Aunt Martha, the wife of my Dad’s brother Uncle Wally, has truly amazing stories to tell. Uncle Wally was the Mission President of the Czeckoslovakia Mission for more than 32 years, up until his death in 1967. Elder Hugh B. Brown asked Aunt Martha to continue to handle the affairs of the mission after Wally’s death until they could merge it with the Austrian mission. She speculates, tongue in cheek, that she’s been the only female mission president in the Church.
Wally was first called as the mission president in 1936 after they had been married only two years and Martha was only 24 years old, younger than some of the missionaries. Many of her children were born in Czeckoslovakia under either Nazi or Communist regimes.
They were expelled from the country first by the Nazi’s in 1939, and again, after rebuilding the mission after the War, by the Communists in 1950. Wally was considered one of the top wanted spies by the Communists and both he and Martha were under 24 hour surveillance. Each time they were expelled from the country Martha left Wally behind to see that the last of the missionaries all got out safely and each time, he barely got out without being arrested. The first time he was expelled by the Nazi’s, he got out literally the day before the War started and the borders slammed shut. The trials and tribulations of a young mother raising a family and handling her mission duties all while under the watchful and hostile eyes of the Nazi’s and the Communists are spellbinding tales. Again, this is “can’t put it down” reading. So pull up a chair and prepare for some great stories…
A CHERRY TREE BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN
Copyright © 1977 Martha Toronto Anderson
I had no idea that such a large volume would emerge when I first began writing my history. Actually it is a history not only of my family but also of my experiences as the wife of a mission president. For several years I have been urged by family and friends to write down the experiences my husband Wally and I shared during the years we served the Church as mission leaders in the small country of Czechoslovakia.
Located in the very heart of Central Europe. Czechoslovakia had been conquered and ruled in turn by emperors, kings, dictators, and finally the Red Giant of Communism. The Iron Curtain fell on this land in 1948, and we were trapped behind it. Our challenge as leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in a communist country became frightening and difficult. Our previous years under the Nazi rule before World War II had toughened us up, so to speak, and we anticipated no greater problems than we’d faced ten years earlier.
A great source of joy to us during those difficult years was the large villa in Prague that served as our home and the office of the Czech Mission. It was a beautiful three-story mansion that was surrounded on all sides with elegant gardens bounded by a high wall. Our children enjoyed the trees, lawns, flowers, and the fountain. On the west side of the house, facing the kitchen window, was a large productive cherry tree.
We enjoyed its fragrance and the sweet fruit it produced as well as its beauty. The only cherries that the children’s friends ever got to taste were the ones on our tree. Even on ration tickets cherries were never available, because any fruit that was produced was shipped to Russia. The farmers in this particular satellite country were given a quota of so many bushels or lugs each season. The quota was always more than they could possibly produce on their farms, and they were given a stiff fine or penalty when they couldn’t t meet their quotas. Fruits and vegetables were grown in abundance in Czechoslovakia, but they were shipped out to the "fatherland" and were not available to the common people. It was a situation that we here in America cannot comprehend.
The cherry tree was also a wonderful "climbing tree" for our children. The younger ones loved to sit, hidden in the branches, eat the cherries, and then bombard the missionaries with the pits as they walked up the path. When Allen was about four years old he could open the kitchen window (it was a double window that opened out like French doors) and climb out onto the strong branches and up into the cherry tree, much to the horror of Sister Krejci our cook and babysitter. Allen was slightly built and could scramble across that branch before Sister Krejci could catch him. I think he did it just to tease her, and she’d really get mad. She wasn’t used to kids climbing trees like I was and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t upset. Judy loved climbing the tree too, but she was too big for Allen’s kitchen window method. If Al got stuck we’d have to send a missionary up the trunk, or Bob, who could scramble up like a monkey. But Allen usually made it back through the window, unless Sister Krejci stood there with a big stick. That lovely cherry tree held a lot of happy memories, and to us it symbolized home and a place of refuge in a foreign land.
I owe gratitude to a number of people who have helped me in this project. My son Allen, who is writing a biography of his father, planted the seed when he asked me to record my own experiences. I thank him for sparking initial interest in the actual writing of the book and for handling many aspects of final production.
I express my greatest gratitude to Jane Toronto, Allen’s wife for the tremendous amount of time she devoted in editing organizing and typing the manuscript. The clarity and cohesiveness of the book are a direct result of her unselfish efforts.
I would like to express deep love and appreciation to my husband, Maurice Anderson. He took a tremendous interest in the book, and his support and encouragement for the project were invaluable.
Martha Toronto Anderson
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I was born in Salt Lake City on the 27th day of February, 1912. My mother, Sally Luella Ferrin, was born in a small community in Ogden Canyon called Huntsville on May 12, 1877. The neighboring community of Eden was actually their home. Her father, Josiah Marsh Ferrin, was bishop of the Eden Ward for 20 or more years. In those days a bishop was in actuality a “father” of the ward. He was an advisor, family counselor, healer, spiritual leader, provider for widows, and anything that was needed-even house builder and wagon fixer. He was looked to for all these things, and Josiah fulfilled his role.
Her mother, Martha Bronson Ferrin, was equally busy as Relief Society President, supporting her husband in his calling and providing for the family while Josiah served a mission in England. Some of her experiences during that time were almost hair-raising and showed how the Lord took care of her and the family during those years. Often she would give all the food in her house to Indians, both hostile and friendly. She apparently knew their language and could talk to them as they demanded things from her. They always came when she was at home alone with the little ones. These were often terrifying experiences for her, but she was always kind and generous to the Indians. She was courageous, and very spiritual as well in bringing up her family of eleven children.
My mother Luella was the eleventh and youngest of this group of extraordinary and talented young men and women. Very early in her life she discovered that she could sing. Even as a little girl she was encouraged to do so by her parents and older brothers and sisters who were also good singers and instrumentalists, and they would accompany her as she would sing in church. As a six or seven-year-old she would stand on a box in order to be seen, singing in sacrament meetings and ward programs. As she grew older she branched out into other wards and even stake meetings.
As Luella approached her teen years the family moved down the canyon into Ogden where the parents set up their home in order that the children could be closer to schools and receive a better education. Grandfather Josiah was anxious that his group of children be outstanding, and all of them did very well in their chosen fields. My mother was given every opportunity to develop her musical talent. After she gained all she could in Ogden, her father sent her as a girl of 20 to New York City, then the center of music in the United States, to gain further training for her outstanding talent.
She studied with a Madam Von Klenner, who at that time was the most outstanding voice teacher in the country. She was an American woman who had married a German count, and she used his title lavishly and gloried in it. She was very effective as a voice teacher. Luella did much singing and was trained for opera roles that she performed very well.
My father, John Francis Sharp, was born to James Sharp and Elizabeth (Lizzi) Rogers Sharp on May 2, 1878, in Salt Lake City. His father James came to Utah with his father, John Sharp (who for more than 20 years was bishop of the 20th Ward), and his brothers from Klackmannonshire, Scotland.
My grandfather James was a railroad man and was instrumental, along with his father John, in bringing the railroad to the west. The driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point in Utah, where the eastern tracks met the western tracks in 1869, was a part of Utah history and a part of the history of the Sharp family. James also served the state and city for many years, first in the legislature and then as mayor of Salt Lake in the l880’s. He was a prominent citizen. The family home on South Temple and C Street now being used as the LDS Business College, was a beautiful and stately mansion.
Father as a young man in his twenties, went to New York City to study medicine at New York University. He also studied voice with Madam Von Klenner and had a beautiful baritone voice. He sang in groups, quartets, and used his voice in many capacities. It seemed to be an outlet from the rigors of his medical studies. Luella and John met and fell in love and after a brief courtship they came back to Utah to meet each other’s families. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on September 18, 1903. They then returned to New York where Father obtained his M.D. degree and served his internship at Bellview Hospital.
Two children were born to them in New York, a son, Klenner on June 23, 1904, and a daughter, Marion on May 2, 1906. Klenner was named after Madam Von Klemer, but all through his life he carried the delicate nickname of Klink. So when we children referred to the Madam it was always "Madam Von Klink” much to my dear mother’s distress. Eventually she t too, became used to our joking about the Madam and joined us in our laughter and fun.
John and Luella returned to Salt Lake City in June of 1907, and Father began his medical practice. They settled in a little house on south State Street and 33rd South, right next to the big Granite Stake Tabernacle. My brother Harlow Brooks Sharp (nicknamed Bones) was born there on March 29, 1907. He was named after a famous physician and surgeon, Dr. Harlow Brooks, who played a vital part in my father’s medical education and was always a good friend of the family. When Dr. Brooks would come to Salt Lake to visit us, it was a big event. He would get the red carpet treatment, as much as we could afford it. When he came with his wife and daughter Ruth. We girls became quite friendly with Ruth, and we still correspond occasionally.
I was born next on February 27, 1912, and was named after my grandmother, Martha Bronson Ferrin. I have carried that name proudly all my life. Grandma made quite a bit of me, her namesake. I never knew my grandfather who died the same year Mother and Dad were married and were living in New York. In 1904 people were not able to travel back and forth as easily and quickly as they do now, so consequently my mother was unable to come home to her father’s funeral. Father also suffered the loss of his father in 1903, so they both came home to widowed mothers when they returned to Salt Lake in 1907.
Gill Richards Sharp (nicknamed Pint) was born February 6, 1914, and was also named after a prominent physician in Salt Lake, a colleague of my father. In fact, Dr. Richards delivered all of the Sharp children who were born in Salt Lake and I think my dad delivered all of the Richards children. They traded services all the time.
All these years Father worked out of home in caring for the sick and delivering babies. The only thing I remember about it was that he used to have to go out in the middle of the night, take the horse and buggy, and go to take care of a patient. He worked very hard. Then came the war years of World War I. and Father of course, had to go. He served as Chief Medical Officer and trained and served in many of the Anny camps in the United States. Eventually he went overseas and served with the troops in France from 1917 to 1919.
John Ferrin Sharp was born on January 13, 1917, after Dad went overseas, and was named after Father. By this time the family had outgrown the small house on State street, and Mother, in Father’s absence, bought a home to accommodate us all at 770 Ashton Avenue. I was about six at the time and all my childhood memories are connected with that house. It was a lovely two-story house with lots of rooms and stairs to play on. Father was delighted with the house after his return from France in 1919. We hung big signs on the porch of the new house to welcome him home after the Armistice and we were so glad to have him home again. He was a stern but loving father, and we had many good times. He would take us on hunting trips, which he enjoyed very much, and we’d all shoot rabbits or ducks, pheasants, or other game. Camping in those days was not easy, but we had so much fun it was worth it. Many a time we would be soaking wet or almost freezing, but we went along in good spirits and eventually returned to our home where it was warm and dry.
On my eighth birthday I received a very special present–a tiny baby sister. Luella was born on February 27, 1920. She weighed only five pounds and was the littlest baby we had ever seen, and so she was called Petite, one of the French words Dad had learned. She was a dear little girl and I claimed her as my own. She was just like a little live doll to us all. Then Byron James Sharp (nicknamed Barney) was born on October 13, 1921. He was a dear little boy we all loved, and he completed our family of eight children.
Dad’s medical practice flourished again, and he established offices with three other doctors in the Deseret Bank Building. He was very busy and he was known as the best surgeon in the west. Many doctors called on him to do delicate or complicated surgery on their patients. He saved many lives, delivered hundreds of babies, set broken bones, and did just about everything. He was Chief of Medical staff at the L.D.S. Hospital for many years. His two older brothers became doctors, following in his footsteps. At one time they set up offices together in the new Medical Arts Building, but eventually the boys moved to Fresno California where they set up their own practices.
During all these years Mother pursued her musical career as much as possible. When her oldest children were small she was able to do quite a bit of performing. She was a part of the Salt Lake Opera Company and took leading roles on the stage of the old Salt Lake Theater. This famous opera house of the west was located on First South and State Street. It was the meeting place of the elite of the western states at that time and was a beautiful structure which served Salt Lake and Utah very well for many years. Visiting artists would come to perform there, and I remember going with Mother and Dad to attend some of these outstanding events.
For a number of years my mother was soloist for the Tabernacle Choir when it was under the direction of Squire Coop. Eventually her growing family became the important thing in her life, and she had to devote more of her time to their needs. She took private students into her home, both men and women, many of whom remember her as their first voice teacher. She was a very effective teacher and started many a singer on a musical career. She also used her outstanding talent in directing and producing operas that were performed on local stages. This local opera company even traveled to other cities as well. In some of these operas and cantatas she worked in collaboration with drama coach Irma Felt Bitner, who later became my aunt when I married. Mother enjoyed working at these things.
Her pride and joy however, was a ladies chorus that she directed for many years. These ladies and girls were so devoted to her that they almost never missed a practice. She had great rapport with young people and was able to handle large groups of them. Her ladies chorus became very much in demand and was called to sing in many places, especially church meetings.
In our family we were all encouraged to develop our talents. We were all good singers and some branched out into professional work. We had a wonderful family chorus in which we all took part, even the little ones. Klink (Klenner) was a pianist, so he accompanied us, and as I developed talent on the harp, I too joined in the accompaniment. It was fun, and we really had some terrific "home nights.”
After I married and moved away from home, I produced the first and only grandchild my mother ever knew. Our second child was born in Czechoslovakia before Mother died, but she became ill and died of a heart attack on January 22, 1937 while we were living abroad. Father was left alone with four of the children still at home. World War II came along then and Father was called into the conflict again as Chief Medical Officer. This time however, the entire family was involved and all five of my brothers served in the Army and a brother-in-law served in the Navy.
After the war Father set up his medical practice again and worked at it for several years until a heart attack slowed him down and he retired from private practice, receiving a medical discharge from the armed forces as a full colonel. He had lived a full life and was well known and well respected among his colleagues, who would still come to him for advice with their medical problems. He lived with Gill, who was also alone at that time, in the big house on Ashton Avenue. Eventually he went willingly to a rest home where he was given marvelous care, until he died on September 4, 1963 at the age of 85.
My childhood was quite uneventful. I went to grade school at the Columbus School on 5th East near 27th South and I could never figure out why we had to walk so far to school. But we seemed to live through it and there was not too much to remember. My junior high school was Irving and we walked up there through Sugar House or cut through and up the railroad tracks, balancing on the tracks as we went. My best friend was Rosa Wetheral whose folks were very English. They always welcomed me into their home and I went with them occasionally on short trips and she sometimes went with us. We were very close friends all during our school years and we stood in each others’ bridal lines. Our paths haven’t crossed very often since we both married and left the neighborhood. I had other friends of my age and we had many good times together but Rosa was my closest and dearest friend. My high school years were spent at the L.D.S. High School and I graduated from that school in 1930. The school was closed the next year in 1931. What a change has come about since that school, the Deseret Gym, Barrett Hall, Smith Building, and others have been torn down. All this property is now occupied by beautiful grounds and the new high-rise Church Office Building, so far the tallest building in Salt Lake. I was active in most high school activities and loved being in the operas and plays, dance reviews and pageants at the school. I particularly enjoyed being on the swimming team, and I participated in high school swimming meets and racing and springboard diving. It was my favorite sport, and the competition was very exciting. I loved it.
