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Historic Provo

Oral History of Ruth Van Wagenen


WINN: Today is May 7, 1999. This is Jennifer Winn and I'm interviewing Ruth Van Wagenen. What are some of your earliest memories of Provo?

VAN WAGENEN: I was raised in Salt Lake City, although I was born in Logan. My first real impression of Provo was when we came for essential work during the war. That was in 1942 when my husband had to change his job from being up at Utah Power and Light, working as secretary for the President and Vice President, Mr. Ashworth. He had to come down to Geneva Steel. He was in personnel and he got thousands of people thanking him for their jobs that they got through him at Geneva Steel in the personnel section.

He stayed at his folks' home. He lived here and Harold was born here in Provo. He was a native of Provo. He loved Provo. I came down about two months after we could get settled out there. I had one child then, one year old, my daughter Sheri. We came to Provo and there was no place to rent. We couldn't find a thing so we stayed with his folks in the Van Wagenen home on Fourth East and Center Street, which is a lovely home, which this is. We stayed there until we could find an apartment over on about Third North and Second East. We stayed there for four or five years.

He was at Geneva Steel and the war was on. I kept expecting that he was going to be called any moment. But he was a little older, and having a child it deferred him a little. When my second child came in 1944 I had her in Salt Lake because the doctor here had had a heart attack and I had to go back to my old doctor in Salt Lake. I had both my children in Salt Lake and then I brought her back here to the apartment.

When the war was over we lived Provo. There was just one radio station, KOBO and he thought they could do with some competition and have another one. He loved that sort of thing. He was very adept in music and the public. So we started to build our own radio station, which was KCSU in those days. Then the call letters changed to KIXX which many people around here are more familiar with. It was 1400 on the dial, the ABC network. He was working so hard on that to get it going.

He was going to go in with it with his brother Frank. Because of financial needs, we needed somebody to help support it and Frank was still in the Army. He hadn't even been released yet. Harold got much of it done before Frank finally got released from the Army.

We found this home which we saw. We were cramped in our little apartment and they weren't building very much yet. When I saw this little old home, to me coming into Provo, Center Street and University Street they were beautiful. Going straight up Center Street right up to the State Hospital was that big old fashioned building. It was gorgeous. Now they're not so pretty. They're just small flat things. It's not the same distinction that it was then. They kept their grounds so beautiful. We had a beautiful park that went down from up there right straight down to Center Street in the middle of the street. They took that out. It was inconvenient for removing snow. They took a lot of things that spoiled the city just for convenience sake. Other cities go around it to keep their beauty. I am not being critical but I am there.

In Provo the only thing you had to do on Sunday was drive up to the State Hospital and turn around and come back and go up Center Street and University and come back and see the big old beautiful homes there. We were close to the lake which was marvelous and close to the canyon. It was a lovely town. The BYU was delightful. I learned to just love it.

There wasn't many activities in those days, I don't think there was even a bowling alley until later. We had movies. I remember the Paramount Theater and the Uintah and the Academy. That was it. Then there were a few eating places, not too many, because people didn't go out and eat too often. They ate at home. I remember there were a few. I was trying to think of the name of the cafeteria. It just slipped my mind momentarily.

For recreation the TV hadn't come in yet. We had one of the very first TVs in Provo because my husband being in the radio business was interested in his competition that was soon going to be coming. When we moved here there was no TV—it was just radio.

I remember the stores that were fun. There was old Lewis' downtown and Thomas'. There was Taylor Bros. and Dixon, Taylor, Russell where I got to do a lot of my purchasing. There was Norma's China Closet and Lerners and Pendletons. There were some fun stores that we enjoyed.

For recreation everybody joined literary clubs. When I came to town I had sisters-in-law. One belonged to one and one belonged to the other. Before I knew it I was pulled in all directions and I ended up being with Beta Sorosis, and Belanoda Sorosis and Barnard Club. I joined three literary clubs that were federated in those days. I went on to be president two or three times and even federation president. There was President Wilkinson's wife having big meetings and President Wilkinson was the president at BYU much of the time we were there.

