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Life Sketches of L. Bryan Bergeson

Transcribed by Zane D. Bergeson (son) October 1, 2014 from original document in pencil.

Life Sketches of
L. Bryan Bergeson

 

I was born in a two-room log cabin on January 30, 1900 close by the Utah, Idaho state line. I spent my first five years climbing trees along the Weston Creek and riding the reaches (coupling member between the two axles) of the hay wagons as they went from the field to the stockyard. When I wanted to get off, I would simply hang down from the reach and drop on the ground letting the wagon pass over me. One time, because of concern for my safety, an uncle of mine thought it would be better if I ride on the load of hay, and so, up I went. As the load of hay was turning a corner, being loaded too heavy on one side, it tipped over. Much to my consternation I found myself buried at the bottom of the overturned load of hay. Great concern was felt both by myself, and those who were not covered with hay, for my welfare. I found it somewhat difficult to breath because of the limit of air and the choking dust that was generated by the contact of the hay with the dry dust of the road! Through the shouts from the outside and my somewhat half smothering attempts to make my presence known, an all welcoming strong arm finally found where I was and drug me out gasping to the light of day. This incident precluded my riding on the loads of hay and I went back to the wagon reaches where to my way of thinking was much safer.

I remember another incident that meant much to me. It was on a new years evening. Mother was making ice cream in a 2-gallon syrup can with a bale handle on it. She had it sitting in the snow packed solidly around it. She was turning it back and forth by the bale to make it freeze evenly. We children, who were then four, were having an hilarious time frolicking in the snow, as well as having fits of anticipation when the ice cream would be ready for sampling.
When all of a sudden, with much barking and dog fanfare, came old Blackie, the dog, chasing a rabbit. I would not say, whether because of rabbit confusion or rabbit self-preservation, but the rabbit jumped right into the lap of mother. Of course, mother seeing that the mean old dog was sound chastised and forthwith dispatched and after said Blackie had departed, mother turned the trembling rabbit loose.

Oh that was a great evening! To calm us down she suggested we go in the log house on the assumption we might find something. After following through on her direction, much to our surprise and delight, we found candy and peanuts and other goodies, which to our immature minds betokened the return of “Santy Clause” and we loved him for his return!

From this night of hilarity we moved to a new house, mother and father had built at the present town of Cornish. This finally turned into a grand house with eight rooms! It was a place of pleasant memories for the kids and much doing. It was here the family of eight achieved their majority and went their separate ways; it was filled with fun of work and pleasure, and the usual amount of family heartaches.

The Cornish Brass Band was another era of great joy and fun in my life. I can’t say the quality of music was the best, but we did somewhat amuse and delight those who listened. What we, as a players lacked in quality, we made up for it in real gusto. Oh, there was the time of playing at a band member sister’s wedding, in which the band members got a little big on wine, but then we did perform quite well, we thought!

And then there was time when we all rode to band practice bareback on horses. This was a real thriller, as we left the home where we practiced, it was time for a “free for all” horse race with instruments ranging from the base horn to the clarinet, clutched firmly in one hand and reign of the bridal in the other. Down the road we went pel mel, each bent on beating the other to some imaginary finish line which usually terminated at the corner on which the grand Bergeson home stood.

On one such evening, early in the spring, the race started as usual and all riders were flogging full steam ahead. We approached a swampy place in the road and at this time of night the water had about a half inch of ice on it. Undaunted by the hazard of mud, water and ice, on we rode, water mud and ice flying in all directions. One of the riders horse stumbled and fell, throwing rider horse and trombone, through the clear cool spring air into the murky deep. All reigned down and got the unfortunate threesome straightened out and then the race was on again!

This ended a phase of my life, which was bold, eventful and profitable. The events were real, the profit was that I had grown up and was beginning to realize I had a place to carve for myself in society if I were to amount to anything. In the hope of achieving more than what was the usual lot of more than 90% of the country young people of perhaps of graduation from grade school and then either helping out the parents on the farms, or going to work, or get married sometimes before 20. I decided to go to high school.

There was only one of importance in the valley and that was at Logan, Utah. The Brigham Young College. It was here, other highlights of my life unfolded. There were the usual events of the young and brash coupled with the event of school life. Like the time when the sophomore class challenged the seniors to a tug of war across the canal, girls and all turned out. We snaked the whole lot through the canal to the other side dripping wet. I can say they were good sports, they didn’t let go when their fate was eminent and continued to tug away until the very last one of their class came sputtering and splashing water up the bank

One of the proudest moments of my life happened between me and one of the professors. You see, they were professors, because we had a junior college there and they also taught in the high school. My biology teacher said to me one day as I passed her on the campus, “Bergie”, that was my nick-name everywhere, “I want to congratulate you for having the highest marks of any of the athletes on campus”. Well that made me swell up like a puff adder, and for a while I was on cloud seven. Then I got to thinking, athletes are notoriously noted for their sub-mental adroitness, and what honor is it to be the best of the worst?

School finally ended and I came back to work on father’s farm for a year. Then one winter I went to Las Angeles, to work and have me a lark. Las Angeles was a strange exotic, far away place. In it was all the intrigue and romance of the Spanish southwest and I wanted to see it. To fulfill my dream of going there I got on a cattle train with twenty dollars in my pocket as a tender to the shippers. We were supposed to, at all train stops, go and observe the condition of the cattle in the cars, and if any were down try to get them up.