In 1931 I enrolled at the University of Utah as a freshman to continue my studies there. I was mainly interested in languages and studied French and German along with the regular requirements for a college degree in the arts and sciences and was preparing to graduate with a degree in modern languages. I joined a sorority during my freshman year, Lamda Phi Lamda, and shortly after that we went national and became a part of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, one of the largest Greek organizations in the country. I participated in all the activities and social life it afforded on the campus and it really kept us all very busy. Our home on Ashton Avenue had by that time been remodeled and was a wonderful place to have parties. Some of the Kappa luncheons and formal dances were held there. It was an ideal place for dancing with an orchestra and lavish decorations. By opening up the French doors going to four large rooms (front room, dining room, sun room and library) taking up the rugs, waxing the parquet floors and moving some furniture we had a beautiful ballroom. We had many good times there, and these were some of my treasured memories of that family home. My father was particularly proud of this house because he and mother planned it this way so they could entertain their medical groups as well as other clubs and musical circles to which they belonged. It was always a very busy place and full of happy memories.
Our family was a large one and our friends always enjoyed coming to our home. Some of our M.I.A. classes and parties were held there as well. However the Forest Dale Ward building was new and was quite adequate for most of our Church activities. I was always in something, being active in Primary and later in Beehives and on up through Gleaners. We all took part in roadshows (called a merry-go-round in those days) going from ward to ward putting on our show. We put on plays and operas, and our family members always took leading parts. Having such musical parents we were all pretty good singers and pianists and I, during my college days, was a harpist. I always wanted to study something other than my sisters and brothers did, so I chose harp. I took private lessons for a long time from Marie Thompson. who was a graduate of Saint Mary’s of the Wasatch. In those days only Catholic girls played this instrument. Years later other L.D.S. girls studied harp and now there are several harpists in our church. I had taken some ballet lessons as a young girl and I enjoyed doing that also. I used to dance in church sponsored shows or operas and was asked to do the choreography in some of the productions. I did some of those things at the University too and I always loved being involved in them.
In the summer of 1932 I took a summer vacation with my sister Marion and some of our friends to a beautiful summer resort, Pinecrest, in Emigration Canyon. We had a marvelous time. It was such a beautiful place to be and we had such fun hiking, playing tennis, horse shoes, and singing around the campfire at night. There was so much to do there without spending much money which was important during those depression years. There was a young man there who directed all the fun activities at night and worked in the office during the day. His name was Wallace Felt Toronto and he had known my older brother Bones (Harlow) at the L.D.S. High School. Wally was the studentbody president and captain of the swimming team in which Bones was a favorite speed swimmer. Bones won many medals and was always the fastest swimmer of all the high schools in the state. He always took first place and was feared by all swimmers who had to compete against him. Bones was in Germany in the mission field at the time I met Wally at Pinecrest, so Wally and I had that common interest, as well as many others. He was interested in my study of the German language. Wally knew German himself, having been in the German Mission for a year before he was transferred along with five other German missionaries to Czechoslovakia to open that mission. We talked often during the week I was there. He was funny and we joked a lot, and he even broke the blisters on my fingers that I had from plucking the strings of my harp. He was interested in my playing, and we talked about it quite a bit as he was dressing my fingers.
We girls all came home from Pinecrest after having had such a wonderful time. Along about the first week in September I got a phone call from Wally who had finished the season at Pinecrest and had helped the managers, Mr. and Mrs. Sebe Chapman (owners of the Chapman bakeries) close up the resort before returning home to register for fall quarter at the U. of U. It was good to talk to him again and he invited me to go to the Peach Day celebration in Brigham City. I had never been on an all day date before, but my parents thought it was all right. They were assured that it would be fine after they met Wally that early morning when he came for me. We had a wonderful day and I had never been treated so nicely by a young man before and we enjoyed each other’s company. We visited some friends of his who lived in Brigham City, a young couple with two small children, and spent the whole day with them eating, visiting, going to various Peach Day events, which were all new to me. The carnival atmosphere was very exciting, and it all ended with a big dance at night. Driving home late after midnight we rounded a curve on the highway and witnessed an accident that was quite a shock to us both. The car had rolled over several times and some of the young people had been killed. We pulled over to help, and as other cars came along we were able to get injured and dying young people wrapped in blankets and into cars and ambulances. I held up fine while we were working there, but after we started home I began to shake. Naturally we drove home slowly because it was such a shock to us both.
Wally and I went together quite steadily after that eliminating other boyfriends and girlfriends from our dating schedules. I took him to sorority parties and he took me to the missionary fraternity parties. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple on the 15th of September, 1933 by David O. McKay, one of the Twelve Apostles. Wally continued in school, but I stopped when we got married in my junior year. He worked as a bookkeeper and office manager at the L.D.S. Hospital, and together we managed the apartment house we lived in. It was owned by the Chapmans who were great friends to us. They liked Wally and he worked for them off and on in one capacity or another until Mr. Chapman died.
The birth of our first daughter, Marian, on November 5, 1934, was a wonderful event. She was a joy to us and made a great difference in our lives. When she was a little over a year old our lives changed dramatically. Wallace Toronto was called by the First Presidency of the Church to go to Czechoslovakia to preside over the mission in which he had served as a missionary. I had just turned 24, and I felt it was a distinct honor to be included in this calling, because I would, as a mission president’s wife, have a great responsibility–not only as a leader in the auxiliary organizations, but as a mother to many missionaries. It was a sobering thought.
After much preparation, many goodbyes, a missionary farewell, and tearful partings from our parents and many relatives, we left Salt Lake in May and arrived in Prague by train on the 1st day of June 1936. We traveled by way of Nauvoo and historical places along the way. We even spent a couple of days at Niagara Falls before we boarded the S.S. America in New York. All this traveling was new to me, and Wally was wonderful to travel with, even with our small child in tow. He took us to see all the places of interest and historical sites before we sailed from New York.
We landed in Amsterdam and visited some of the cities in Holland. We also stopped in Paris and Berlin on the way to Prague. These wonderful cities were full of sights and interesting things I had never seen or imagined before. We visited with other mission presidents, and they took us to see many things. We attended meetings, also, in these wonderful places. It was my first taste of French and German outside the classroom. I’ll admit I was thoroughly confused, but the language did look and sound familiar at least, which is more than I can say about the Czech language which I had to learn from scratch. That language was something I can’t quite describe. Wally had tried to teach me a few words and phrases, but it was still very foreign to me. I worked at it, though, and I enrolled in a language class at the Berlitz school of languages, and that helped a great deal. I really studied and worked, and with the help of the Lord, I was able to learn it quite well. My pronunciation was very good, and the Czech people were quite amazed at my ability. At first I had to memorize the talks and speeches I had to give, but eventually I could do it and knew what I was talking about.
Just five months after we arrived in Czechoslovakia, however, and before I had acquired any real proficiency in the language, our second child, Bob, was born on November 28, 1936. Since the doctor spoke no English we had to use an interpreter and that made childbirth a very interesting experience. Living in a foreign country with little ability to speak the language was a real educational experience. I had a lot of things to learn about the Church too, from an organizational standpoint now where before I had been only a member. Working hand in hand with your husband is a marvelous experience, and doing the Lord’s work makes it quite special. Wally was an extremely fine executive and he worked well with people. We had lots of problems like all missions in the Church. We had to deal with the language barrier, a different people, and missionaries from all walks of life–each one with a different background, social standing, financial situation, maturity, and ability. There was always fun and teasing from some of them because the mission mother was younger than they were.
The missionary work and proselyting along with member fellowshipping was a great deal of work in itself, but this small country in Central Europe had many political problems that made missionary work and just living there a chore. Czechoslovakia, having obtained its freedom from the domination of the German Hapsburgs only twenty years earlier, was very vulnerable to pressure from surrounding countries. These typically Slavic people were different from all the others. They loved their country, their independence, and the traditions that had been suppressed in them for centuries. They enjoyed the newness of governing themselves and living as a free people. In the short span of our nearly four-year stay in this beautiful country with its ancient past, large cities, magnificent old buildings, bridges, and monuments, we saw this people reduced from a free nation to one of servitude to the Nazi Third Reich of Adolf Hitler. It was a sad thing to watch and to be a part of as we went from one political crisis to another with our little band of Saints who were looking to us for salvation.
In the summer of 1938 we were beginning to feel the squeeze of Hitler and his occupation forces. He was apparently determined to "protect" all central European countries. We could never figure out why it was necessary for him to protect us. A year before, in 1937, these crack German troops had completely overtaken Hungary and Austria and now Czechoslovakia was next on Hitler’s list. The three strong governments of England, France and Italy were supposedly our allies and promised help in case of a conflict. The Czech people were very determined that Hitler was not going to overrun them. Too recently they had broken away from the yoke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and they valued their freedom and democratic form of government which President Tomas Masaryk had won for them at the end of the first World War. Hitler’s armies were so well organized that they could take over a whole country in one day without bloodshed. By sheer numbers, his forces could sweep into a country from all sides and shackle them before a call to arms was possible.
The Czech occupation took place in two parts. First of all, the industrial area around the borders was mountainous. This was surely a natural barrier and considered safe, so a call to arms never was issued here. This area, known as the Sudetenland, was populated by about three million Germans, a minority compared to the eleven million Czechs. In a country the size of Utah, that is a lot of people. But Hitler figured he was entitled to it, so in a surprise move and without a warning this area was taken over and the Czechs were left with their mouths hanging open. All the heavy industry was lost including the Skoda arms plant. That was a prize for Hitler and a great loss to Czechoslovakia. This small country depended on that factory, as well as many others, such as the Pilzener Beer plant, Tatra automobiles, Bata shoes, glass and cut crystal and famous porcelain factories, for their livelihood. ”Made in Czechoslovakia" now became "Made in East Germany”. These "occupations" were bloodless at the impact, but as time went on, executions, false arrests, and concentration camps took care of the leaders and the artisans whose skills were lost when they died. Artistic works, hand painting, lead crystal, art work of all kinds, of which the Czechs were very proud, suddenly were replaced by mass production.
The Czechs were determined to stop Hitler who was making every effort to take over the rest of the country, so every man over the age of fifteen or sixteen who could fight went to the front. Any vehicle that could roll took fighting men to stop Hitler. A conference was called of the allies–Mussolini, Daladier from France, and Chamberlain-to meet in Munich with Hitler, but no representative from Czechoslovakia was invited. In this meeting, which came to be known as the “Munich Crisis”, the three powers “gave” the Sudentenland to Hitler which he already had, with the stipulation that he stop his aggressive movements to other countries and leave the rest of Czechoslovakia to the Czechs. A phone call from the Munich conference to President Benes of Czechoslovakia soon brought the reluctant Czech troops back from the border. They were ready to fight to the death to keep the rest of their country intact.
During this precarious time Wally sent me with 20-month-old Bob and Marion, almost four, to Switzerland to stay in the mission home with Brother and Sister Thomas E. McKay. Later Wally and all the missionaries came. The children and I remained in Switzerland for three months. Wally sent the older missionaries home and the others to England to work temporarily in a mission where they could use their native tongue. After a month Wally and Brother Moulton, the Mission secretary, went back to Prague. (All the elders were addressed by the term "brother" in our mission.) The crisis was over, but they had to be sure it was safe for us to come back. Wally returned for us and we left beautiful calm Switzerland after a delightful stay there, to go back to the uncertainty of Czechoslovakia. I was pregnant with Carol at this time, but we made it through all this and Christmas too, without too much of a problem. The missionaries came back from England and we carried on with about half our former proselyting force.
The complete Nazi occupation took place on March 15, 1939, a few days after our daughter Carol was born. She was born on March 5. 1939, in a hospital which was actually a private sanitorium owned by our fine German obstetrician, Dr. Urban. Bob also had been born there two and a half years previously. This time, however, I was able to converse in Czech with the doctor, and it seemed easier to go through childbirth without having to use an interpreter. About the 15th of March I was feeling fine except I was aware of many planes overhead. I hadn’t heard this nor the activity in the streets before. There were rumbling of every sort from vehicles large and small riding over the cobblestones, noise of people running and shouting, and even much unrest and chatter among the nurses. I inquired of a nurse the cause of all this commotion, and she answered that a surprise invasion was in progress. A phone call to Wally confirmed this news, and when he came to see me that afternoon, he assured me that everything was all right, except that we were now being ruled by the Germans. We wouldn’t have to leave the country, however, because the bloodless takeover of the country went very smoothly. Hitler’s thousands of troops had skillfully used this surprise tactic and were in complete control.
We had to make some changes in our way of living. however–not only in our personal lives but in our missionary work, too. We had to adjust to a new government, and this was difficult not only for us but for the Czechs as well, who had lived freely under a democracy for less than thirty years. With our freedom suddenly taken from us, we were always confused as to what we could and could not do. what we could and could not say, and even how or when we could worship.
The Nazi occupation forces had a way about them that was particularly terrifying. They were always showing off their military might with tanks, weapons and planes, or uniformed troops goose-stepping down Wenceslaus Square. In our own area of Bubenc on the outskirts of this enormous city, we also had a main square, “Sadova ulice” where our home was located. This was an excellent place for the military to do their exercises. One sunny morning as the marching and gun salutes were going on, five-year-old Marion and I were watching from our third-floor apartment window. Much to our horror and surprise we saw our three-year-old Bob, who was always fascinated by the soldiers, goose-stepping along side this mass of high black boots and uniforms. My heart almost failed me, but I didn’t dare go down to retrieve him for fear someone would recognize this boys cowardly mother. Fortunately, nothing came of it.
An interesting thing happened shortly after the occupation. It was in May and we were all in church on Sunday morning attending a Mothers’ Day program. The service was drawing to a close but still in progress when the back door of the meeting hall opened and in stepped a tall Nazi officer. He was very handsome in his striking white naval uniform. The congregation members and friends alike, froze in their seats. A German officer appearing as he did meant but one thing to us all–arrest and imprisonment.
After hesitating a moment or two he smiled and started walking down the center aisle toward Wally. who was sitting in his customary place at the front of the hall presiding over the meeting. Wally, being very skilled at not showing astonishment, rose and walked toward him and spoke to him in German. Happy to hear his own language, the young man shook his hand and they conversed for a moment. Unable to hear the conversation, we all sat like terrified mummies in our seats. At last, speaking now in Czech, Wally turned to us and announced that this young officer had something to say to us and would speak to us in German. Fortunately, my college German was enough for me to understand. “Brothers and sisters”, he began, "I am told that I may speak to you in German without having an interpreter because all of you speak, or at least understand, my language.”