I called it my married women's education. We had to give our own book reviews. In those days we'd come with our hats and gloves in the afternoon and were very sophisticated and elite. Things have gotten very casual since those days. It was nice. It got me to meet the women. The men were older and Harold was doing business with all of them and I got to meet their partners. It was wonderful. They were wonderful people. I think of some of those that are now passed away, it was a wonderful group of people that lived here in Provo.

They were all proud of their families like Harold. He loved Provo. When they coaxed him in 1955 to run for Mayor he did and won. That was a big deal because he was still running our radio station and at that time they were going to try to change the government to a city manager along with the mayor. He had to work and go through and locate people to be good. He ran it himself until they got the first manager in. He was Earl Udall. That worked for a little bit and then he decided that wasn't the kind.

It got too much for him with our girls getting ready to go to college, so he only went two years and had to say no. He had too much to do. It was too big of a conflict, but he did enjoy it. I think he did very much for our city. He pitched right in there and did some of the things, no disrespect to our older men that were mayors, but he took on a few challenges that they just sat back and let pass. He got a few things for taxes, like made Wilkinson start paying for water and lights and a few things that they were getting by with and watching where they were buying. They were taking all of our property that was losing taxes. He did a lot of straightening up and helped with the buildings for the student housing for married couples.

I know he's been credited for a lot of good he did in Provo. He worked hard and loved it. They didn't pay very much in those days. He was changing his shirt three times a day. Because at the radio station working with equipment and then doing public things. I had him do dryclean. I washed and ironed but I couldn't keep up with him and the two girls. I think that's about all it paid for. But he's never regretted it. He always loved the public. He could name any people in town and tell you their phone numbers. He has a good memory that way. He was sharp. They seemed to like him too.

When he was there we didn't have any city buildings that we have now. It was there up on the corner which has since been torn down where his offices were, there by that big beautiful county building on that corner. That's been a change too.

And we knew our neighbors and we enjoyed our neighbors. The Lewis' across the street and the Wrights. The people who built this home later on. The ward wasn't there now, but it was still the same. Up this way little Granda Gifford. They were street people. The Hamsons and Dr. Taylor who was a physician in the town. Mendenhalls. People like that. The older folks will remember those names with great warmth. They did much for the city in many ways. We knew them and we socialized with them.

There was no 900 East. My children could ride their bikes up to the State Hospital and right down to the park. There was absolutely no 900 East here. My yard went right to the middle of where 900 East is with a great big beautiful hedge. I had apple trees and lilacs. I always had an old colonial place with pillars there and I sat back and thought, "That is a pretty place." We went to First North and had a barn in the back. Much has changed.

Then when 900 East came in about 15 or 20 years after. These homes are about 30 years old now. We were here in 1953. About 25 years ago this finally broke through. Then changes came that weren't as nice. They were improvements, adding to the town. But they started doing all the ditches and cutting down all the trees to put in curbs and gutters which we needed. We had big beautiful parking, which was fine. It was going to cost us a lot of money to get curb and gutter all in here, so we decided to sell what we didn't need to help pay for some of that.

I shouldn't say names, but Verl wanted to buy it and Harold said he knew what kind of building he'd put up and he didn't want it. The city bought it from us to help us out and turned around and sold it to Verl and we got these cruddy apartments back here that we've had to put up with all these years, which spoiled the other people across the street that were going to build beautiful homes. They quit. They didn't want to when they saw what came up. We had a little problem with some of our designers. You have to watch those things in Provo. What would have been a gorgeous street with big beautiful homes, because of a couple of things that went wrong they wouldn't do it. Those things we laugh about now. Then come these new homes here.

We were fine for a long time until they had to do more and they kept taking from me until it's right up to my sidewalk now, which makes it noisier, dirtier, hotter in the summer and not the same. I still love the location and at this age where would I go. There's something wrong no matter where you go. I still love my home and I come in and close the door so I can't hear all the confusion. It is dirtier. They come around this corner and throw all that dirt and dust. When snow comes, the snow plows pile it all up on the sidewalk and on the wall. We put up a wall to protect ourselves so we could enjoy our back yard after that came through.

