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Historic Provo

Oral History of Carlyle Lambert


MEYERS: I am interviewing Carlyle Lambert. It's May 17, 1999.

LAMBERT: My name is Carlyle Lambert. My family arrived in Provo 1926 when my father uprooted us from Rexburg, St. Anthony, Idaho area and came down to BYU to finish his college and get a master's degree. That was mostly all completed when he brought us down here in 1926/27.

Our whole family went to BYU Training School, which no longer exists. It's been torn down. I have a lot of memories of that school. A lot of people went there.

After I finished the sixth grade at the BYU Elementary School, I went to Farrer Junior High School. I was in the first graduating class from Farrer Junior High School. They built two new schools, Farrer and Dixon. They were junior high schools.

I was at Provo High School through my sophomore year. My father was pursuing a PhD degree. Two or three years prior, he had been to Stanford alone in the summer time to go to school. After my sophomore year we went to California to Stanford University and he finished there. I graduated from Palo Alto High School and returned here during the school year of 1935.

I was at BYU from 1935-38. I graduated with a B.S. degree in biological sciences and then I returned for another year to get a master's degree in the same sciences. Along the way I had the opportunity to meet some very great people and teachers. Most of the ones that impressed me the most were my collegiate teachers. They stimulated me in many ways that I didn't believe even existed.

However, I did have some excellent teachers coming up through BYU. There was a lady principal named Hermes Peterson, a very dedicated teacher. She was the principal. She dealt a lot of misery out to me, because I was one of the kids that ran around with holes in his overalls and toes out of his shoes. I had a difficult time sometimes getting my class work done. She was very patient. I had three teachers that decided I was going to learn or I was going to have to have some very serious conversations with my father, who at that time was the principal of BYU High School.

Fortunately my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Hansen wouldn't put up with any nonsense. If you had to stay there until 9:00 at night to finish an assignment, she stayed right there with you. You had to get it done, or you wouldn't go home. She would stay there all night I guess.

Mr. Malm was my sixth grade teacher. It was a very memorable experience. She was a dedicated and splendid teacher.

When I got into college, my first year I met Bascoe Tanner. He was a very brave man from the standpoint that if it was the truth, you'd tell it. If it was against what the Church thinks, you tell it anyway. That was very impressive to me. I had lived in an LDS atmosphere all my life. He was LDS too. He stimulated me to find out the truth as it exists. It didn't make any difference. If you knew it was the truth, then you stood by it. He taught me about Darwin and a lot of other great scientists. I spent a lot of time reading and that inspired me to keep on going and graduate from college.

When I graduated from college in 1938, all those prior years during the time I was in Palo Alto that was during the depths of the Depression. I'm 82 years old and I'm certain a lot of people don't like to hear just how sad 1929 to 1939 were. There was one time that the school teachers had a steady salary. Everybody else was unemployed. It was a real serious thing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected and he changed things. He made some great things. He was a very impressive man. I think he should not have used his political power to be elected to the presidency of the United States four times. But when there was a problem he didn't just sit around. He took action. There were many things that were very impressive to me during that time.

In 1938 there were no jobs for college graduates. You could go teach school for $90 a month. That didn't do very good. I didn't teach school. However, I did have teaching experience in my biological classes. I was a lab instructor.

As I went along I met some other fine professors, namely Bertrand Harrison who is over 90 now. He is still alive and is a wonderful man. He helped guide me to a master's degree with a thesis that just about put me out of business. It was a great opportunity to be around stimulating men.

Thomas R. Martin was a very stimulating teacher. I never had a class from him. He was a great man however. Even at that time, there were problems that were very perplexing to a lot of us, because the Church still would not allow evolution to be taught. This was an agonizing thing to a lot of us in the biological sciences, and especially those of us who studied geology. At that time a lot of the men were being crucified by the Church because they taught evolution.

They don't say much about evolution anymore. But back then it was a red hot issue. Several of our friends were chased out of BYU. Some of them just left. This has been a bad thing in my life, as far as my experience in Provo. However I dearly love Provo. I was very grateful to finally get a master's degree and start out. I met my wife at BYU too. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. That's a resume of my early years.

I must state a few things about my wife, Carol. Two or three years after we married she became very active politically. She donated hundreds and hundreds of hours. When she was about fifty she was known as Mrs. Republican in Utah County. She worked in this line of service not only in political but everything you do, good things in secret and to help people. In 1987 she received a distinguished service award from BYU which is a very significant thing for us.

I didn't have any favorite hang outs. Bob Billards was a pretty good place at that time if you played pool. Mostly I just had a few friends and we shacked around and did things that young guys do, like play basketball.