In these small central European countries it is essential to know two or more languages, German, Russian, French and English are the ones people study in school and some become very proficient in all four.
He continued, "I am Brother Schrul from Kiel. We have a large naval base in Kiel and all young men in our country must serve. I know you are startled to see an officer of the Third Reich here in your midst. I am an elder of the church and at present am serving as president of the Y.M.M.I.A. in my branch. I have a military assignment to your beautiful city of Prague for a few months. Therefore I would like to be accepted and worship with you, if you will allow me that privilege, and if possible attend your M.I.A. meetings when my time will permit."
By now all the women were in tears and the men were nodding in approval. He then bore a fervent and convincing testimony. After a closing prayer everyone rushed up to him and amid tears and smiles shook his hand to welcome him, and spoke to him in the best German they could muster. He was a welcome visitor in our meetings and he even learned some Czech words and phrases that made him even more acceptable to our small group of saints. Once he even accompanied us, out of uniform on one of our summer outings. The young people flocked around him, and they had fun bantering back and forth in the two languages.
Now we had three small children, and the war clouds were beginning to gather around us on all sides. Everything pointed to war, not only in this small country, for the Nazi arm was reaching out to gather in all countries of Europe. The missionary work suffered as did the missionaries. Four of our fine young elders were arrested by Nazi Gestapo men and confined in Pankrac, an infamous Gestapo prison used for political prisoners of the Third Reich.
It was strange how this all happened. We were going about our normal activities in the Prague Branch, and our first awareness that anything was wrong happened on a night when I went to town on the trolley to attend M.I.A or “V.O.S.”, as it was called in Czech. I had some kind of teaching position. I think it was a small Beehive group and I had to be there early on this July night to make preparations for my class. To my great astonishment, the Y.M.C.A. hall where we always held our meetings, was locked. I had arrived apparently before the four missionaries, who were always there early to set up chairs and prepare classrooms. As our members arrived we unlocked the door and went about the business of setting up thinking our young men were delayed. Because they were always prompt, we did everything ourselves. We substituted where necessary and got by without them for they never came. I arrived home at the usual time and went directly to Wally in the office where he was working and told him of the strange thing that had happened.
The next morning after breakfast, a knock Came to the door of our flat. We lived in a large apartment that served as living quarters and mission office. Our housekeeper Marenka came into Wally’s office after answering the door, speechless. Before she could say much, a tall, handsome Gestapo agent in his immaculate black uniform stepped into the office followed by Asael Moulton, the mission secretary who was one of the four elders missing at our M.I.A. meeting. The agent informed Wally in German that the four young men were being held prisoners. This particular prisoner, he said, had some keys in his possession that the Gestapo were interested in and he had brought him to the office to see what they were for. Brother Moulton was not allowed to speak, so Wally was not able to find out when or why they had been arrested. The key to the strongbox was obviously what brought the officer to our place. It contained American dollars–and Wally had to bring it out. As Wally opened the strongbox, Brother Moulton was able somehow to distract the guard momentarily and Wally quickly slipped one bundle of large bills into a desk drawer. The rest was confiscated. We had been keeping that fund for an emergency exit from the country if it became necessary.
It was very much against the law at that time to have dollars in one’s possession for more than two weeks without converting them into crowns, and this transaction had to be done in a bank. The missionaries had been warned about this and had received strict orders not to exchange money with any individual, no matter how many crowns they were offered per dollar, or how much they pleaded. Dollars were in great demand, and one could sell them for five or six times what they were worth at the legal exchange rate. We found out later that one of the missionaries had been approached by what turned out to be an agent or stooge for the Gestapo who had arranged for a money exchange on a street corner somewhere in the city. This transaction had taken place some time before but the officers arrested him and his companion anyway. This monetary law was retroactive which made Brother Lee guilty of breaking this law. The other two missionaries in Prague usually met this pair for dinner every day. They lived in separate quarters so when these two didn’t show up the second day at the usual meeting place, brothers Bishop and Payne became concerned and went to the room brothers Lee and Moulton rented to see if they were ill. Unfortunately, their arrival coincided exactly with the Gestapo’s search of the prisoner’s room for further incriminating evidence. They too, were arrested on the spot, and all four of them landed in Pankrac, a prison I came to know well. After their arrest, every week for six weeks I would go on the streetcar carrying four bundles of clean underclothing and socks across town about an hour’s ride to the prison gates, where in a small office I would exchange my new bundles for bundles of dirty ones to take home to launder. It seemed an unusual task for a mission mother.
Now Wally’s work as an executive of a mission took on a new aspect, and he had to let the mission run on its own. He called two missionaries from out in the field to come to Prague to take over the office secretarial work and the branch, during this emergency. The work of the branch went along nicely, but we were having a visit from Joseph Fielding Smith and his new wife Jesse within a couple of weeks which made it necessary for Brother Milton Madsen and myself to make all the arrangements for a mission-wide conference. Wally, of course, was available for consultation but had no time for doing the enormous amount of detail work that such a conference entails. But things worked out nicely and the conference and Apostle Smith’s visit went very smoothly, and it made an extremely nice impression on our Saints. It was well attended and the Smiths were enthusiastically accepted and drew missionaries and members alike to them.
There was not much Wally could do at this point at Gestapo headquarters, so he was able to devote time to our visitors and members and we had an enjoyable time. President Smith was very concerned about the status of our mission in these precarious times,especially living like we were in a Nazi-occupied country with some of our boys being detained so long by the police. President Smith and Wally spent many hours together working out a method and details of evacu1ation. In fact, President Smith’s mission to Europe at that time was to prepare all missions on the continent for evacuation, if it became necessary, and work out a plan, which of course, was put into effect a few weeks later.
Our four missionaries were still Wally’s prime concern. By now he knew the reason for their arrest, and the Germans had lowered the boom so to speak, and were asking $10,000 for their release. At that time, not too long after the depression, $10,000 was a fortune, and Wally in no uncertain terms had refused their demands. Being facetious one day, Wally said, "You know, Martha, having these missionaries in trouble so long has given me a tremendous opportunity to learn more of the German language. I’m learning words and phrases that I never knew existed, especially about government and politics." He came home a week later, after a visit with the man directly in charge of our case, and said, in effect, that “I’m afraid I blew it today. I was so mad at Herr ‘so and so’ that I called him some terrible names and I don’t know what they mean!” It took an awfully lot to make Wally mad, and he usually could control his anger, but this day he didn’t. He went directly to his German dictionary to find out what those words meant. He never told me what they were, but he exclaimed, “Oh my!” and immediate1y sat down and wrote a letter of apology to Herr “so and so”. It was really quite funny and luckily it did no real harm in the long run.
Through a diplomat at the American Embassy in Prague Wally had been able to arrange a visit to the prison and was able to talk to our brethren one by one. Nothing could be accomplished. however, because an English speaking guard was with them the whole time so they couldn’t discuss their case at all. But Wally was able to see that they were all right-dirty, but shaven and cleaned up for the visit. I had sent in some apples and chocolate to them with Wally but it was all broken open to see if I’d put in a file or something. Wally came home satisfied with the visit, but he couldn’t figure out what else he could do.
Two days later he woke up and said, “Martha, I have the strange feeling that I should go down to the Gestapo office today." I said, "Well, why don’t you go?” “I’d never get in to see Mr. Bomelburg. We had to wait almost two hours in line the day before yesterday, so how could I ever get in without the American Consul’s presence today?" He dismissed the thought. Later in the morning he came out into the kitchen and said, “I can’t lose this feeling that I should go there today. What should I do? I know its useless.” I urged him to go anyway so he packed his briefcase full of favorable propaganda about Germany in Deseret News articles, Books of Mormon in German, and other things that might help him, and off he went. He came home several hours later and said, “Honey. you won’t believe what happened! I was standing in that long line of people, waiting my turn, when the guard came by and one by one eliminated the people standing in front of me. As he approached me he said “Oh, you are the man from the American Embassy–you may go right in.” I tried to hide my surprise and I didn’t think it expedient to tell him I wasn’t who he thought I was, so within a very few minutes I was sitting across the desk from the man who could say yea or nay to any request.
I talked to him for a long time and finally he said to me, “Your church is a rich church. You could pay that ten thousand with no problem at all.” I thought to myself, “You old rascal–if you can bluff me I can bluff you, so I explained the missionary program to him and how missionaries were sent $50 to $75 a month. (In those days that was a lot.) I said, “In Germany there are 150 missionaries. Figure out for yourself how much money the Church is bringing into Germany. If you don’t release my men right now. I’ll have every American missionary brought out of Germany and look at the amount of dollars you would lose for your country! This was a threat that Wally could not possible carry out, but it worked. Herr Bomelburg figured out on paper how much money that would be, then he picked up the phone and called the other agent who was directly responsible for this case and told him Mr. Toronto was coming down to his office and to release those American missionaries on his terms. We thanked the Lord for His blessings.
The missionaries were released on payment of one thousand dollars the next morning. I had a big noon meal for them, but after a diet of bread and water and soup for 44 days they couldn’t quite handle it, even though it tasted so good they overate and became ill.
We had been ordered to evacuate as soon as possible as war was imminent. The First Presidency and the American Embassy sent orders of evacuation on the same day. Wally sent me and the children ahead by train to get us safely out of the country. He stayed behind to make the necessary arrangements for the four young missionaries to get back their passports and belongings that had been taken from them by the Gestapo officers who had arrested them. The bulk of the missionaries had left the day before.
Because of the rigid money situation, anyone leaving the country was allowed to take only ten crowns with him. Ten crowns in that day amounted to about one dollar and sixty cents, which wouldn’t take us very far. Our train tickets were paid for, but Wally was reluctant to let missionaries do anything further to break the monetary law, so they took only the amount allowed. All had been advised by Wally and President Smith, when he talked to them during our conference, that they should keep $20 or $30 on hand without changing it to crowns for just such an emergency. So this money was left by each missionary, about 30 of them, with the mission president. Now the problem faced him of what to do with all this money, besides that which had been sent by the First Presidency to him for the evacuation. He had to get it out somehow. After much thought and prayer he came up with a solution. I didn’t like that solution because it involved me. He said, "Martha, the border guards will be less likely to suspect a woman with small children. I’m going to have you take this money for me and get it to Denmark, where we will need it to get ourselves and our missionaries home.” I was so shocked I could only reply ”Me?” After explaining the situation to me, I could see why I was the logical one to do it. In Germany the restrictions were just as bad, and I would have to cross two borders, one going in and one going out. As we boarded the train Wally slipped a roll of money to me, almost three thousand dollars. He said, “Just carry it in your coat pocket, and I’m sure nobody will look there.” We had a very fine Jewish friend who was quite concerned about me with this money and he had suggested the coat pocket instead of a purse or suitcase which was more likely to be searched.
As we found a compartment, this man was very helpful to us and took the train conductor aside and slipped him a large bill which amounted to about $10 and said to him, "When you get to the German border, please don’t disturb this woman with her small children. Here is her passport and papers for you to show the border guards.” We slept through the whole night without being disturbed. Our train was delayed because of troop trains racing to Poland, so I didn’t arrive in Berlin as early as planned to join the bulk of German missionaries leaving for Denmark.
We had some interesting experiences going from Prague to Copenhagen and we witnessed firsthand the panic that was evident in the Berlin railroad station. I was met by a young missionary, Brother Lambert, who was assigned by President Thomas E. McKay of the East German Mission to wait for me and my family as we arrived from Prague. He was to see that we transfered to the proper train and obtained a place to sit. A young woman traveling alone with two young children and a six month-old baby needed help from someone who knew his way around and knew some of the tricks in getting a place on the train amid the confusion. The pushing and crowding and screaming of those people, mostly Americans, made the confusion even greater, and the pitch of excitement grew as the train pulled in behind those tall iron gates that were strained to the limit. Brother Lambert had put me in a certain place and told me to stay there until the crowd was through the gates. I stayed in my place of refuge until the train stopped. I saw this agile young man climb the tall gate and jump down the other side. He was well down the platform before the gates were opened and the crowd surged in. The cars were full to capacity as I walked down the platform with my children and hand luggage. Each child was burdened with what he could carry, and I, with the baby, pulled along the larger suitcases. I could see Brother Lambert’s head out of a window and headed for him. He had been able to save a half compartment at the end of one of the cars so he saw me safely settled in this small cubbyhole and bade us farewell. I will be eternally grateful to him. In the confusion no one asked to see our money–only our passports.
Our trip across the arm of the North Sea between. Germany and Denmark was a source of wonder to all because we never left the train. I had never seen such a phenomenon. The train itself, with all its passenger cars was floated across the water on a ferry. On the other side the engine started up and pulled the cars onto tracks on the shore and we were merrily on our way to Copenhagen.
On the ferry, however, we were asked to show our money. Danish authorities wouldn’t let anyone in their country without enough to sustain them during their stay. All groups of missionaries coming into Denmark were vouched for by Mark Garff of the Danish Mission. I had to show my money since we were a family as did all women in the same situation. I even was asked to vouch for a woman with five children whose husband somehow had missed the train in Berlin who had no funds with her.
Our arrival in Copenhagen was wonderful. I had come to love this beautiful city because it brought back pleasant memories. Wally and I had been here the year before to attend a European Mission President’s Conference. It was a treasured experience meeting with all the other mission presidents and discussing our various problems with the Church leaders who had come from Salt Lake to advise and counsel us. We had met together two years before in Paris, in the summer of 1937. We also attended the World’s Fair that was being held in the French capitol, and it was a wondrous thing to behold. In 1938 we met in Zurich, Switzerland with much the same group. These experiences were always dear to us and we made some lasting friendships. We did a great deal of sightseeing and we grew to love these countries very much. Pre-war Europe was such a delightful place to live and to explore as we traveled from place to place. It was never the same after World War II.
In Copenhagen we were met by our missionaries who had arrived the previous day. They were happy to see us as was Mark Garff, the Danish Mission President who put us up in the mission home with his wife Gertrude and their family. Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith and his wife Jesse Evans Smith were in the mission home also. We were crowded but happy, except for the dark war clouds that no one at that time could escape. President Smith had the special assignment of directing the evacuation of the L.D.S. missionaries from Europe. Some 700 young men and women were withdrawn from the continent heading for either Denmark or Holland, where they would await passage home. No missionary nor Church authority ever flew by plane in those days, it was always by train and ship. Thus our movements were curtailed and much of our time was wasted in waiting for available space on the overcrowded conveyances. The evacuation at that time was painfully slow.