It's still lovely. And it's been fun. We'd go down to the lake and ice skate in the winter. We'd go up the canyon to Canyon Glen. We'd take our little picnics and ride the horses and play on all the novelties. When we got real adventurous, we'd go on up to the homestead in Heber. The kids loved to go swimming there. The Homestead was a great place with the warm mineral water.

BYU had beautiful productions and they've had lovely entertainment. You were almost like on Broadway. You had productions that were as lovely as Broadway.

Both of my girls went through the Maeser School, the old Provo High School. Sherri, my oldest was the first graduating class at the new high school. That's' how long before that came in. They all graduated from BYU. Then the marriages and our lovely friends.

Harold was in the radio business for 37 years before he decided it was time to do something else. T.V. came in and not that it did too much, because radio was still big. Then he decided to sell. They sold it and the gentleman who sold it had it in trust and he died. We had to take it back. That was hard because the federal communications and all the confusion of that. We took it back for two years then sold it again.

He opened a new Rodeway Inn down here and they made him manager of that. He went into that and was in that for a while. Then he went to ZCMI when they opened as the head of the whole men's department. He was a workaholic. I couldn't get him to go on too many vacations. I had to leave him sometimes and go with my sister to satisfy my need for a little change. Until his retirement he was there. He's seen lots come up and lots of changes. And it's still a lovely town and he's always loved Provo and I do too.

Now that my folks have passed away from Salt Lake, I have no desire to go back to Salt Lake. Provo is just beautiful now. Squaw Peak and all those, I feel like they surround me and I love them. I've been enjoying the arts and doing some paintings of Timpanogos and Squaw Peak. In my later years as a senior citizen I've been enjoying our senior citizen building in Provo and have been going down for porcelain classes in figurines. I've been doing some beautiful things, just like Lladro. It's a nice association with the ladies. I do once a week and do that and keep active. I'm still very active doing knitting and crocheting and water coloring. I have nine grandchildren and eight of them are married. I've got all that plus thirteen great grandchildren.

Harold passed away in 1992, seven years ago, so I've been a widow for seven years. They came up to me last year and asked me if I would make this home, which is over 100 years old, a landmark home. I knew Harold loved the home and he loved the city he worked for, so I couldn't tell them no. I accepted and now they've asked me to open the home this June 16 for people who have been invited personally, maybe 80 or 90 to attend. I hope they'll enjoy the home and see something and feel like it's worth coming to see. It's just a homey home and nothing pretentious but just to show how nice these older homes are. They're warm in the winter and they're cool in the summer because they're adobe and brick. They're light and airy. I've been here for 53 years and I hope I can stay here.

WINN: When you were raising your children in Provo, what were the activities that they were involved in?

VAN WAGENEN: Sherri was very sharp. I know the sweet teachers over at Maeser were very smart. Olsen was the principal and Moffit was the superintendent of schools. They said, "We ought to advance her to another grade to get her up to where she is ample." The teacher was very smart and she said, "No, physically Sherri is small. This is where her friends are. Don't do that. That gets her out of her own climate. Just add on things to her." So I gave her violin and piano, rather than move her ahead, which I think is very smart. Because she was then with her own age group and her own physical group, which I thought was very intelligent and very nice.

I was a little annoyed at them, because I'd come from Salt Lake where in junior high I'd have languages. I took French and I had algebra and geometry. They didn't have it at the Farrer. But later on they got it but I don't think my girls got it. But they have come up since then. But they didn't have it. I suggested it to them and they said they didn't need it. I said I'd had languages and algebra and geometry in junior high school and the arts, but they hadn't quite developed that yet.

Moffet, who was superintendent, had some wild ideas I called him on a few times. He thought if you were dumb and you were in second grade, even though you were in the sixth grade, you should be down in that grade, or something of the other. Kids know when they're hurt and you don't do that to kids. You keep them in the same grade and try to help them to get ahead, but you don't down them to the fourth grade and embarrass them. I went against him on that and he didn't fulfill that.

So there were a few little lacking things, but just being kids which the kids don't get to do nowadays. Just riding horses. The horses were in the barn. Bicycling and just playing and having fun. So many of the children don't get to do it nowadays.