In our community life we belong to the LDS Church. We did not belong to any private organizations like the BPOE. We were both very active. We had six children. That put a big load on the Provo School District as well as on us. Eventually the culminating thing in our lives is that all six children were graduated from BYU and they all hold an advanced degree. That's been a point of happiness and accomplishment for us.

We did start with our children something. We set objectives and goals. One was you've got to graduate from college. We will do everything we can for you to see that you achieve that. We hope you get scholarships as you go along. And they did get some.

They had music. Mother stressed music. All of the children studied piano. Each one of them had an instrument. I put my foot down when she started looking around for a harp.

We weren't joiners with other groups except we supported everything that was good, especially the schools. Carol was a PTA president in a few different schools and got several recognitions. These are things that we're proud of. In the history of Provo there is lots of people you'll find historical things about.

I continue to be reminded of the great accomplishments of my wife. She also was an artist, as well as a dancer, as well as the greatest mother. My wife has described the businesses as they changed over the years. They were significant. Many, many changes in the city like changes of the city streets. When they took the big fountain out in the middle of Provo, it just about broke all of our hearts.

On Fifth North and University Avenue there was a little development that is covered by a 7-11 now. Lou's Market and Calder's Ice Cream Shop and Joe's Shoe Store used to be there. Those are just a few of the minor things that we knew about.

There are many things going on in Provo that we supported like parks. Our main objective other than raising our family directly was to see that the schools were properly supported. We did a lot of work on that.

At one time the only accolade I got out of Provo was that they mentioned that I should receive an award for attendance at more parent teacher meetings than any father they knew about. I was working shift work at Geneva.

The businesses and places we shopped were like Shrivers and JCPenney's in Provo. My mother worked at Sears and Roebuck; prior to that when Montgomery Ward was here she worked as a clerk there, too. And also she worked at JCPenney's. Penneys is not part of the new Provo mall. The evolution has been good in all of those type of things.

When I graduated from college there were no jobs. I came back for a master's degree at BYU and I wasn't going to teach school. I had had enough poverty from school teachers. My wife's family and my dad's family, even with a PhD degree from Stanford, we still lived in gentile poverty. That's what Carol lived in.

I was not going to teach school so I did a lot of other things. I was a registered high school basketball official. I escaped with my life sometimes. That was forty years ago. Every once in a while I see guys that threatened my life wandering around the street and they look just like me. They've got their cane.

The war clouds were heavy over Europe. I was working for the state department of agriculture. I worked grading tomatoes and peaches and pears and whatever they had. I became a turkey grader authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture. I finished a job up in Riverside, Utah. They had a dry pick plant; very unusual. They drove the turkeys in flocks. They didn't bring them in trucks.

When I left there I came down to Salt Lake City on the way home. I met somebody. I didn't even know about Remington Arms being built. Somebody told me. I drove out and put in an application at Remington Arms. They were going to make ammunition there. It was the war.

December 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. By then Carol and I had two beautiful babies. I was a deferred father. I eventually ended up working for Remington Arms as a supervisor. We made 50 caliber ammunition. That was quite an unusual feature. At the same time Geneva Steel was being built. I couldn't leave Remington to go to work at Geneva because Remington Arms wouldn't let me. I had to stay there until they closed down.

At the time that they closed Remington down, they had made and stored in the United States enough 30 caliber ammunition to fire 600 rounds at every Axis soldier in the world. This gives you an appreciation for the production might of American industry in a small way.

The day that I was terminated at Remington Arms I collected a supervisor's job at Geneva Steel. I was there for 32 years. Over the years running the blast furnace is a very rough business. I stayed there for 32 and a half years and retired in 1976.

I did mention previously about Franklin D. Roosevelt. World War II was common knowledge then. You have heard about the Korean War and the Cold War. The thing that disturbed me most about it was the Vietnam War. I was very much against it. I thought it was terrible that they were drafting 18-year-old boys and gave them six months training and then shipped them over there to Vietnam to be killed. I thought it was just terrible. And I wasn't alone. There were many people who talked wherever we were that were against that. They thought that should be terminated, to stop killing those boys.

They finally did after 54,000 boys were killed over there. 300,000 were wounded. We're still paying for the results of that war. The men who caused it, those who are alive, especially McNamara, now admit that that was a horrible mistake. We were very concerned about that. We couldn't do anything about it. That was the worst thing.

I was against Watergate. I think it was terrible. The worst thing that could happen is for the president of the United States to be impeached and to have to resign. There is nothing worse in our political structure than to have the head man let go. This most recent incident wounds your heart to think that we've got a man that would do the things that he did as president of the United States. I have no admiration for him. I don't have much admiration for a lot of the politckers back there either.

Interviewee: Carlyle Lambert
Interviewer: Sharon Meyers
May 17, 1999

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