M. Douglas Wood and his wife Evelyn had arrived from Frankfurt, Germany, along with some of their missionaries, the day before my arrival. The rest of the German missionaries had made their way to Holland. The Woods, long time friends of ours, stayed in a hotel filled to capacity with other evacuees and missionaries. The whole group numbering about 350, would gather at the chapel, located next to the mission home for daily meetings, instructions and prayer. Three days went by without Wally and the four remaining elders. They were unsuccessful in making arrangements to leave the very heart of troubled Europe and get to a neutral country. We found out later that one of the elders was rearrested by the Gestapo when he and the others went to headquarters to get back their passports. Brother Payne landed back in Pankrac prison where he and the others had spent six terrible weeks wondering what their fate would be. It was a very traumatic experience for this young man, knowing that all Americans were leaving and not knowing why he was back in prison. When Wally learned of this he went to work—first, to find the reason for the arrest, and second, to effect a release. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. It seems this young missionary had the same name as a British spy who was wanted by the German police so he was always in danger of rearrest as long as he remained on the continent.
Wally, with his wisdom and guidance from the Lord, was able to get Brother Payne released into his custody, and none too soon. By this time all communications with Czechoslovakia and all central European countries had been severed. We were not able to reach him by phone or telegraph, so we all just prayed that we would get some word from them" Naturally, I was very upset over the whole thing and expressed my concern and worry to President Smith. As a group of mission leaders we met often in prayer circles and discussed the situation as it changed from day to day, watching the progress of the German army as it swept across Europe to the borders of Poland. As we expected, the day finally came when all trains, ferries, and boats made their last runs from Germany and we prayed that Wally and his four young charges would be on that last ferry as it headed for its home port. Seeing that I was very worried and getting more upset by the minute, President Smith came over to me, put his protecting arm around my shoulders and said, “Sister Toronto, this war will not start until Brother Toronto and his missionaries arrive in this land of Denmark.” As the day advanced into early evening, a telephone call came to Mark Garff at mission headquarters. It was Wally! The five of them had come out of Czechoslovakia with the British Legation on a special train that had been sent in for them, boarded the last ferry from Germany, and they were now on the coast waiting for transportation to Copenhagen. The relief and happiness felt in the mission home and among the 350 missionaries was like a dark cloud lifting to reveal sunshine. Before our five refugees were able to get to Copenhagen. England and France declared war on Germany. That was the first day of September, 1939. Indeed, the war hadn’t started as President Smith had been inspired to predict, until President Toronto and his elders were on Danish soil.
Our meeting was one of great happiness and relief. Our family was together again and all our young men were safe. My great concern at that time was for these four elders, all in their early twenties who had just been released from forty-four days in prison. Physically they suffered mostly from malnutrition and abuse. This could be cured by rest and the wonderful food that was always available in Denmark. Emotionally they were pretty well shaken up. President Smith met with them several times advising them, assuring them, and blessing them. They gained back their color eventually, and the trauma of their experience began to fade a little as we went through the mechanics of trying to get passage home. It took six weeks before we could make any arrangements, so we had to fill our time with sightseeing, visiting places of interest in the city and the surrounding area, and trying to relax after our strenuous adventure.
We seemed to be so welcome in Denmark. The Danish people were wonderful to us, and our stay in that beautiful land is a choice memory. We did what missionary work we could, and we delighted in the culture and refinement of those people. They were friendly to us and our children made friends among the children of the neighborhood and began to speak their language with them. We remarked to each other how easy it was for a child to learn a language while we had to struggle with books and grammar.
Little by little our number got smaller as groups of missionaries were able to board ships leaving for the United states. It took a long time to get all the Americans who were as anxious to get home as we were on boats and ships of all sizes that Cunnard Lines were able to provide. Eventually our turn came and we all boarded a tanker that was converted for passengers. We were willing to take anything to get home. In the ship’s cargo hold there were bunk beds stacked as high as possible and divided into women’s and men’s dormitories. Most of the passengers, including the missionaries, were located here. There were about ten staterooms on board, and we were able to get one of these for our family. The ship ordinarily carried cargo and crew with about enough staterooms to accommodate 60 passengers. On this trip there were 360 men, women and children aboard. The sanitary facilities were inadequate, and we had some problems. With only two public restrooms on the ship we willingly let missionaries, not only ours but others who had boarded in Bergen, Norway, use ours. There was a constant stream of humanity going through our stateroom, but we lived through all the inconvenience just happy to be going home.
We landed in Boston and went by train to Detroit where we picked up a Ford and drove across country. Utah and Salt Lake were a sight for sore eyes. Coming down through the mountains and seeing the lights of Salt Lake City from the mouth of Parley’s Canyon is a thrill after many years away. My beautiful mother had died in 1937 a few months after Bob was born. She had only had the opportunity to see and know one grandchild. Our daughter Marion was a wee toddler when we had left for our mission, and she knew at that time that she would not see us again. She expressed this to Wally’s mother at the railroad station after we had departed almost four years earlier. It was a shock to me to get the news of her death, too far away to get home for her final illness or funeral.
My dad lived with his two youngest children, Luella and Byron in the big house on Ashton Avenue so Wally and I and our three children moved in with them until we could get a place of our own. Wally had no job and we were in very poor financial condition. We borrowed money in order for Wally to go back to school for a masters degree. He was able to graduate in June 1940 with an M.A. in Sociology and was than able to get a job with the State Welfare. He grew in this position and others were offered to him. He progressed in his field of social work and he taught Seminary in the early mornings for many years. The adjustment of being home after a mission is a difficult one and we had to go through this period along with all the other mission presidents and missionaries. We lived for a year at home and later moved in with Wally’s parents, Albert and Etta Felt Toronto. They lived at 239 Douglas Street which was very convenient to the University of Utah. Wally walked there for his classes. Marion began first grade at the Stewart Training School, which was then located on the University campus.
Early in 1941 Wally’s dad, who was a builder and contractor, started to build our home at 2222 South 20th East. This little house became our permanent home. It was small but adequate for our family, and we moved into it shortly after our Judy was born on June 1, 1941. There was no elementary school in that area for a long time. In fact, there were very few houses and 20th East was a dirt road without sidewalks. Our ward was the Parleys Ward and we met in the very small white frame building on the corner of 21st South and 21st East. For six or seven years we met in that little building. In 1945 Wally was put in the bishopric with Jay Eldrege as bishop and Levi Thorup as the other counsellor. The building was also used a a school house and our children attended there. Later the children rode the bus to Forest School. As the community grew a new school became necessary and the Roslynn Heights School was built just down the block from us with its entrance on 20th East. That was a good day.
We lived in the Granite Stake at that time and I served on the Granite Stake Relief Society Board with Sister Hazel Tingey as Stake President for a couple of years. It was a delightful experience. Later in Parleys Ward I held positions in the Relief Society and M.I.A. but really did nothing spectacular compared with the executive work I had been doing in the mission field. My family kept me very busy and I had no help in the home as I had been used to in the Mission home in Prague. The Church was very important to me, and I had and still have a very strong testimony that has been a guiding feature in my life fer all these years. And Wally and I together tried very hard to teach our children the importance of the Church, and took them to Church, and tried very hard to bring them up right. In those days we didn’t have classes in school and Relief Society in child rearing and mother education. We faced parenthood blindly with the hope and prayer that the children would turn out all right. I’m sure I could have been a better mother if I could have had the helps that are available to young mothers nowadays.
The war gained momentum and the United states became involved on two fronts with the events of December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. Everyone was conscious of the war effort. Wally took a job at Hill Air Force Base along with his long time friend, Doug Wood. They worked in teacher training. For over a year I drove Wally every day to Sugar House to meet a carpool to take him and others to the base 30 miles away. He’d leave before light in the morning and come home after dark. It was a little hard on the family, but at least he had a good income from it and we began to recover from some of our indebtedness. Two years later Wally was asked to head the Red Cross in Utah, an important and time-consuming job during the war. It meant a nice jump in salary which helped our situation to the point that we could get along quite nicely and keep up house payments, insurance, pay doctor bills, and make our way without such a problem. We finally were able to "get on our feet." Wally kept up his Seminary teaching, which he loved. He would have liked teaching full time for he enjoyed it more than anything. He couldn’t afford to do it, however, so he taught part time. He also kept books for different firms and would work on these at night. He held three jobs at once, so he worked very hard to support his family.
Our family grew along with everything else. I had a miscarriage two years after Judy but in two more years Allen was born the day after Judy’s fourth birthday on June 2, 1945. I had a hard time carrying him. I was sick and depressed most of the time but I made it through the pregnancy and we were happy with another boy in the family. Wally was doing a terrific job with the Red Cross during the remainder of the war, and we were all happy when the conflict was finally ended in 1945. We were looking forward to getting back to a normal pace of life, but for us the Lord had other plans.
Wally and I were called in the office of the First Presidency several months after the armistice and were asked how we would feel about going back to open up the Czech mission and try to put the pieces back together for preaching the gospel again in that land. Wally had never been released from our first mission but had retained the title of Mission President all during the ten-year conflict, keeping in touch as much as possible with the Saints in that country. Of course, there was no doubt in our minds about accepting a call from the Lord.
There were some difficult problems to face. Wally would have to go on ahead of me and the family in order to find a place for us to live. It would be impossible to take a family of five children over into a European country that had been so recently ravaged by war, with no place to stay and no plans for a Mission home. The former mission home had been a rented flat, and the mission furniture had been distributed among our members when we left. The Czech people are an industrious people but rebuilding a city the size of Prague would take a few years. So after giving up his three jobs to accept the overwhelming responsibility of restoring the mission and getting him ready we all bade him farewell at the train station. Two young elders went with him and we were left at home to fend for ourselves. It was a year before he was able to find suitable quarters for us that would also serve adequately as a mission home. He wrote long weekly letters to us about his activities which he numbered to be used in his diary.
The year Wally spent in Prague was one of extreme hard work, both physically and mentally. He was an outstanding organizer and leader. He spent many hours trying to find our Church members, some of whom had become lost or moved to other countries or had been imprisoned for one reason or another. Our Jewish sister Freida, her husband and two sons had spent two years in a concentration camp and had suffered many privations. Wally eventually found where the husband, a nonmember, and the two young boys were living. He went to see them and found out that Freida was alive but in a hospital. She had suffered a great deal. Her little boys had been confined in the same camp, but the husband, non-Jewish, was in a different one. They had all been freed from the camps by the American troops as they swept through central Europe. Freida was very ill with internal problems as well as frozen feet from her experience. When she saw Wally as he came to visit her in the hospital, she cried with joy. She had never expected to see him or any missionaries again. When she was well enough to go home, she insisted that her boys be baptized into the Church. She had lost all her family during the war. Eleven of them had perished in the ovens at Auschwitz and she was the sole survivor. She always insisted that she was saved because of her beliefs and the blessings of the Lord. She lived for about four years, and she lived long enough to see her children become members. Before the war she had always saved little bits of tithing to give to the missionaries as they traveled out to her home to visit her. After her release from the concentration camp she saved what she could and gave it to Wally when he returned.
Those of our members who were of German ancestry had been either deported or were imprisoned by the Czechs. With the help of the two elders Wally distributed foodstuffs and clothing to all our people. All were in need at the end of the war, and Wally had taken a train carload of welfare supplies from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City to aid the Saints in our mission. He aided others, too, who were suffering, and several people told me after I had arrived a year later that he had practically saved their lives with his help. Many people were grateful to him and the aid they were given until they could get on their feet.
Meanwhile, at home we were getting along pretty well without husband and father. Our only income was an allowance from the Church that was used for mission presidents’ families. Our case was unique, because we were not yet in the mission field. We missed Wally very much and were very anxious to get word from him that we could come, but he had a hard time finding something suitable. He did eventually, after almost a year of searching and we began making preparations. Buying enough clothing to last three years was a major project. There was nothing available in the stores in Prague, and we had to prepare for very cold winters. I remembered how we had to dress for central European winters. Wool underwear, wool stockings, heavy coats, many sweaters–it was a lot of work to gather that much clothing, especially for five growing children.
So many things had to be done–passports and visas, papers and instructions from the First Presidency. I received a blessing from David 0. McKay, a counselor at that time, and travel instructions from Franklin J. Murdock, travel agent of the Church. We even received instructions for taking a car on the ship with us. Wally needed a car in order to do all his missionary work as well as delivering the welfare materials. During the year he had been there alone he had obtained a small “Tatra” a little car about the size of a Volkswagen and had done as well as he could with that until we were able to bring him one that the Church was sending the mission. It was a 1947 Ford Deluxe. In Europe that was quite a curiosity. Nobody had ever seen such a big automobile, and people would come over to admire it as we would go from city to city. Train travel in all European countries was very poor because American bombers had practically destroyed all means of travel and had devastated the cities during the precision bombing runs they launched along with the Royal Air Force from their bases in England during the war.
It was a real job packing, renting the house, and taking the five children on that long train ride to New York, staying in the McAlpin Hotel and feeding five youngsters in restaurants (Allen was almost two) was a curiosity to New Yorkers who tend to think of two children as a large family.
The Ford was driven across the country by two elders who were bound for the Eastern states Mission. and upon their arrival they delivered it to me with all the papers, ready to be put on board ship. They arrived with the car the day before we were to sail, so I had to find a place in the hotel garage to leave it for the night. Elder Anderson, who drove the car from Salt Lake, arranged to meet me at a certain place in the city to turn the car and keys and papers over to me so I could drive it down to the dock the next day. Little did either of us know that 32 years later this Elder Ed Anderson would be my stepson.
We boarded the S.S. America along with the car, kids and baggage the next day. We got settled in our stateroom and met four young elders who were bound for the Czech Mission with us. These were the first to come to the mission since Wally and the two other elders had arrived a year before. These young men were a great help to me during the voyage that lasted six long days. I’m a very poor sailor, so the elders and my older children had to take care of the younger ones. Bob and I were seasick all the way. Judy and Allen both had their birthdays aboard ship. Judy turned six and Allen two. They celebrated without me because I couldn’t leave my bunk. It was awful.
It was a happy day when Wally met us in Le Havre. He was so pleased to see the kids and see how they had grown. We introduced him to Elders Whipperman, Madsen, Hales, and Tippets. The elders went on by train and we waited on dock for the car. When the big crane set it down by us as we waited, Wally was pleased with what he saw. We drove to Paris that night and stayed in the French mission home and left the next morning for the journey to Prague. It was a sickening sight to see those once beautiful cities in France and Germany reduced to piles of rubble. We had to drive on roads that were nothing but makeshift trails over brick and mortar. The beautiful lighted boulevards were no more. Nothing was visible except a wall here, a staircase there, or a burned out church on the horizon. It was an experience none of us will ever forget. The highways between cities had been repaired and were, for the most part, passable. Some of our members, who had been helping get our home in shape, were there to greet us in Prague and it was a wonderful reunion–a day none of us will ever forget. Tears of gladness filled their eyes as we all embraced.