I had both of my girls in dancing because I loved dancing. I was a ballerina in my day and I took from the Christensen Brothers. The Christensens were at a big studio and I did ballet with them. We went to the San Francisco ballet and eventually after I was married Bill started Ballet West. I did all my dancing in those earlier days and then the war came and disrupted everything. I taught and I was professional. But with the war and two children coming.

I let my other girls come and they danced with wide, wide world. Vickie danced with the BYU as a special guest when she was eleven years old. Virginia Tanner came down and taught at BYU and I let them take from her. We got them in the activities like ice skating and roller skating.

They always had a big campout and a big fire and we all hiked up through Timpanogos Cave in those days. They won't allow it anymore, because too many went off the path and caused too much damage and it was starting to get a little too big. But in those days we all had our Fourth of July hike up to Timpanogos and the big fire.

They found a lot to do. My one daughter wanted to prove she could make some money. She was an usher down at one of the theaters for a little bit when she was in high school. The other one worked at a hamburger joint and I had to sit up until 1:00 so I could get her and bring her home because I didn't want her to walk alone. What mothers do to let them prove they can make their own money. That is the development they need. They did that and I was right there with them and I was a mother who believed to be home when the kids came in. You could tell they needed it.

This is what's wrong with the world now. The family is opposed to being with their children. They'd come in one door and out the other if I was there. If I wasn't there, they were frustrated. Even when I was the mayor's wife and had to go a lot, I sat down and ate with them before I went to my banquet, to see that they weren't neglected. This has proven good. I've had two wonderful girls, which have given me nine grandchildren and all these other married ones and the thirteen great grandchildren.

I think the love and taking care of your children through their developing and give them a little room. Some overdo it. I would let them come home and kick up their feet. We had cats always. We have dogs now. We had our dogs and they'd roll on the floor and enjoy the dogs and play, and relax. And then they'd do their lessons and do them good. They need that little freedom and not just being pushed on to everything. They had music and dancing, but I didn't push it so hard that I didn't give them a chance to unwind and play and do the things that kids should do.

I think this is our trouble nowadays. We're just not with our kiddies. We're all too busy trying to make money and the parents are out of the home when they should be in the home. Harold said he couldn't afford me to work because what I'd make in another way. He said I was better home. And he liked to come home and have a good meal and relax and not have me tense. Whereas if a woman has been working all day they're both tense. "You help cook. You do this. Let's go out and work." Whereas we all sat down with a lovely hot meal with him at night and breakfast. Sometimes we wouldn't see him at noon because he was so busy with radio and openings. But we always say that we were together.

And we went on some nice trips together. The children were really our main concern. I feel sorry for some of the children nowadays, because they don't have that. But in that day, that was just natural. There wasn't anything else. And we went visiting. They don't visit anymore. We knew our neighbors and knew their children, and knew everybody's problems. It was lovely.

Another funny thing when I came here that I get a kick out of, in the summer they'd all go downtown and walk the streets or park and watch people walk. I thought that was the funniest thing I ever saw. They'd all park in the center and you'd go walking down the street and everybody was in their cars watching you. I said to Harold, "I'm not going down there, they're all watching." That was their recreation. They didn't have anything else to do. They'd ride up and down the street then sit and park and watch the people go by. They'd go down and look in the windows. The stores weren't open, but there they were. I really got a kick out of that. We don't have that anymore.

They wore their gloves and their hats to town. So did I in Salt Lake. Pretty soon the hats disappeared. They got fancy hairdos and didn't want to mess their hair. I saw it come and that changed. I've seen the changes from very formal to very casual and knowing one another.

Where the Riverside Country Club is now, used to be the old Radio Club. When we were young we all did that together and then we went to the Riverside for tennis and bowling and golfing and swimming. That came later. Then we acted like the big cities and had our little pitter-pat too along with it.

I do love Provo and I wouldn't want to change it. The climate is beautiful and the mountains. The whole thing. I sure changed my mind, because when I lived in Salt Lake I thought it would be an asylum town. All they had was the asylum down here.

