years," so they were interested in the best education for their children. This interest led to more than eight years of service on the school board for Dad and eight years of District PTA. for Mom.

I, Rebecca Rasmussen, attended the Clarkston School for years 1948 through 1954. There were eight grades in our school with no kindergarten.  During that time my parents had many concerns about our school and education, therefore, they were very vocal and often contacted the Cache County School Board.

The first issue of concern was the lack of hot lunch in our school. Because of the concern and contact with the school board, showers in the basement were removed to create a kitchen and lunchroom. Betty Thompson was hired as the cook, and thus the hot lunch was born. All the kids loved Betty’s good cooking and her friendly ways. What a success for the Clarkston school.

The next project was to make the school safe for students. Fire codes were not met so the unsafe wooden staircases were replaced with up-to-code cement stairs. A new electric bell system replaced the old fashioned bell that was rung by students standing on a wooden chair.

The real conflict came when some parents felt their children should attend junior high school in Smithfield, Utah. There were families who wanted their children to be more prepared for high school. Other parents were concerned about the long bus ride in bad weather. Still others worried about the loss of the town school. Still others were worried about early dating and marriage, would junior high cause the kids to grow up too soon?

Petitions, debates, angry words and much duress were caused by the junior high issue. The town became divided into factions—those in favor and those against. Two families broke with the majority and sent their children to Smithfield Junior High. The students were Cecil Archibald and Virginia Barson. The other students remained in Clarkston, but the next year the School Board ruled that all students from 7th to 9th grade would attend school in Smithfield. The town again pulled back together. The harsh words and accusations that were hurled back and forth were forgotten.

This was not the end of the conflict. Finance was again raising its ugly head. How could the outdated high school, junior high and grade school be solvent, safe, and good for education. At this time people felt that the west side of the valley needed better representation. My father stepped up. Little did he realize what would happen. When he got on the board he became aware of the school finances. Because of finances, closing Clarkston school, Smithfield Junior High and North Cache would have to occur. People made threats against our family. Threatening calls, rocks thrown at our windows and ostracizing of our family occurred. But the new school, Skyview, was built and North and South Cache were combined. The change took a long time to solidify but now there are two high schools separating the north and south ends of the county. There are more students and a need for more junior highs and elementary schools. Did they look forward enough? Who knows, only history can tell, but my family suffered much because my father willingly served others. I’ll leave it to you to judge if it was worth it.


4. MEMORIES OF TAKING COWS TO SUMMER PASTURE

Part I - Darrell Loosle’s Personal Experience :

Experience - When I was young my job was to take our cows to the bottoms in the summer.  I would also take my Uncle Norman Loosle's cows.  His pasture was close and he had no boys to take the cows to the bottoms.  Also, for a time I took Clarence Clark's cows to their pasture.  We would go back about 5:00 in the evening to take them back to Clarkston.  We did this from about the time school let out in the spring until late fall.  I think I was paid by Uncle Norman and Clarence Clark about one or two dollars a month.  The cows usually recognized their pasture so I was not too much of a task to separate the herds to go into their pastures.

  There were four dirt roads that went to the bottoms.  They were called muddy lane, dirty lane, shorty land and crooked lane.  We used crooked lane which was the one closer to Newton Hill. 

  I remember a few times getting caught in thunderstorms when we were taking the cows to the pasture or picking them up.  Gordon Loosle, my cousin had to take his cows through our pasture to get to his.  The land was originally homesteaded by our common Great-Grandfather, John Kasper Loosle. 

  In the 1940s to 1960s many of the people that lived in Clarkston had a few cows, farmed a small acreage and many worked at the Sugar Factory in Garland.  They would go to the Sugar Factory by driving the dirt road we called the Long Divide to Fielding and then to Garland.  The road passed the Tuddenham farm about halfway between Newton and Clarkston.

  During the late 1950s and then into the 1960s most of the children of the farmers went to college and then moved elsewhere.  (Like we did).  Then many of those who lived in Clarkston got jobs and Thiokol or worked at other places.  Slowly the dairy herds ceased to exist.  Those who stayed there either farmed their small acreage or leased it to others.  My dad worked at the Ogden General Depot and then at the Cheese Factory in Amalga.  For a few summers during the 1950s instead of bringing the cows back to Clarkston to milk we would drive there and milk the cows at the pasture. 

  We always had a horse which I rode to take the cows.  On a few occasions I would use our tractor to take the cows but that didn't happen very often.

  It was an interesting time to live.  As a young boy taking cows to the pasture made me think I was a real cowboy.

    I did use my bike some in getting and taking the cows.  I had a paper route when I was young and my brother and I bought bikes.  By the time WWII was over they were selling the thin tired bikes instead of the larger balloon tire type.  The thin tire type were easier to pump.  From Clarkston to crooked lane we tried to get the cows to walk in the borrow pit (barpit was what we called it).

  Most of the Bottom's subdivision's were about 7 acres.  There were a few that were larger.  James Jardine had a pasture across from ours that was at least 15 acres.  It had a large clump of trees in it.  It was a good place to hunt magpies. 

 Assessment:

1.  As I remember it was about 1955-1960 when much of the drop-off of cows being taken to and from the pastures occurred.  Many of those who had cows had decreased their herds or sold all their cows.  Our family was typical.  By the time I got off my mission in 1958 my father had sold the cows and was not using the pasture land.  We owned a 7 acre pasture and used another 7 acre pasture that my uncle owned.  He taught at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and leased his pasture to my father.

  2.  The bottom land meadow pastures at Clarkston were all sub-divided and fenced into small plots.  The pasture land started at the South end of Clarkston to Newton hill which was about 1 plus miles and went probably 2-3 miles east which would be within a mile of the "Newton Reservoir".  We called it the Newton Dam.  At one time I could recall who owned most of the pasture land. 