Wally had canned goods and wheat, etc., that he had put aside for the family and it was stored in the basement of the villa he had rented. The villa was a very large one-big enough to serve as our home and mission headquarters. It was three stories high, with perhaps fourteen rooms and five bathrooms, with utility rooms in the basement along with a furnace. Central heating in those countries is rare indeed and we were fortunate to have it in ours. As we visited in members homes and other places, the only heating facilities were coal stoves and large tile stoves that we called monuments. Some of these tile stoves were very handsome and held the heat for a long time. The coal for these apartments (not many people lived in single dwellings) was carried in baskets up to the fourth or fifth floors. It had to be carried every day in order to keep the rooms warm. Usually the family would live in one room in the flat during the day and would sleep in icy cold bedrooms at night under feather beds. Coal was very scarce, and they used as little as possible. Coal was rationed out, just as food was, after the war. I had never had much experience with food rationing. What little we had in the United states during the war years was child’s play compared to Europe after the war. Because we had children we were able to get milk, one quarter liter a day per child. It was about one glassful a day, which wasn’t much, but something. Each person was allowed two eggs per month, about one pound of meat, and a quarter pound of sugar, so we needed the supplies Wally had put aside. Our cooking habits had to change with the times and conditions, and we had to make do with what we had.
Feeding a family that size was problem enough, but we had as many as sixteen missionaries there at a time. Housing was critical and was almost impossible for the young men who came to our mission. They were housed and fed in our villa, learning the language, the gospel, and good proselyting methods. They stayed several months before they were sent out into the mission branches with senior companions. It was a difficult mission because of the language. Slavic languages are extremely difficult because of the unaccustomed sounds. We had to tune our ears to these odd sounds as well as twisting our tongues in an odd fashion in order for the sounds to come out right. I was fortunate to have a musical ear and was able to hear and execute the sounds as I heard them. The Czechs always said I had very good pronunciation and sounded almost like a native. I became very fluent in speaking and was able to do my church work, as well as speak in public, without too much trouble. Reading and writing in this new tongue was difficult, and I was never able to equal Wally in his knowledge of Czech. His ability in Czech as well as German was quite outstanding. We often regretted that in the U. S. we had so little opportunity to use this newly acquired skill that had meant so much to us. The children learned quickly but had difficulty at school for the first few months until they became used to speaking and learning their subjects in Czech. There was a problem with Russian, which they were required to learn. Learning a third language while not knowing Czech was almost impossible, and they were thoroughly confused for a while.
Marion, Bob and Carol started to school and weathered it through for a while. They took a lot of guff from the children their age and lots of teasing. The Czech children took delight in teaching them phrases and sayings that were not nice or were funny, then they would laugh at them when they repeated it. Bob and Carol made friends easily and were soon chatting away in Czech with the children. Bob seemed to learn quite fast and was soon playing cops and robbers with the little boys and by the time they had been in school a year they were very much at home. Carol picked up the language quicker than any of the others. The first day at school she brought a little friend home with her. They didn’t say much that made much sense in either language, but there was a communication between them that was beautiful. Carol showed her our home and her room and the things she played with, and they would nod and laugh. Each one chatted in her own language just as if they were making sense. Carol was easily at home from the first day.
Marion, on the other hand, was teased and snubbed mercilessly by the girls her age and she came home every day in tears. We made her go back to school, but she soon rebelled and wouldn’t go any more. It was then we looked into the possibility of sending her to an Embassy school where they were taught in English, and the children her age, 13 and 14, were American or British, and that worked out very well. She went every day on the streetcar, and she found her way around and was soon in the swing of it. Eventually she looked forward to each day. She made friends and had some boyfriends, even among the young fellows who came to church. They were anxious to learn English, and they taught her Czech, so her life was a little happier after that.
Judy started in the Czech school from the first grade and she loved it from the beginning. The older children took her hand and led her to school in the morning and brought her back in the afternoon, taking the full responsibility for her. Little Allen and I used to watch from the doorway as they walked across the large field they used as a shortcut. They would leave every morning with their little “taska”, or knapsack, full of books strapped to their backs. As Bob grew older he wanted to carry his books in a briefcase like the big boys. All our children made friends easily and would bring school chums home with them. Some of these friendships lasted for several years after we came back.
Little Allen, who was 11 months old when Daddy left to come to Czechoslovakia, remembered nothing of his father after a year without him and didn’t recognize him as a member of the family. To him missionaries and Daddy were all mixed up in one big glob, and he said “No!” to everything. The elders dubbed him “Little Molotov” because of his constant negative answers.
The whole family enjoyed having missionaries around all the time. Marion, especially, was in her glory. And the missionaries enjoyed living in an atmosphere of home and family. They naturally became homesick at first, but being in the mission home even made that more tolerable. Wally always had two older missionaries as assistants in the office, but the younger ones came and went shortly after they arrived from Salt Lake.
I used to go to the shopping area almost every day to get the rations we needed for our meals. Fortunately we had a refrigerator in the mission home. Even iceboxes were a rarity for the Czech people. They usually bought what they needed for one day, so no matter when we went for food, there was always a long line. We had to stand and take our turn. There was one shop for meat, another for vegetables and fruits, and still another for bread and bakery goods. If we were allowed milk and other dairy products we had to go to the “mlekarna”, or milk bar, in the neighborhood. We had one near our home, so we went there every day. We would line up with our little pails to wait our turn. The man or woman serving us would take our ration tickets, find a dipper the size of our daily allowance and submerge it into an open tub of milk that was standing on the floor. The tub was open at the top with no protection from dirt or flies. Then we would carry it home in our little pail. Most days our cook. Sister Krejci, would go for the milk early in the morning so we would have it for the children’s breakfast. The rest of us would have a regular “continental breakfast”, which consisted of "kaficko" (a black cereal coffee) with breakfast rolls or bread.
We had no butter, of course, but we used a form of jam which was a sweet, thick mixture that we called "axle grease". This we could buy locally and in bulk. It was nowhere near what we know jam to be, but it served the purpose. The breakfast rolls were very good and the black bread delicious. If we wanted butter, we had to buy it on the black market. Adults were allowed about a quarter pound a month, so we used up all our butter rations very early in the ration period. Real coffee was such a luxury in Czechoslovakia that a pound of coffee from a Care package could bring us anywhere from 50 to 70 eggs on a black market exchange. I hesitated to engage in such underhanded dealings myself, but as long as the "landlady" who lived in a basement apartment in our villa or her husband would do it for me, I closed my eyes to it. Anyway, they knew where to go and I didn’t. I became toughened to many of these things as we went along, especially after the Communists enforced countless stupid rules and regulations upon us.
The work of the Church began to take a semblance of the Czech Mission again. With more missionaries arriving at various intervals, we began to build up a work force so we could proselyte with the missionaries who had learned the language. As they grew in experience and confidence, they were sent to other parts of the mission, taking younger companions with them. We soon had branches opened up in some of the small towns and regular meetings going in the cities. As our members grew, so did the membership of the Church. We had two young sisters come as missionaries, and it was a nice change. They, of course, lived all the time in Prague at the mission home. It was a pleasure to have them there, and they became very effective in missionary work.
We held some of the auxiliary meetings in the mission home. The rooms were big enough to accommodate from 20 to 50 people as we met in M.I.A. and Relief Society. It got so that the people would come from all over the city to attend these meetings. They enjoyed them very much. We had some nice friends in the neighborhood, and they accepted us and our strange religion along with the fact that we were Americans. The kids by now had lots of friends, and we always had a houseful of children of all ages. The young adults enjoyed coming to visit with the missionaries and joined our activities. Many converts were made among this age group, and we had a very active M.I.A.
My special responsibility was the Relief Society. We had a Relief Society in each of the large branches, and we gave leadership responsibilities to our local sisters, who did very well. I had to oversee these groups and see that all went well. We carried out the programs as near as we could to the outlined lesson material and activities in the Relief Society Magazine. I sent in the reports every month to the headquarters in Salt Lake City. We had to have all the lesson material translated into the Czech language. When we had literary lessons about American authors, we substituted Czech authors and writers. We had to be very careful about our translations, because many ideas can be lost during literal translation. It was a very interesting experience, and thank goodness we had some brilliant linguists to do it for us.
All went well for two years, which gave us a chance to get the missionary work really going with much success and many converts. Mostly young people who were full of life and enthusiasm. The shadow of Communism was being felt over the country, however, and then overnight, in about January of 1948, the coup took place. We found ourselves shackled to the Communist regime. The Iron Curtain had fallen, and this fact changed our lives and our religious work considerably.
No more were we free to do as we pleased. The schools took on a different air. All was regimentation. The teachers, were all changed in the classrooms, the curriculum was taking on more Communist color, and the American children were pointed to and ridiculed. Fortunately, they were too young to realize the significance of it all, Bob rebelled, however, when he was told he had to join the “Red Pioneers” and participate in various kinds of military exercises and go from door to door to make collections of various kinds, strange remarks and theories of the new teachers were being pressed on the children, but they took it along with everything else.
Suddenly we found ourselves restricted in missionary activities. We all had to report to the secret police office and register there as aliens, giving reasons for our being in the country. We had to abide by rules and regulations that seemed very stupid to us. For instance, we had to submit a written speech to the authorities six weeks before we intended to give it in a meeting. The speech or lesson was returned to us, censored as to what we could or could not say. So we’d write it again and submit it a second time, trying to make the corrections that were suggested. Eventually, if the censorship office was satisfied, we could give it, but we always had “agents” in our meetings to see if everything went along as it should. We got used to seeing these strangers in our midst, and we welcomed them, along with all our members and friends.
One thing that was a little hard for me was the fact that we were being watched by someone all the time. There was always a pair of eyes in a neighboring house peering through a window, watching, as we’d leave the house. If we drove, there would be someone following in a car. If we walked, there was someone behind us, and as we would stop, they would stop. All of our activities were reported, so they knew every movement we made and our reasons for being in the country. It took me a while to lose the uneasiness I felt, but eventually I began looking for them as I would go out. If you live with it long enough, you do get used to it.
We had several odd experiences during the next couple of years, all related to the Communists or at least the communistic influence that was so very much in evidence. They were determined to make things as difficult for us as possible, to see if we would go away. It only made us more determined to succeed under difficult odds. Our members were threatened for coming to our meetings. Some were called into the secret police offices and told they had to spy on us and report back every week about our activities. If they refused, they were told they would lose their jobs, or their rations would be reduced, or something. As each of these members would come to Wally in tears, asking his advice, he would assure them that it didn’t matter. One way or another, they knew everything we did and said anyway. He would advise them to go along and make a report to the authorities every week, so as to satisfy them, and not endanger their lives or their families out of loyalty to him or the mission. This made them all feel much better about having to do something they detested.
It really was incredible how the secret police were able to know everything about us. Living as aliens in an Iron Curtain country made us subject to ridicule, and we carried around the delightful title of "espionage agents." It is a delicate term used to make foreigners, especially from the West and the United states in particular, feel unwanted. Actually, Czechoslovakia was a haven for communist Americans as a country of refuge. They were welcomed in Prague. I was delighted one day to find that Bob had a new playmate from an American family living in the close vicinity and going to his Czech school. His father was in Prague to teach at the Charles University, one of the oldest and most famous institutes of higher learning in all of Europe. Americans in European countries usually stick together and become close friends. These were very nice people, and they were very friendly, but their hostile attitude toward the United states and anything politically from the West indicated their communistic leanings. They had probably been invited to leave the U.S. and had found refuge and a fine teaching position in Prague. The boy’s friendship lasted for a while, but we left the country shortly which ended that relationship. Bob had many friends among the Czech boys, and one especially who became very close to him. They corresponded for a couple of years after our return until other interests took over. Marion, Judy and Carol had similar experiences, and even after many years the girls will get a letter or Christmas card from these girls, telling them about their husbands and families.
Our family had quite an influence on the Czech members. Couples, and I mean all couples, have no more than two children. Some avoid having them at all. It is understandable, too. When I became pregnant with Carol, and she was only my third child, I went to a doctor who said (and I could speak good Czech by then) “Oh, don’t give it a thought, we can take care of that easily", and proceeded to set up an abortion appointment within the week. In those days, and with my background. I was really shocked. I didn’t know such things went on, and so matter-of-factly. This doctor just assumed that it was an unwanted pregnancy. That’s the last time I went there. So now it was ten years later and I was pregnant again with my sixth.
In a foreign country, giving birth is quite an experience. Before the war, both Bob and Carol were born in a private sanitorium owned and operated by Dr. Urban, a fine German doctor. But now with David on the way, finding a doctor was a different story. We were already in the clutches of the new regime of Communism. Socialized medicine was a way of life in Prague by now. I was led, somehow, to a very fine doctor who had been to medical school in England and was fluent in the English language. He was still in private practice and had his own clinic and hospital. He was happy, almost deliriously happy, to have an American woman as a patient. On my subsequent visits to him he told me about his “free” life in England and his medical training and travels in the United States. I gathered that he was one Czech who would rather practice abroad than at home. He took very good care of me, and we were good friends, and now I can’ t even remember his name. He had given me several telephone numbers to call when I began to go into labor.
We had been on a day-long trip into the country, and it was beautiful in July. Our 1947 Ford was doing us very well, and we enjoyed going to the country in the summer because we would always visit castles that were located in the rolling hills around Prague. All the old kings and rulers built their castles on the top of a hill, usually overlooking a river. It was always a thrill to visit these places that were hundreds of years old and had been turned into tourist attractions. There was usually a restaurant, either in the castle or nearby, and we would have a delightful meal there before driving back into Prague. This particular day Wally had taken me alone. We could always leave the children at home with Sister Krejci, who lived with us and did the cooking, so they and the missionaries were well taken care of in our absence. I was miserable, of course, in my last days and overtime at that, and Wally was doing everything in his power to help me.
As we drove along on the cobblestone highway (they were always made of cobblestones as we approached the cities and towns, but out where a car could travel fast they were smooth). I began to go into labor. It was late when we drove into Prague, and I immediately called the doctor. He was nowhere to be found. I called all the numbers, but no doctor. I was considering going straight to his hospital, but my labor slowed down and stopped so we went to bed. Next morning the contractions started again, and I tried the doctor’s office. This time he answered and said, “Oh! Mrs. Toronto, I’m so glad you could reach me while I’m back in the office.” I said, “Back in the office!?” Then he told me he had been arrested by the secret police and was being detained, and that his nice little hospital had been confiscated and would eventually be run by the state like everything else. The secret police had allowed him to come to his office for a few hours, and he was going to call me. He had made arrangements with a colleague of his to deliver me when the time came. I said “It’s now” and I described my condition to him. He told me the name of the doctor and to call him at the Vynohradska Nemocnice, the general hospital that was in our part of town. He apologized, and I told him I understood, and I wished him Godspeed and courage. He sighed and thanked me. He knew I understood, and I never did find out what ever happened to him.