We didn't even want to compete. The U competed with Logan, the AC, but they didn't think much of competing with Provo. Then it's got so now our teams are good and are right there with all of them. And where I always cheered the red, it was awful hard to have to change to the blue. After having two daughters going through school I changed to blue and I like the blue now.

You do change and you learn to love and develop. My daughter that lives in California said, "Come be here in California. The altitude is lower and it would be easier on you. And you'd be by us." I said, "But you're gone so much I'd see you as much as if I'd wait here and let you come stay with me for a week. I've got my friends here. I know my town. I can go downtown and do things." We've got the new mall which is nice.

I know Harold wanted the mall here in Provo. We had some of our merchants who did themselves in, like Firmages. All of them, the Shrivers, the Lewis' they've got that competition. The mall went out to Orem and Harold was sick about that. He would turn over in his grave that we got one down here where it should have been right to start with.

Sometimes you have to learn the hard way. But competition is healthy. It isn't against you. You're healthier with competition and it makes you all do better. Now if we can just get our planning commissioners to do a few correct things and not sour our whole city up and keep the beauty of it and not try to ruin what's left, just for all these schools, which is sad. So many of the big beautiful homes are all upset because next to them there are about five or six students with all the cars everyplace. If they don't watch and be careful with that, they're going to ruin Provo. Because we do our need our students and we do need them at BYU, but we've got to also think of the people that remain steadfast that are taking care of it and let them have a normal living, and not be overrun with little apartments and little condominiums.

Because they're transient. They come and go. My ward over here we get all the little homes over here that are rental now, because they were older. They are just here of a year or two at the most and they're gone. There are a few stand-bys that have been here all our life. We've got a very transient ward because of that. We love our students and are glad they're here, but it makes for so much coming and going that you don't get that steady know one another that we used to have in the old days. I don't even know my people across the street, where I knew them all before. There are students there.

I still have a few friends. We're not visiting like we used to have in those days. I miss that. It's just a different way of living. If you think it's progressing, more to it. I don't think so. I think it's defeating the lovely homes and the families. I don't know what you can do and I have no suggestions. I hope they can control it in a way that the people that do make Provo a home and have lovely homes and want to make it the family type don't get overrun with all this stuff that's going on. Otherwise they can ruin a city very easily. There is a lot of really dead parts. Hardly anybody came to it and they had to work hard to revive it there for a while. It could die again very easily if we're not careful. Those are the things they have to watch out for to keep it alive.

I love the decorations at Christmas time. I love their little brick sections in between the streets. They're delightful. And they decorate beautifully at Christmas. The little town just comes alive. I admire them for a lot of the nice things they're trying to do and trying to keep up for us. I'm not being critical, I'm just saying I hope they can see the good and not let too many ways go for money and ruin a whole nice section just because they think they're making a few bucks. They need to save some of these places. It can't look like the town it used to be.

I'm glad they want to preserve my home and I hope it will stand here for quite a bit longer. It's over one hundred years old.

WINN: Can you think of any other changes that Provo has experienced?

VAN WAGENEN: We don't ice skate as much down at the lake like we used to. Because I'm not ice skating anymore, I don't notice the kids going down there and having the fun we did. I don't know why that is. I don't know what is happening down there. I know it's not owned by Provo. It's a state thing. I guess maybe that's what's making it different.

We used to go up to the State Hospital when Mr. Heniger was the head of it and Rachel and Owen Heniger. My girls would go up once a week and we'd go to the different places and play cards with them. My girls would dance for them. We'd do music and we'd take clothes that they needed and refreshments. In those days so many of them were senile and people that didn't have any homes and we put them up there. They weren't really vicious. They allowed us to come and entertain them. Now they don't have any of that anymore. They kicked all those out. The only ones we have up there are the drug addicts, which we didn't have in my day.