  3.  Almost all of the herds were small.  We had 4-5 cows.  I don't remember a herd being more than 10 cows.  The milk was put in milk cans.  There were three people who picked up the cans and took them to Richmond or to Amalga.  Sidney Godfrey took our milk to the Cheese Factors in Amalga.  Reed Dahle (Bob's Father) picked up milk, and Jimmy Jardine also picked up milk.  We got a small milk check to supplement incomes and got cheese and butter for family use.  The cheese and butter were put in the milk cans when they were returned.

  4.  When I was young the area was called the "Bottoms".  It is still divided as it was back in the 1940s to 1960s.  I don't think any of it has been consolidated.  To my knowledge very little of it is being used today.  Our pasture land which is now owned by myself, my brothers and sisters is leased to Dean Atkinson from Clarkston.  He raises a couple of beef and pays very little to use the pasture.  Most of it just sits unused.  

--Darrell Loosle

* * * * * *

Part II – Calvin Buttar’s Experience -- A composite account of taking Clarkston cows to pasture from  telephone interviews with Calvin Buttars of Nov. 12, 2011 and Jan. 17, 2012:

Calvin received the chore of taking the cows to summer pasture in the morning and returning them in the evenings when he was not old enough to get on the horse. Usually he rode bareback and had to be helped onto the horse’s back or climb up on a post to get on. At the meadow pasture his father took some heavy wire and strung it such a way that he could use it to get up on the horse. He thought he was around five years of age when he went with his older brother learning how to do it. When he reached the age of six or seven he took over the chore and retained it for about six years. Almost always he used the pony to do the cow herding, rarely did he go on his bike, and sometimes his dog went along. He took his father’s cows, Uncle Lewis Buttar's and Lewis Dahle’s cows with up to 30 cows and he was paid $1 per week by the farmers whose cows he herded. At the time he considered this a tidy sum.

Both the cows and the horse knew the way and routine so there was little trouble with the cows. Once in a while in the mornings a cow or two strayed onto someone’s lawn whereby he was cussed out. Most of the people in town had their property fenced but some didn’t or they left a gate down and in the morning the cows could and did wander in where they weren’t wanted a few times. In getting four groups of cows in four different pastures occasionally a cow or two would go into the wrong pasture. However, in the evening the cows seemed anxious to get back to their home corral to be milked to the point that he thought by just opening the pasture gates that the cows could have done it all by themselves without the herder and in good time in proper order.

At the meadows he speeded up to get ahead of the cows so he could open the gate. Calvin’s horse became accustomed to ride up close to the fence and gate so the gate could be opened from horseback without being nervous. One day he took another horse to do the herding and when he arrived at the pasture and attempt to open the gate by positioning the horse extremely close he received a thrilling experience of high riding from a nervous horse that didn’t like the arrangement at all.

At the small meadow pastures there were small sloughs and the creek to provide water for the animals to drink, if not a watering hole was made in the pasture where enough water accumulated for them to drink.

There were pastures both east and west of the main creek. Most of the pastures were small 7 to 10 acres, but there was one large area of about forty acres that was not fenced. Calvin could take the cows from his home place and pick up the other cows he herded and go to the pasture and back covering about two miles with the round trip taking maybe an hour and 20 minutes.

On some occasions two or three youthful herders finished the morning chore of taking the cows to the pastures and decided on some adventure on horseback before returning to their homes. Possibly they could hear the call of the mountains to the west for that was the direction of their described journeys of exploration and his memory retained some of those adventures.

According to Calvin, the Clarkston farmers gave up on keeping their few cows when the milk factories and the government insisted on concrete corrals. His father gave up the cows while Calvin was on his mission in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Thereafter the highly prized meadowland pastures were not as beneficial as in the earlier times and tradition of taking and bringing the cows from summer pastures came to an end.

* * * * * *

Part III - A FEW ECHOES FROM CLARKSTON’S PAST:

Sadie Godfrey Lott, born May 7, 1918 the daughter of Henry Morris Godfrey recalled enjoying living on a dairy farm and having many chores and responsibilities especially the one of riding the family pony, Buck, to take cows to the pasture each day and back again at night.

Alma Goody by his mother in 1960: "Being the oldest boy, Alma began helping out real young. When he was six years old, he drove our cows and the neighbor’s cows to the pasture on a horse. One of the neighbors said, ‘How do you dare let such a little boy ride like that. His legs hardly go over the horse.’"

Andrew Loosle Heggie by A. L. Heggie (b. June 14, 1905)

"Not many farm boys escaped the chore of taking the cows to the pasture. A Shetland pony named June was my helper. A trip to the pasture was not interesting enough for him. He had a way of his own to liven things up—even if it left me bruised and battered on the hard road . . . . I graduated from taking cows at an early age and was placed on a disc harrow. . . ."

Ben J. and Eunice P. Ravsten, History of Clarkston: The Granary of Cache Valley: (p. 45)

"Dairy herds have always furnished a supplementary income to Clarkston farmers. Smithfield Dairy Company was organized in 1892 and milk was gathered and hauled to Smithfield. The Utah Condensed Milk Company was organized in Richmond about 1900. In 1931 the Cache Valley Dairy Cooperative Association was established as Amalga Cheese Plant. Dairymen have had ready markets. . . .

"For many years, morning and evening, dairy herds passed through town to the bottom meadows. Herding cows put money into children’s pockets, but the farmer soon put his milking gear in his car and milked the cows in the pasture. Few cows pass through the town today [1966]. Modern milking parlors and milking machines keep the cows more confined."


 

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Updated: 09 Jul 2012


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