We called the other doctor at the hospital and made arrangements to be admitted. We went through the admitting procedure, and we had to wait for about an hour, so Wally and I walked around the hospital grounds on this beautiful July morning. We stopped every five minutes to have "our pains" as Wally called them. “Our pains” became more frequent and stronger, so we went inside so they could prepare me for delivery, and they sent Wally home. The doctor was very nice and was surprised that an American woman could speak Czech so well. Most foreigners don’t even try to learn this difficult language. In a delivery gown and slippers I was told to go to a certain room and walk around until I felt the baby coming, so I joined three or four other women who were doing the same thing. We weren’t allowed to get into bed but endured our labor standing up, or we could get down on our hands and knees if it helped. There was a nurse in attendance who did nothing but watch us and would call our doctor when she thought it was time.
I endured my labor very well; the Lord was really blessing me and answering the prayers and administrations that had been pronounced on my head. I told her I thought it was time. She said she thought it was too soon–I guess I wasn’t screaming enough. Some of those women were really suffering and screaming and cursing the Lord or the devil or their husbands or anyone they could think of who was responsible for their misery. I went to the nurse again, and I said, “I’m sure the baby is coming!” She casually helped me onto a high table to examine me and exclaimed “ Jesus Maria!” (the Czechs’ favorite swear words) and ran to the phone. She helped me to a delivery table in the next room. The doctor came and I asked if I could have a little gas or something to help me through the birth (I had been given anesthesia by my German doctor for Bob and Carol), but this was a new ballgame. I lived through it, however, and the doctor congratulated me on the beautiful baby boy I had delivered. David was a beautiful baby with lots of dark curly hair. The rest of the hospital stay and my recovery were uneventful, but I was glad to get home to my family. I realized that my recovery was much quicker and less complicated by not having had anesthetic during birth than other recovery periods I had gone through before. The birth was one I shall always remember, though, because I had never felt such excruciating pain in my life. But I thank the Lord for the wonderful family we have, and am sorry Wally didn’t live long enough to know and enjoy the numerous grandchildren that have enlarged our family.
Missionary work was being hampered more and more by the new regime that had promised greater freedom, equality, job opportunities, more food, greater luxuries, and so on. That all turned out to be a great joke. Job opportunities turned out to be a form of forced labor. Everyone had to work. Men, women, and children all went into the labor force. There was no other way. In order for a family to keep body and soul together, employment of each member was necessary to pay rent and buy food which was even more scarce than before. Their clothing had to be remade more than once because materials were not available. The economy was based mostly on export and the goods and clothing, shoes, nylons, sweaters, dress and suit materials were manufactured in abundance, but they were not available to the Czech people. They could buy these things in an export store, but only if they had either dollars or English pounds. The Czech people didn’t have such connections. A rich relative in America or England was necessary for them, if they wanted to purchase export items. So, naturally, these beautiful things in shop windows were nothing but decorations as far as the common people were concerned. Food became so expensive that it was impossible to buy. A black market in all these things flourished. If you knew where to go and had lots of money, these luxuries were available. Bread, potatoes, baked goods were plentiful, so a starch diet was about all we lived on. Fruits and vegetables were had only once in a great while. We stood in long lines to be able to purchase a head of cabbage when some came in from Holland. This all led to severe health problems. But with the socialized medicine, health care was free after people had paid a portion of their salary each month for this care, such as it was. After David was born, they didn’t know how to charge us for the delivery because we were foreign and not a part of the socialized program. So our whole hospital bill, including delivery, was about $24.00. He was the cheapest baby weld ever had.
The missionary work really suffered. We had nothing but problems, the biggest of which was trying to keep our missionaries in the country. Eventually the accusations of espionage became intolerable. Little by little the missionaries would receive a notice of expulsion, or an invitation to leave the country within a certain time. Wally spent lots of time in the police offices asking for an extension of time. A time extension was granted in about three cases, but then came a final order, with arrest and imprisonment as an alternative. So by twos and fours our most valuable missionaries and their younger companions were expelled from the country. Younger elders finished their missions in England or the United States where they wouldn’t have to learn another language. The older ones went home with an honorable release. By the time a year had gone by, our missionary force was down to less than half. This process continued until the expulsions were coming quite often, and instead of giving a time limit of two weeks, it gradually got down to three days, and finally 24 hours. Wally was pretty disgusted but could see the writing on the wall and was advised by President McKay that he should prepare to close the mission. These were hard times for him. After four years of very concentrated effort to build up the mission to a successful and self-running organization, it had to be closed again. He organized all the branches with the Czech priesthood brethren running the larger branches, so that they could carry on in his absence, which we all thought would be temporary. The smaller branches with no or few members were closed down, since the concentration of membership was in the big cities anyway.
In the middle of all this, two of our fine missionaries in Eastern Moravia disappeared. Members of the Church there phoned Prague reporting this to Wally who packed immediately and drove out to this branch, which was very close to the Polish border. After he arrived there he found that the apartment of these two elders had been sealed up. Secret police had put their official tape around the doors and window’s making it a felony to the person breaking this seal. Wally knew, of course, that they were now being held in a Communist prison somewhere. He finally found out by devious means where they were being held, and finding that there was nothing to be done in that town or in Olomouc, the county seat, he returned to Prague to alert the American Embassy. One of our members and a priesthood holder, was a lawyer. He said, “Brother Toronto. I know these people and how they function. They would be very happy if you made an international incident out of this. That is what they want. My advice to you is to let this thing lie. If you leave it alone they will release them much sooner. If you bring the U.S. Embassy into it, they will demand ransom or some other form of blackmail.” So we did nothing. This time it worked out just as Brother Cetnik said it would.
In the meantime, all the elders who were still working out in the branches were advised to close down their activity and come to Prague. There were only 11 out of 50 left, and two who were working with Wally in the office. These two elders he had stay behind to help with closing the mission. The 11 others were sent to other assignments in the United States or were released and sent home. Then he made preparations for the family to leave. We had quite a time. It isn’t easy, even for Americans, to leave an Iron Curtain country. There were so many details- visas accompanied by photos, permission for money, written permission for luggage, even after thorough inspection by custom officials. Visas were also required to travel over all the occupied zones-British zones, French zones, and American zones– of West Germany. It was a big mess, and it had to be done, but the family had no time limit like those young elders who had been expelled. But Wally wisely anticipated his expulsion and said, "If they give me only 24 hours, I wouldn’t make it with a wife and six children and would probably end up in jail.
One day when Wally was downtown in the customs office with our trunks and heavy luggage, he got a call from the Embassy. Because he was not home I was called to the phone. Mr. Penfield, the Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, was on the phone and informed me that Mr. Abbott and Mr. Johnson were in Prague in the secret police office and had been brought from the Olomouc prison and would be released only if they could leave the country within two hours. Sister Vesela and I made phone calls to the airport, making arrangements for them to take a Swiss plane that was leaving in an hour for Zurich. Wally finally called in response to our message left at the customs office. He said, "Good. I knew it would happen this way." Still in town, he went right to the airport to meet our "prisoners" who were traveling with nothing but a passport. Their belongings were being held by the police. Mr. Penfield from the Embassy sent an official car for me so I could see the two missionaries before they boarded the plane. We sped through the narrow streets of Prague and arrived on the observation platform in time to see the two young men being escorted by secret police agents to the plane that would take them to Switzerland. Wally had bought their tickets for the night and was waiting for them in the waiting room and was able to talk to them just long enough to tell them to get in touch with the mission president in Basel. President Bloomquist, who would see to getting them home.
From my vantage point I could see them clearly. They were thin and unshaven but had not been tortured. We waved to each other, and all I could ask from that distance was if they were all right. They said yes then got on the plane, and the men who escorted them stood on the runway until the aircraft was out of sight. Wally tried to question these men, but they shrugged and said, “We are only escorts, we know nothing.” It was a relief to have that trying episode over. Wally was grateful that the Lord had answered our prayers and that these two fine but ragged young men were on their way out of the country and would soon be on their way home. At that time missionaries and mission presidents and their families were not to travel by plane. We were always supposed to travel by train or ship. This was one of the occasions when flying was expedient and extremely urgent.
Now back in the mission home we settled down to making preparations for my departure with the family. This wasn’t an easy assignment. I had to leave with the six children and again without Wally. This time I had to take them all the way home to Salt Lake. I had been ill. My nerves were shot and I was really going from day to day on nervous energy. I held up bravely, but the day before we were to leave I nearly got thrown for a loop when the secret police came to the mission home for Wally. Lots of our people had disappeared in just such a manner. Some men came to the house asking for Mr. Toronto and Wally left the dinner table as we were having our midday meal to invite them into his office. These secret police never wore a uniform like the brazen Nazi Gestapo agents in their perfect fitting black uniforms and high polished boots, but were always in plainclothes, except for their leather jackets. We couldn’t help knowing who they were–we could always spot the secret police by their leather jackets.
I felt this illness sweep over me again and went upstairs to lie down. Wally came up after a few minutes and said, "Martha, I have to go with these men. I’m sure they want to question me about the two elders who were flown out to Switzerland. I’ll be back, but in case I don’t come back, I have everything here for you. Your tickets for trains and the ship are here, and the reservations are all made. Here is the money you’ll need-crowns, dollars, and French francs. Take the children as planned tomorrow morning and get them home." He left then, and as I watched anxiously for a glimpse of him from my bedroom window, I saw below me two other men waiting outside. They encircled Wally as he emerged from the house and marched him past our cherry tree that was barely beginning to bud, to an official car that stood waiting beyond the gate. He was gone for about seven horrible hours, but he did come back that night, and we thanked the Lord. He was able to take us and all our baggage to the train station, and we left him and the two remaining missionaries and a large crowd of our sad Czech members who came to see us off. It was really sad. A second time they had to bid us farewell, not by our choosing but because of political unrest. This time they knew they would never see us again, at least not as missionaries.
It was sad for us, too. These people had meant a great deal to us, and each one presented us with a little gift as we boarded the train. These little packages were all in the form of food that we could eat on the way. It was customary to take your own food with you when traveling, since there was no such luxury as a dining car. We accepted each of these gifts of love graciously. The packages contained beautifully made Czech sandwiches, baked goods done lovingly at home, apples, and many things they could not afford nor spare from their rations. But no sacrifice was too great for the family of the mission president who had brought them the Gospel that had changed their lives. Even as we were pulling out of the station, these little bundles of goodies were handed to us through the open window by latecomers. As the train pulled out, all these people ran along side even the little friends and schoolmates of the children, throwing kisses to us as tears ran down their cheeks. The children and I were all crying, too, leaving our good friends and our Daddy. As the train gained speed and the platform came to an end, we could see them still waving as the train rounded a bend and we were out of sight. This was March 1, 1950.
Before we could settle down very much, a couple of railroad officials and a customs agent came into our compartment to check our train tickets, passports and visas. We went through this each time we came to the border town of another country or an occupied military zone. The Czech customs man not only went through our suitcases, but he opened each one of the packages we were given by our members and broke open each sandwich, roll, cake or cookie to see if anyone had handed us some contraband. Even the apples were cut up and all those beautiful gifts that were so lovingly prepared for us were left lying in a big mess on the opposite seat in the compartment. The children were all stunned as was I. We rescued what we could to save for our dinner. We really were not prepared for anything like this-it was a shock.
We pulled into Pilzen two hours later and were met by another crowd of our members, each one bearing a beautiful gift of foodstuffs and flowers. There was no way we could refuse any of these, even though we knew what would happen to them. As the train pulled out the farewell was equally as touching and emotional for us. We traveled all night to Frankfurt, then on to Paris.
We were met in Paris by Dr. James L. Barker, the mission president in France. We stayed in a hotel overnight, had dinner and breakfast there, but we were unaccustomed to eating such rich food. We had been on rations for so long that our systems couldn’t handle whole milk, cream, butter, and so many vegetables. We had to get used to eating again after being on a starch diet for almost four years. It is surprising that we were as healthy as we were.
President and Sister Barker came for us the next morning and drove us to La Havre, where we embarked on the S. S. America for the voyage to New York. Bob and Carol and I were seasick all the way. Marion and Judy, now 8 years old took care of Allen and David, who was 8 months old. We were met in New York by a delegation of missionaries who took us to the mission home and then later to the train station, where we were put on the pullman for Salt Lake. Newspaper reporters were everywhere.
We had been a source of news ever since our two missionaries had disappeared. I had thought after we left Prague that we would be rid of this problem, but in our own country it was even worse. Reporters came aboard ship when we landed, took pictures of us, asked millions of questions that I wouldn’t answer for fear of what might happen to Wally, so they made up their own. The same thing happened in Salt Lake. I was looking forward to a rest at home, but this was not possible at first. I learned, however, from my dad and other relatives upon our arrival that Wally had been expelled from the country and was now in Switzerland. It had taken us two full weeks to make the voyage home and he had in that time closed the mission and had a long story of his own to tell about that.
After we left, Wally spent his time making plans for the mission. He mew his expulsion was not far off, a matter of days. Brother Mabey and Brother Martini were still with him, but two days after I left, these two brethren, who were such a help to Wally were issued an expulsion with orders to leave in 24 hours. They had been preparing for this event and had their preliminary requirements taken care of, so they were able to leave as requested. Wally took this opportunity to write a letter to the First Presidency. There was no way he could communicate with either Salt Lake or London, and no way he could send word about our plight in this enormous prison camp of Czechoslovakia to the authorities in the outside world. He couldn’t phone, write, or wire to anyone, and if he left the country for such a purpose he would never get back in again. A letter carried by someone to be mailed in Switzerland was the only possibility. He spent all morning preparing the document in order to have it ready for the two final missionaries to take with them. A strange thing happened. He gave the letter to Brother Mabey, who was to hide it on his person to escape detection and take it over the border. Very suddenly he was inspired to take it back from him and give it to Brother Martini, who hid it under his sweater where it couldn’t be seen. As the story turned out, Brother Mabey was taken from the train, everything he had in his baggage was taken out, and he was stripped to the skin as the border guards searched for some incriminating evidence. Brother Martini was not even required to get off the train, and his baggage was left intact. We were sure then that the Lord was watching over us. All three of them could have landed in Siberia.