Then the young ones are up there now. When Dr. Fox came in they brought in all these young kids that were having problems. So it's a whole different set up up there. None of the people go up and entertain that way. We will take clothing and Christmas presents, but not like we used to. We used to take everything and visit with them. That was part of our service and we felt like we did good. That has changed a lot, which is as I said a whole different set up. We can't get in there and have young kids be in there with dope addicts. And my husband sent them a lot of records so they could play them. He had so many from the radio station. The ones he wasn't using the machine he'd let the children have the records. At Easter time we'd go up with Easter baskets and fix Easter baskets for them. We've done a lot of good.

My literary clubs have done wonderful things. They've been really genuine. We'd have great big drives and teas. We worked and we helped with the Harbor people that go out to hunt the people that shouldn't be on the boats. We've made for that. We've helped with rest homes. We've helped with handicapped children. We've done much for the battered women, taking things to the home and helping there. The literary clubs have given book reviews. They've really done many projects.

And we went to the state hospital in American Fork. I was chairman one year and I remember taking over hair dryers to the girls that we'd paid for and all kinds of Christmas gifts. We even extended out into that area like we did here, which is safer. We've done much around town.

We helped with the lights and the decorating of the trees when Mrs. Byrd was in charge of that. She got all of the literary clubs and we all gave hundreds of dollars to help light up Provo. One time they even had a tree with a name on for different people. I don't think they have that anymore.

The town gets behind and really gives a lot. I haven't been that active in our clubs now. There's just a few left in some of them and the others have quit after 50 and 60 years. The young kids don't want to be in clubs. They don't want to play bridge. They don't to do any of these things that we used to do. They're too busy doing other things. We had it because we had nothing else to do. It was our way of socializing because there wasn't all the places that they can go now. There is a change that way. Those literary clubs were wonderful and they really helped, along with the Rotary and Kiwanis and all those other clubs and the Elks. They've all been together to help Provo.

Everybody blends together and we had to chase the old timers. We'd go down on that boat on the lake and have a ball and dance and thoroughly enjoy it. I think a lot of the kids are missing some of the fun things we did that were just genuine fun. I kind of feel sorry for them. I think they are the ones that are missing out. We had the good times and the closeness of one another. When I'd go downtown I knew everyone. I go down there now and I don't know hardly a soul. It's just a whole different situation. It just isn't a home town like it used to be. It just got bigger.

There are so many people that you don't have that same camaraderie that you had in those days. I still go up to BYU to some of their lovely plays and ballets and the Nutcracker that they have, even though it isn't the one in Salt Lake. It's just lovely. There are things to take part in if you just look around. There is something to do for everyone.

WINN: You mentioned briefly about World War II. Can you think of any ways that the war impacted Provo?

VAN WAGENEN: So many of the young men went off to war, even some of the doctors. It made a swing around with a lot of things. They had to get essential work. That's when Geneva Steel came in. That's when I said my husband was hiring so many to get work out there. It interrupted a lot of people. His brother Frank went. He had three children at the time. I don't think Dean went. Harold would have gone had it gone on much longer. He was the next up. He was a little older. We had two children. He eliminated the one when Frank got caught into it. It was a lot of change.

In our clubs we'd sit and knit things and make bandages. In many of the clubs, we'd sit and make bandages and knit and do different things to help that way.

Building stopped. We tried to build a home and there was no building going on. You couldn't get anything. When I did my first carpeting, it had to be in strips, like the hotel. You couldn't get it in 18 or 24 widths. There was so much going for the war that you found it very hard and not very much building was going on. That's why we found this home and liked it. It was just being rented and we decided to remodel rather than try to build. It was hard enough to remodel. We were having all we could do to get what we needed in the remodeling, let along trying to build up. Soon after that, they started building more.

It made things come to a standstill. It was hard. I had three brothers that went to war. Somebody said they never went on missions. I said, "No, they went to war and thank heavens they all three came home." When it would have been their mission time, to go on missions, they went to war.

My one brother went in the Navy. He was a graduate and he was on a submarine. MacArthur went to the Philippines and he was there. He was the one who took him. He had a rough time there.

My second one was in the Air Force. He was color blind, so he showed them all the camouflages and could find out where the camouflages were. But he couldn't fly the plane. He sat with them and showed them the camouflages.