I was prickly all over with expectation of what I was going to see in California. In fact I could smell seawater and orange blossoms, as far away as Barstow, how is that for imagination? We finally arrived at Las Angeles in the dead of night down at the stockyards, and all I could smell was acrid odors of the yards, which were very stifling like the odors of the barnyard, back home. Had I traveled all this distance just to be back home? What irony! But then we moved away from the yards into town, that is the shipper and I, into a rooming house on Fifth Street. The proprietor wasn’t going to let me have a room because he did not know who I was. The shipper finally convinced him that I was all right and so for the remainder of the night I got a little sleep in one of his clean rooms. The next day I spent walking aimlessly about town not daring to get too far away from where I was staying. This was an awfully large town for an inexperienced farm boy to be in, and I had a few misgivings about my being here alone.

There was one hope I had which gave me some consolation. I had the address of a family of a fellow I knew at school. I tried repeatedly to get in touch with him all day but didn’t succeed until night. When I did he said he would come and get me, which he did, and I spent the next three months at their home as my place of residence. During this time I worked at several jobs earning enough to maintain myself. One night I ran into a fellow who was an electrician at one of many studios and we got to talking about making movies. I wondered what it would be like to act in movies, and he said, “I don’t know but if I had your build I would give it a try”. In a few days I decided to give it a try and went out to the casting office, in my best bib and tucker, to see if they were waiting for me and expecting me to come.

After standing around a half-day waiting for the casting director to come, and after observing all seemingly talented and professional young people who were there bent on the same thing I was, I decided that to get a job here might turn into being quite a long and indefinite stay. Then, anyway, spring had come at home and it was time I should get back to the farm.

But the day I left for home, I was to experience one of my most exciting and frightening experiences of my life, up to this time. The unusualness of my surrounding made it so. I had got myself already to leave, my bag had gone to the station and I was dressed in my best suit which was, I thought, a very nice one and I looked quit prosperous in it.

We usually came down from town on the Hooper Avenue streetcar because it came closer to where I lived. This day I was a little late in getting to the car stop and just barely missed the car. I decided to walk over a couple blocks to Central Avenue. Now Central Avenue was then, and I suppose still is the Harlem of Los Angeles. We didn’t like to go by way of Central Avenue because there were Negros and to us it was an undesirable neighborhood. For that, white people steered clear of Central Avenue and used Hooper.

This day, however, I was in a hurry and I thought might catch a car on Central for the next, on Hooper, was an hour away and that might put me late for my train. When I got over to Central I asked a Negro man when the next car would come and he said in about ten minutes. With that much time at my at my disposal I decided to get a shoeshine. Seeing a sign down the avenue a ways, I walked down and climbed in a chair. The shine boy came and began shining my shoes and I noticed four young Negros setting at a table playing cards. Soon one of the fellows came over to me with a deck of cards and asked me to draw a card for two-bits, high man winning. I said I didn’t care to gamble but he persisted, in fact he got quite insistent. By this time the boy had finished my shoes and I got out of the chair and paid him. As I turned around there stood the Negro, with the cards, right in my way. I tried to go around him but he stepped over in front of me blocking me. I couldn’t see anything else to do, so I gave him a good shove out of my way. With this act the other three Negros, with whom he had been playing cards with, jumped up, as did an old Negro who had been setting there, all came around me! I kept on walking towards the door. They were right with me shouting invectives at me and asking what was wrong with me! To hear them one would have thought I was the aggressor in the incident. I kept on talking and walking, down to the outside, for I thought If I could get outside I would at least be able to see a cop or some white people who might give me some help. Finally, I made it through the door and looked around for help but all I could see was Negros and I decided the best thing I could do was to keep on moving. So I did just that. I turned around so I faced them and began walking backwards. All the time trying to answer their accusations and keep from being completely surrounded. By this time we had attracted quite a crowd and this fact was to my good. In the crowd naturally were some peacemakers and this element soon changed the complexion of the whole event. They soon stopped following me and I was allowed to go by myself to the corner when just about then, the electric car came and I got on it to leave Central Avenue-never more to return even to this day! I don’t believe I’ve missed anything up till now and I’m not about ready to go back to see if I have. You know, I think it was the suit that caused all the trouble, remember? It did make me look quite prosperous.

At home, again I fitted into the work with considerable exuberance but still longing in my mind was the desire to go more places. The opportunity came sooner than I thought. The bishop of the ward called me in and asked if I would like to go on a mission? It wasn’t long until I was on a passenger boat bound for Hawaii. This was some treat! Here I was on my way to a strange exotic island in the Pacific with fanciful and somewhat ludicrous notions running through my mind as to what the islands were. Yes, I heard many tall and interesting stories about these islands, as I now look back on them, but to me then, the thought of going there was just about the ultimate south sea adventure! Three days before landing in Honolulu an order went out from the ships captain that all who had not been vaccinated for smallpox must be vaccinated. Well, I hadn’t been vaccinated. I’d had the darn thing. Try as I may I could not make anyone believe me, so vaccinated I became. On all who hadn’t had the disease, the vaccine began to work right away. But not me. The little scratch under the cellophane cover healed and this was not good. It showed it had not taken and so back to the ships doctor I went for a refill.

Arriving outside Honolulu Harbor the ship let down anchor to wait for a harbor pilot and a quarantine officer to come aboard. You see, they were concerned about smallpox, because we found out that there were some cases of the disease in San Francisco which occasioned the vaccine program.

Well, here I was with a second vaccine not taking, and I soon became suspect when interviewed by the quarantine officer. There was nothing, but I should go to quarantine quarters to be observed and this was in a special boat from the ship. In the quarters by myself- spent the next three weeks in isolation.

Transcribed by Zane D. Bergeson (son) October 1, 2014 from original document in pencil.


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