After these two stalwarts had left, Wally’s expulsion was delivered to him, but wonder of all wonders, he was given seven days to evacuate. This gave him time to lay plans with the local priesthood to carry on the Church work without him. He appointed and set apart men who would lead the three remaining branches of the mission, either openly or underground, as the ease would be. He made application to the regime to carry on legally, hoping that such a request would be granted. Only one brother in all of Czechoslovakia could fulfill the Communist requirements needed for a church head under present circumstances. He had no anti-Communist record and had never been in trouble with the police. I guess this was partly due to the fact that he had lived in Australia and had returned to his homeland just in time to be caught by the take-over of the country. He spoke English as well as he did Czech, as did his wife and daughter, who were also members. He was a great help to Wally and was willing to take this position if the Church were allowed to continue. Wally ordained several men to the priesthood required for such leadership and made plans with the brethren for the future without him as President.
His time of forced departure from Czechoslovakia came before this legal matter of the Church’s status could be settled. The Communists are noted for delaying such actions until too late. We had experienced this maneuver many times, so he was not surprised at the dilly-dallying of the officials. He had planned to stay in Switzerland and run the mission from there for as long as he could.
Wally’s departure from the Czech people was a sad one. This time they all knew that they would never see him again and have the leadership and inspiration that he was loved and appreciated for. He drove the 1947 Ford out and arrived in Basel, Switzerland where he stayed for a month. After his arrival he kept in constant touch either by phone or telegram, with the leaders he had left in Prague. Eventually he was informed by them that the request he had made of the government that they recognize the Church was denied. Instead. they had liquidated the L.D.S. Church in Czechoslovakia. So he instructed them to take the alternate plan they had discussed. So from then on the Church went underground. Wally stayed on in Basel hoping he could run things from there. He found he could do it just as well from Salt Lake City, however, so he came home. He was never released as President of the Czech Mission.
At home, meanwhile, I was able to get the children in school. The two small boys had come home with infections in their ears. My dad and brother Pint helped me very much. Pint would take the boys to the ear doctor for their treatments. It was not too many days until I collapsed. Dr. Louis Moench was our neighbor, and he was called in to see what my trouble was. I was very weak, and the first thing he asked was, “How long has it been since you had a night’s sleep?” I answered “About three months.” He replied, “Well, we’ll take care of that! You have a severe case of nervous exhaustion.” So from then on I knew nothing of what went on around me for about three weeks. I was not hospitalized but was kept under sedation and slept the whole time, except to be awakened for food. I don’t know who took care of my family. Marion was very capable and directed the housekeeping and cooking, and when she was at school someone from Wally’s family or my family or the Relief Society was there when I woke up. Then I had another shot and went to sleep again. I was really out of it.
I did recover and was on my feet by the time Wally came home two months later. My sickness took its toll, and it took ten years for my nerves to heal. But I did get better, and life went on the same, with family problems, which are always present, and finances. The adjustment and trying to make a living were as hard this second time as the first. We did have our home to come to. Wally’s sister Helen and her family rented the house while we were away. It had been vacated so we could move right in. It needed repair badly and it took a while to get it back in shape, but I was so glad to have a home to come home to. Wally worked at three jobs again the first year–teaching Seminary was one of them. He always enjoyed teaching and wished he could make a living at it. A year later he was offered the directorship of the Utah Division of the American Cancer Society with a fine salary. This saved our lives, and we were able to make it nicely and gradually payoff some of our indebtedness.
We both held important Church jobs in the ward. I was made president of the Y.W.M.I.A. and Wally was on the General Board of the M.I.A. and held that position for about 15 years. The children were growing up now and were in my mutual. I directed a roadshow almost every year and my teenagers were always in these productions. We even won first prize for one of them. My health was not as good as it had been in my younger years. I was in my forties now, and my life had been pretty full.
On June 10, 1953, we had our first wedding. Marion married Vern Miller, one of the fine young missionaries who had served in the Czech Mission with us. He was one of the first group to be expelled from Czechoslovakia and had finished his last year in England. Marion was only sixteen when he came to see us and he talked to Wally about Marion. Wally told him to continue his schooling at B.Y.U. and let Marion finish high school. So after two years they were married in the Temple. Marion was only 18 but seemed mature enough to handle marriage.
Bob left on his mission to Samoa in January of 1957. Carol was married to Eugene Davis on June 24, 1957 at the age of 18. Judy married Donald R. Richards on March 17, 1961, when she was 20 years old. Bob continued his education on his return from Samoa. I myself delivered a stillborn girl in 1954, shortly after Marion’s first girl, Leslie, was born. We would have had a daughter and granddaughter of the same age. My father, Dr. Sharp, died on September 4, 1963.
During this time I also had a regret within myself because I couldn’t play my harp any more. We had decided before Wally left alone for Europe in 1946 that we would leave the bulky instrument at home that time. We had had some difficulties with it on our first trip over, even though I had used it a great deal and spent as much time as possible in practice. It was still a big burden to pack in its case and move and ship from one place to another after we got over there. Our members and friends were enthralled with my playing, and the missionaries thought I must be an angel, except for the two husky fellows that were assigned to move the harp from place to place. Even Wally joked about it. He was proud of me, and in the same breath would quip, “My next wife is going to play a flute.”
In the early summer of 1939 I was asked by Mark B. Garff, the Danish mission president, to play in a musical concert in Copenhagen. Two of the other European mission presidents’ wives were also Musicians—Claire Murdock (wife of Dutch mission president Franklin J. Murdock) was a beautiful singer, and Virginia Larsen (wife of Swedish mission president Gustave "Gus" Larsen) was a concert pianist. The three of us did a concert for the Danish church members, friends, investigators, and all mission presidents of the European countries. President Garff had arranged to borrow a harp from a woman who played in the symphony in that city, so the problem of moving my instrument was not involved. It was very nice to have one already there to practice on for several days and to perform on during the concert. We were a big success and our concert was a highlight of the five-day conference, and Wally and I enjoyed our trip.
I loved performing and did quite a bit of it, even after our return home and during the war years. But on our return after the second mission my harp had been broken and was not repairable. We were in no position to buy a new one and my illness had taken away any desire I had to take it up again. So I lost my talent, and I have regretted it many times since.
The President of the Church, David O. McKay, had been urging Wally to try for a visa into Czechoslovakia. We tried several times to obtain permission from the Czech government to enter the country, not as church officials or ministers but as tourists. There was no way we could get a visa. Wally’s name was too well known as an “espionage agent” from the United States and they were not about to let him into the country again.
In the summer of 1963 Wally was assigned to travel to Northern Europe and Germany with the General Board of the Mutual Improvement Association to hold a series of conventions. It was very exciting, and the Board members could take their wives, so I went along and we had a marvelous time. We were gone for three weeks, and we left our boys to take care of themselves. Bob was 28 and was still home and going to the University, and they got along very well. We had arranged with President McKay that we would make another application for a visa into Czechoslovakia from Switzerland when we landed in Zurich. It was much easier now traveling by plane, than it was in 1950 when we crossed the ocean by ship and land by train. In fact, it was quite enjoyable. We made the application and request at the Embassy in Zurich, hoping that coming from Switzerland the Czechs might not recognize us as the same ones who had been “bugging” them from the United States. We could not stay in Zurich for two weeks for the answer, so we requested that they send our visa to Helsinki, Finland, where we would be two weeks later. Then we went about our Church business, holding conferences in Switzerland, then Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. At this point we were going to leave the group to fly to Prague and there meet with our members for three days. We had all our reservations for hotels and plane travel was paid in advance, which was a requirement of the Czech government. We were to join our convention group again in Frankfurt, Germany to continue our tour of Germany with them. Wally and I were very excited about the prospects of seeing our people again. We could hardly sleep nights with the excitement and anticipation.
Our conferences went as planned, and it was hard to believe that so much progress had been made in the European missions. There were now wards and stakes, all manned and directed by local priesthood brethren. The organizations were run entirely by capable church members, men and women who were devoted to their positions, and there was not the problem of language. In our day, missionaries had to do everything from leading the singing to teaching Relief Society lessons. So, now, besides regular general sessions in the stake or mission of the cities we visited, there were meetings all day long with different groups of M.I.A. leaders. Wally again had the exciting opportunity of teaching and speaking in the German language, and it was a thrill for him. In the Scandinavian countries it was all done through translators. Even I spoke a time or two, and it was exciting. We met lots of missionaries, some of whom we knew, or knew their parents, and it was marvelous. We enjoyed Scandinavia and Finland very much. It was all different from continental Europe and very beautiful. We saw many new things and had some new experiences that were wonderful and very spiritual. We saw famous landmarks that we had seen only in textbooks, and it was a great thrill.
In Finland, the day arrived when we were to go to the Czech Embassy in Helsinki. The mission president drove us quite a distance up onto a high hill that overlooked the city, the terrain, the ocean shore, and lakes surrounded by green lawns and foliage. Even in November flowers were everywhere, and we learned that the gulf stream kept these northern countries warm and comfortable late in the year until snow came in January. The Czech Embassy was up in a very exclusive neighborhood among beautiful mansions. We went into a three-story villa that served as embassy and living quarters for the Czechs who lived there and staffed the offices of the ambassador. We were treated with great respect and politeness, and the staff members we talked to were amazed that we spoke their language so well. Be that as it may, we were politely refused a visa into Czechoslovakia for about the ninth time. We emerged with very heavy hearts because we had anticipated such a glorious reunion in Prague with our brothers and sisters who were also anticipating our visit to them. Disappointed beyond description, we returned to our group to continue back to Germany where we spent another week in conferences with the German saints. These three weeks were an outstanding experience, one we would remember for many years to come. In each city, where large groups of saints had gathered from surrounding areas, we would hold three or four meetings a day. We always ended these conferences with a general session that included everyone in the stake or mission. Everyone came, including children. These traveling auxiliary sessions were probably a forerunner of the present-day area conferences that are taken out to our people all over the world.
We felt very good about our trip. A great sense of accomplishment always accompanied us when we were working full-time for the Lord. We seemed to feel His spirit and protection going right along as we met with these wonderful and capable leaders of the Church in foreign lands. One of the most amazing things for Wally and me was to see how the large cities on the European continent had been rebuilt during the thirteen years that had passed since our last visit to any of these countries, especially Germany. Cities that had been nothing but piles of rubble were now beautiful. Germany was no longer a place where people lived in dugouts or basements. In fact, immediately after the war, as we drove through Munich and Frankfurt we could not imagine where all the people that were on the streets in the daytime went at nights. Where did they live? What did they eat? Now there was no sign of any destruction. We saw beautiful buildings, wide, well-lighted streets, and Hitler’s famous "autobahn" system that had survived the war. We were both simply amazed that such complete destruction could be restored and even enhanced by the industrious and "bull-headed" German people. They are really an amazing race.
Berlin, of course, was and still is a divided city. In West Berlin there is only prosperity and beauty. Restoration of the city was impossible– every church, opera house, high-rise apartment, office building and shopping mall is new. All the ancient tourist attractions—castles, churches, and other historical sights, of which the Germans were very proud, are no more. In place of these is the Berlin Wall. That is the tourist attraction in that city, and a gruesome sight it is. All the old feelings of depression and fear came over me as we looked at that high wall with barbed wire strung over the top to keep people from escaping. Armed Russian guards in familiar uniforms were patrolling the gates and lookouts. Beyond the wall the destruction was very visible. The Brandenburg Gate led to what was once the most famous boulevard in Berlin, the "unter den Linden." It had been lined with the linden trees that gave it its name, sidewalk cafes. elegant shops and exclusive hotels, with flowers everywhere. The only thing left now was the remains of the “Brandenburger Tur” and parts of statues that had graced the gardens now overrun with weeds. It was a sickening sight. East and West Berlin were as night and day. Some of our group went through checkpoint Charlie on a bus to visit the other side and thought it would be very exciting. Wally and I declined the invitation. One look at our passports and a quick check with the "black book" and we could have been detained for some time. Wally’s name usually headed the list of wanted criminals. Each one of our group that took that tour came to us later, and one by one would talk to us and would invariably say, “There is a feeling over there that comes over you. What is it?" We knew that feeling of oppression very well, and I’m glad we didn’t go over. We were happy to fly back to Frankfurt where we boarded a huge DC8 for our flight back to New York.
We stayed in New York overnight to catch up on the jet lag everyone feels when making such a long flight. It was a funny feeling, and we felt it every time we went to Europe. One day in New York didn’t make that much difference; we still had our days and nights mixed up. It took me about a week to straighten out.
We came home to our family and found that Bob, after getting his degree in Chemistry, had quit his job at the county hospital and had decided to go to graduate school. He couldn’t stand to be cooped up in a laboratory all day. He said it was driving him "up the wall." The decision had already been made, so we just shook our heads in wonderment. Wally and Bob argued a lot, and this decision he’d made brought on quite a scene. He had a job to put him through school, however, and it turned out for the best anyway. He got his Masters degree in psychology, and he later went to the University of Michigan where they had an outstanding Ph.D. program in this field.
A year later our son Allen, after graduating from high school and spending six months in Army Reserve basic training, left on his mission to Chile on September 11, 1964. By this time the Church had established a language school, and missionaries going to foreign missions spent the first three months of their missions in Provo. B.Y.U. had turned one of their buildings into a school for missionaries where they learned not only the language of their mission but the skills of proselyting. It was a wonderful innovation for missionary work, because missionaries came to their fields of labor better prepared and more mature. Allen’s language training in Spanish has been invaluable to him in his schooling and in the field of speech pathology which he has chosen for his life’s work.
About this time a series of events brought about another opportunity to Wally and me that turned out to be even more exciting and rewarding than any other spiritual experience we’d had so far. Our lives had been very full already, and this new development topped it off. Sister Vesela, who had been Wally’s personal secretary in Prague and had been invaluable to him because of her fluency in both languages, was in Salt Lake. She was able to come here because of an invitation from her sister to visit for three months. Her sister, who had married Joe Roubicek, a young man who had acted as mission president during the war years and had kept the mission together as much as possible had lived in Midvale since 1949. He and his family were some of the very few who have ever left a Communist country legally. They waited a long time, two years, for permission and visas. This new regime was reluctant to let young and strong people leave the country and avoided it at all costs. The Lord was on their side, because this was a most unusual situation.
Sister Vesela’s stay was almost over when Wally was able to fulfill her most heartfelt request–a visit with President David O. McKay, where she received a blessing from him. Wally and I were with her when this glorious event took place, and she was on cloud nine to say the least. “Now I can die happy.” she said, “This is the highlight of my life!” As we were talking to President McKay, he asked Wally, "How is it that this woman can get out of the country and visit here for three months?” Wally took time to explain to him that Czechoslovakia at this particular time was on the brink of economic ruin. “They will do anything to get foreign exchange. Their whole economy at this time depends on money from other countries. English pounds and American dollars are particularly sought after because of their stability on the economic market. This woman’s fare was paid, in dollars, to the travel bureau in Prague, not only one way, but her return fare also. They haven’t softened their hearts any-they just want money, and at this particular time they are encouraging tourists from anywhere to come and spend money in their country.” This gave the Church president something to think about. He pondered the situation for a few minutes, then asked, “Brother Toronto! If this is the case, why would they refuse you a visa into that country?” Wally answered, "President McKay, I am still considered a threat to the peace and security of that nation, and money or not, I don’t think they would let me in, not with my record. In their eyes I am still the leader of a spy ring and they are not about to let me do it again.”