The youngest one was there in the Belgium Bulge getting the worst of it all. Fortunately they all came back. They had a lot of traumatic and emotional things especially in the Navy. So many of his dearest friends went down when he was on leave. He had a very traumatic experience. He was around that area where the others were in Europe. The Japs and the Australians bombed them. They were on our side, but they bombed them and nearly killed them, thinking they had an enemy. There were crazy things during the war.

My home was involved. Our dearest friend who were Japanese, who had the cute little Japanese thing, they were sent to concentration camps, which was the darndest thing that ever happened. Americans, and still they were scared of them, even though they were born and raised in the United States. They sent them to California to these concentration camps. There was a lot of turmoil and upset. It wasn't good.

WINN: Were there a lot of residents of Provo that were involved in the war?

VAN WAGENEN: I don't know about Provo, but I know in Salt Lake I was familiar with it there. I don't know what happened here. When we went to dry cleaning, just down on the corner from where I lived. I saw that before I came down here. That was before I came to Provo. It was happening right after Pearl Harbor.

We were decorating our Christmas tree in our little apartment. She was about seven or eight months old when we heard it. The whole world changed. He had to get a new job. He had to get essential work. There was a whole change and everybody was having to do things because of the war. It was rough. It wasn't good. But we had to do it.

WINN: Have you seen other outside events effect Provo, like Watergate, Vietnam, or Korea?

VAN WAGENEN: Any one of those. They weren't for Vietnam at all. We didn't treat our boys that came back from there very good either. We just didn't like it. It was a dead war. It wasn't going anywhere. That was sad. That wasn't good at all. That's what we're getting into now. I hope we can get out gracefully. We've had so much confusion and so much on the T.V. and Radio I don't like. I've got so I just turn it off and put on some pretty music and sit and listen. You can hear it just so many times and then you've had it.

I feel so sorry for the young boys. I thought back and thought we always had a few that were bad. I went to East High School and I remember the different groups. In this life our children have got to learn that who they are, they've got to accept and try to make better, but they can't be everybody. If they're not in a sorority or fraternity, so what? If they weren't picked for that, that's just a different group and they've got to learn to do their own thing and not be jealous or annoyed that somebody else has something different from them.

Even with this that's going on in the high schools, when a judge came on and said, "We've given them all the sympathy. They've had all the sadness. There's the death. But you have to face up to these things. Now lets' get back to work and make them strong." Of course they'll go back in that school. You don't tear down a school. That's silly. That's too much money. Get them back in that school and get them going on. It was a tragedy, but they're going to have other tragedies in this life. They've got to learn how to handle it and take care of it. You can't baby them and make it a memorial and tear the thing down. They've got to face up to it and get back in. You've got to that.

I had my garage on fire. Somebody burned it with arson. My brand new car I had I'd had for years. I could have been very sick and said I can't do it here, I'm going to move. But I didn't'. I stayed in my home. I will admit the first time I went to drive my new car in I drove it in, then backed it out for a minute, then I drove it in, sat it down and came in. Now when I hear the sirens come up and down this street, I cringe a little. But I've gotten used to it. You've got to be strong. You've got to go forward. You can't let things like that get you.

It is too bad that in the home the parents aren't doing what they should for those boys, or they wouldn't be dressing up in all those crazy outfits and being mad at others because they don't have what they've got and being jealous. It's wrong. I don't care how much money you give them, or what you do, if it isn't taken care of earlier in the home, it won't do a bit of good.

And the guns. Of course I'd like them to keep guns away from them. But that isn't the answer. If they're going to get a gun, they're going to get a gun. I don't care who. But it's the lack of the parents that aren't keeping up with them. And sometimes it isn't their fault. The parents think they're doing it. They don't know how to be parents. They're ignoring their children. When there's just one person in that home that causes a lot of trouble. They need a male to show for them, and it's just the mother and it causes problems. Or a father that won't have anything to do with him and ignores him, which is sad. Even though he has a father, he's not there to support him. He still has troubles. It's sad. I feel sorry for the children. Especially those boys at that age. I had three brothers so I know, even though I only had two girls. That need that support at that age especially.

And high school is hard. Because no matter what you do, you're a little envious, or the date you want goes to somebody else. It's a hard time. I wouldn't want to go through these ages again. That's an awful hard age. And finding your true love and your real companion, that's a hard time in your life. And making decisions when you really don't know what you want. I feel sorry for the children. It's a very hard time.

We've had, even here in Provo, some of the nicer families, accidents that have happened where they take their own lives. You thought they were wonderful parents, and they were. I can't completely know, but something goes wrong. You just can't put blame. You just hope you can try to make it better so it won't happen again. Even in the best homes where you think they're doing their very best, once in a while you have something that is out of control and it happens. I'm not blaming all the parents, because sometimes it's one of those things that gets ahead of everybody.

WINN: How have you seen the relationships between members of the Mormon Church and non-members in Provo?

VAN WAGENEN: I've seen a lot of that. I get so annoyed. I stood up in church and said, "Your neighbor is your neighbor. This town is important. You come down and support us for our things. You not only support your church, but you support your city." I had a little neighbor next door who wasn't a member. For the parade I said, "It's our Fourth of July parade." She said, "Who wants to go to it? It's all run by the church and all your floats are church." I said, "Your church is invited. Why don't they put a float in?"

Because it was organized so beautifully, we had all those great big things on the Fourth of July where we'd go down to the bakery. We had the foods, the stands, the toys. They were gorgeous. All the different wards had to do the floats. It was beautiful. Then we got so many complaints that it was just LDS, so the church stepped right out of it and now the parade is not near as nice. The other churches, very few of them put in floats and one or two of us tried to keep it going. A few wards took turns, but not a lot. Our booths aren't anything like they used to be with the organization of the church. But getting out of the church we got mediocre and they don't do that much. It's not anything like it used to be when it was under that organization. But at least we're doing it the way everybody wanted.

Harold would say, when he had these city meetings, he'd be so mad, because it would be all these people from out of town, the other religions, the other churches, that would be there to demand things for the city and our people were just lazy and didn't bother to come down. He used to get mad too for that reason. I used to say, "Come on. Speak up and do your things for that. Don't let the newcomers take over." And they did, very much so. It's not that I'm against any religion, because I'm not. I just mean they were more interested in what the city was doing than our own people that were complacent because here it's LDS. We saw that very much when Harold was mayor. He could tell when they'd go down to these meetings. He would have so many newcomers complaining about things and the old timers weren't there to support it or do anything.

I think it's better now though and I think the church has been very good in telling us that we've got to be good to our neighbors and the other religions. You still get a few little quirks that think that they're going to do something wrong if their kids play with them. You'll get that all your life. But on the whole I think Provo is pretty well.

I thought Salt Lake would be over 1/2 or 3/4 LDS, but they are not. When I lived on Third South there it was by the synagogue and all the different Methodists and Catholics were all around me. I played with all varieties of religions, because where I lived there was just a mixture of all of us. I'd go to their churches. If they had a party they'd invite me. If I had a party, I'd invite them to mine. I was in the synagogue many times for parties. Because my friends were Jewish, I was brought up loving everybody.

But you get a few that won't do that, or they don't have the situation, they weren't living around it. When I lived in Salt Lake on Third South between Fourth and Fifth East, you had all denominations all through there. I never had that feeling. I could be a dear friend to a Jew friend or a strict Catholic or a Presbyterian or a Methodist or any of them, because they were all there. My school was just a mixture. There wasn't as many LDS as you would think. I was surprised. They said there was 1/3 to 2/3 other mixtures in Salt Lake at that time, which surprised me to death. I wouldn't have thought. It wasn't.

Now here it could be different because this was a smaller town. Do you know what the differences are in this population? But with the BYU being here and all those students. There are many that are not our religion but they allow them come if they've got good grades and a reason to come. I think they have to pay a little more, because they're not paying their tithing. So there is not that many, because it costs them more. That's good. You need all denominations. Everybody is good. I think we should learn to get along with everyone.

WINN: Thank you so much. I really appreciate all that you've shared with me.

Interviewee: Ruth Van Wagenen
Interviewer: Jennifer Winn
May 7, 1999

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