President McKay replied, “Our members need you at this time. They have been carrying on underground long enough. They need the authority of their mission president. I advise that you and Sister Toronto go home, make application again, and if its the Lord’ s will, He will open the way. If you get a visa, we will send you as soon as you can get ready.” We were stunned. After nine unsuccessful attempts, we would try again. So we went home and halfheartedly went through the routine of getting passports. We sent them off through proper channels to the Czech Embassy for a visa. We made no plans, nor did we anticipate any journey. We had done this too many times to get excited about it. We waited just a week. The passports came back, and lo and behold, they had granted us a visa for 15 days in Czechoslovakia. We nearly exploded with excitement and we could not contain our joy. We knew what might be in store for us, and we anticipated the worst, knowing that our visit would really cause a stir, especially among the secret police. We could be held on the border, put in jail, or be picked up by the police any time during our stay.
We had mixed feelings. Our first step was to get in touch with President McKay, who was unavailable at the time but called us back the same afternoon. He asked us to come in so we could make definite arrangements for our journey. There was much involved and many preparations to be made. It was shortly before Christmas, so besides preparing for a trip we had to finish our shopping, wrapping, baking, and everything involved with Christmas. Our family was getting bigger all the time. We had 12 grandchildren by now, but Judy and Don with their two girls lived in Nashville, Tennessee, so they were missing from our happy throng. There was much to do, and besides all this I was trying to study Czech from a grammar book to freshen up on the language which after fifteen years had become a little rusty. I wasn’t getting very far with it, however. Wally was working at it, too, besides making arrangements to take off three or four weeks from the Cancer Society.
At this time I was serving as a guide at the Beehive House, a tourist attraction in Salt Lake. It had been restored a few years before to its original state when Brigham Young had lived there with some of his wives. It was an interesting job, and I liked doing it. I enjoy meeting people and doing volunteer work and had even been a pink lady at the LDS Hospital for several years. I had to arrange with Jean Dunn, who was in charge of this beautiful house, to take a month off. She said, “Gladly, if you tell us all about it when you come home.” I promised that I would.
Just before Christmas we were in the President’s office for instructions and inspiration. Two of the presidency were there–President McKay and Hugh B. Brown, our very good friend who had also served as mission president in England during our first mission. President McKay assured Wally that this call was from the Lord and that we would be blessed going behind the Iron Curtain into the land that had so unceremoniously expelled him as an undesirable character. He asked then if there was anything more that they could do for us before our departure. Wally said. "Yes, we need a blessing. We need much courage and strength for this assignment." President McKay responded quickly, “That you do.” Whereupon, we sat, in turn, on the chair that he indicated, and with the two sets of hands laid on our heads, we were given blessings that meant so very much to us.
President McKay blessed Wally that he would have the inspiration of the Lord in doing what was needed for the good of the mission and necessary for the morale of our members who were by this time feeling the oppression and discouragement of a downtrodden people. He blessed him that we would go safely into the country and come back out without bodily harm or be unduly detained. He set him apart once again as President of the Czechoslovakian Mission and told him that we would travel safely by land, sea and air to accomplish the desires of his heart. “Satan himself is at the head of the vicious men who banished you from Czechoslovakia.” We read this blessing over and over. We took it with us, and as we would read it over, it gave us courage. Indeed, we were both blessed with the spirit of discernment, and the way was opened to us in the face of many odds.
President Hugh B. Brown gave me a beautiful blessing then. We had discussed this new challenge quite thoroughly as we had visited with them. He knew how frightened I was–how apprehensive we both were–and especially apprehensive about my ability to speak the language after fifteen years absence. Trying to study it had led me nowhere. Too many other things had taken precedence. Now, with the hands of this powerful pair on my head, I felt strength flow through me, and much of the uneasiness I had been feeling left me. Excitement and anticipation of this calling and the spirit of the Lord overcame any negative feelings I had been harboring up to this time. President Brown promised me that I would have a recall of the language, that I would be able to speak and understand."
With these words of encouragement we continued with our packing and enjoyed a wonderful Christmas. After Christmas dinner with our family, married children and their little ones, Aunt Marion and Uncle Pint, we went to the airport. Bob and David would be home by themselves. Allen was in Chile in the mission field, so the two boys would be taking care of each other. Marion and Carol both lived in Salt Lake and would be checking on the boys in our absence. We boarded the plane in late afternoon and landed in New York about midnight. I couldn’t believe what we saw. There was no one to be seen. The streets were empty–no cars, cabs, or trucks, no people, no busses. New York on Christmas night was like a deserted city. Christmas lights were everywhere giving a holiday atmosphere, but everyone was at home with family. The cab we took from the airport was the only moving thing on the quiet gaily-lighted street. In the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria there was one man behind the desk and one bellboy. We must have been the only ones in that huge hotel that night. The clerk said we could have our choice of rooms. We asked him if Christmas was always like this. He said. “Everyone goes home. Nobody stays in the city unless they have to.” One more couple had come in just before we did, so that was the size of the occupancy that night. In the morning the hustle and bustle resumed, and the street noises were all back to normal. Our plane wasn’t to leave until evening, so we spent the day sightseeing and taking pictures. We boarded the plane at 7 p.m. expecting to spend a long night in the air. We were served supper and settled down in our seats. About midnight by our time we were awakened by a stewardess who told us it was morning and we would be landing in Frankfurt in an hour. They served us breakfast and we landed in that very familiar airport. We went by car to the Hotel International, an enormous modern hotel where everything was new and elegant. We had stayed there on our previous trip with the M.I.A. almost two years before.
Everyone spoke English, even the bellboys, and we had no feeling of being in a foreign country at all. We got settled in our room overlooking the Rhine River, which at this time of year was pretty well frozen over, and the usual activity of tugs and barges was at a Minimum. Two German missionaries came for us and we were taken to European Mission Headquarters of the Church, located in Frankfurt. President Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve was presiding over these missions at that time. Quite a different situation existed now than did when he and Wally were among the first in these countries after the war 20 years before. We needed to report to him of our visit into Czechoslovakia. He was very interested and advised us that we should report to the American Embassy, both in Frankfurt and Vienna, so they would be aware of our plans to enter that country and be on the alert in case we didn’t come out on the specified date. Our visa gave us 15 days, so our return into Austria would be on the 13th of January.
There was no American legation in Prague anymore–these people were invited to leave shortly after our departure in 1950. One representative of the U.S. government was there as required by international law, but we were not about to call attention to ourselves by visiting him. Even when we lived there 15 years earlier, we avoided being seen going there or communicating in any way with the Americans. It would have jeopardized our mission and ourselves very much. So after a short stop in Munich to visit Stan Kimball, a missionary of ours who lived there with his family, we arrived in Vienna. Austria borders Czechoslovakia on the south, and we had planned to drive a car through the small border town and on into Brno, our second-largest branch. We rented a car, visited the Embassy to report our visit there, and started on our way. I was still very apprehensive about entering the country. Wally assured me that the Lord had opened the way for us and that He had a mission for us to perform in this country, and He was going with us. I thought of President Brown’s blessing, that "We seal upon you the blessing of peace, tranquility and confidence. May you both be wise under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Take no action that would bring any condemnation or criticism from government officials, but go quietly about your work and without stirring up any ill feeling or turmoil, leave a blessing with those people and assure them that God is mindful of them.” I still felt this apprehension and nervousness up until we crossed the border into that country, and then it left me as had been promised.
As we drove across the countryside, now deep with snow and the trees bending under its burden, we drank in the beautiful winter sights. We had purchased fur-lined boots and heavy underclothing in Munich to augment what we ordinarily wore at home and had with us. We were not about to enter a country low on fuel, rationed like everything else, and extra cold, like central Europe always is in winter. As we drove through the small villages, which usually consisted of one church and a few country houses, we remarked how picturesque it all looked with the blue sky and rolling hills as background. But the tranquility of the scene soon changed as we left the Austrian border station and approached the Czech station nearly half a mile ahead of us. Wally asked me if I would pray aloud for the Lord’s blessing as we drove through this narrow strip. I did and I asked Him to soften the hearts of those men at the gates who were all armed with machine guns, and especially those in the border station who would be the final decision makers about our entering this country.
After much hesitation and examination of our passports, we were passed through the three separate gates that were lifted up like the arms of a railroad crossing as each guard, satisfied as to our identity, let us drive through. We then had to park the car and go into the building that served as the border station. As we alighted from the car we could see what they called “no man’s land”, a strip of the countryside about 100 yards wide, cleared of any buildings, boulders or forest, except for lookout towers at convenient intervals. On either side of this clearing were high entanglements of barbed wire high enough and thick enough that an escapee could not possibly get through. If he did, he took the chance of being attacked by a vicious dog or shot by one of the guards before he crossed the clearing. The whole country of Czechoslovakia was surrounded by this barrier–not to keep people out but to keep them in, as it formed an immense concentration camp. I had heard rumors of its being there, but to see it was hard evidence of the captivity of the Czech people. A new wave of fright came over me.
We went into the building and were met by uniformed officers who seemed very pleasant, and we talked to them–in English, of course. The only time we spoke Czech on this trip was with the members. We tried very hard to act like tourists. These guards were trained in different languages, so no problem arose in that respect.
We declared our valuables, cameras, typewriter and money. They were most interested in the amount of dollars we had with us. We were carrying a large amount, given to us by the First Presidency so that we could not only impress the guards, but that we might help the people in the mission. They were impressed, all right, and then took our passports into the inner office. We sat on a bench, holding hands and praying inwardly that they wouldn’t open the “black book” and see Wally’s name on the top line of “undesirable characters.” He was still considered leader of a spy ring. We were later told by our members that his picture had been displayed in post offices, movie houses, and other public places after he was expelled as being a wanted criminal. If they did look in the “black book”, they passed it over or the Lord blinded them as they looked. Perhaps the thoughts of us spending all that money was too much to let them refuse our entry. President McKay had said, “If dollars will get you in, and it is obvious that is what they want, we will give you plenty to show them.” They gave the permission, looked in the trunk of the car, but didn’t open any suitcases.
We had made sure there would be no printed matter, list of names, or church literature that would incriminate us in our attempt to enter the country. As we drove off, leaving the reminders of a police state behind us, the feelings of fear or apprehension that had been so constantly with me melted away. We joyfully thanked the Lord aloud as we drove off down the highway toward Brno, our first stop on the agenda. We drove a brand new Opel, a European car made in Germany by General Motors. It was a good car, served us well, and was quite a curiosity to the Czech people. I was surprised, too, until I realized that passenger cars in Czechoslovakia were very scarce. People didn’t have cars. It was not impossible to buy a car, but they were priced so high that no one could afford to get one, much less pay for the gasoline, about a dollar a gallon, which was a lot in 1964 and ’65. Even the Austrian license plates were looked at with curiosity.
The highways were crowded and traffic was heavy as we approached the cities, but with service vehicles and trucks. I never saw such a variety of trucks, and once you got behind a big one it was impossible to pass. The mud they threw up behind them was incredible–our windshield wipers got a good workout on a stormy day.
We approached the city which looked very familiar to us as we entered it. We searched out our hotel, a magnificent new structure that was built to impress foreign visitors. Russian dignitaries always stayed there, and every language possible was spoken. We had no trouble with English. Czech people were not allowed in the hotel, so the guests were all from other countries. And this was a place where passenger cars and taxis were much in evidence. There was no garage to leave them in, however.
We took time to get settled into our room and made it very evident that we were American tourists. From the very first day we were aware that we were being watched. We were expecting it, so we went about, our business as if these agents weren’t there. Although my great apprehension and fear had left me as we crossed the border, still, during our two weeks of traveling throughout the country, I had this feeling that comes over one in these oppressed countries. Even after fifteen years, the feeling was still there–a repression that one can’t escape or describe.
The day was approaching late afternoon by the time we emerged to get into our car and drive to the home of our branch president in this big city of Brno. We got more excited as we came into the familiar neighborhood where we had been many times before. Nobody lives in a one-family house unless they are very rich. Even Brother Vrba, with his wife and family of five children, lived in a flat. There is no front yard to any house or apartment building. From the street you enter a courtyard before you come to the door of the flat. Some of these courtyards are very elegant, with gardens, lawns, and even fountains that are not seen except by the people who live in the building. It was the 30th of December, 1964, so the courtyard was covered with snow. We saw lights in the windows not visible from the street that told us there was someone there. We were sure they knew about our coming because Sister Vesela had remained in Salt Lake after her meeting with David O. McKay until she found out about our visa, and she knew when we were planning to come. There was no other way we could inform our church leaders about our visit. Sister Vesela was the only way we could send information into that country. Sending a letter or telegram about our arrival would have been disastrous both for us and our little band of underground saints. We expected to find Brother and Sister Verba there, but not the crowd that greeted us. Still in effect was the law that no more than five people could meet in one place at the same time. We had already experienced some unpleasant encounters with the authorities on that law fifteen years earlier. These people had learned to be very clever in skirting the law if they wanted something bad enough, and this visit was important to them.
Brother Vrba answered our knock, and the joy on his face at seeing us was overwhelming. He led us into a very large room that was their dining room and living room combined. Standing in the room, expectantly, were about ten of our church members including the counselors in the branch presidency. At the sight of us, the return of their beloved mission president, tears came freely. They stood looking at us, crying with joy. I was crying along with them. We extended our arms to them and they all came at once to kiss and embrace us. Kissing on both cheeks as a greeting is a European custom and we really were overwhelmed by the cheek kissing. We all burst into conversation with everyone talking at once. It was very confusing until we sat around the table and questions were asked of us one at a time, which we answered calmly, bringing them the news they wanted as well as greetings from President McKay.
At one point in the conversation the two little boys, who had both been born after we left so many years before, asked me to tell them about the big jet that new us over the ocean. I tried to explain to them in detail what the plane was like, how big it was and how fast it flew, and how the time change made our night seem very short. They laughed and asked many questions. It was at this point that Sister Vrba said to me, "Sister Toronto, I am amazed that you haven’t forgotten your Czech. You speak as well as you did when you left.” This statement brought me up short, because up to this time I was not aware that I was speaking with them in their own language. In all the excitement and confusion of being there, my Czech had come back to me in a miraculous manner. This blessing stayed with me, and Wally too, as we went about the Lord’s business in our mission. And from the beginning we had the feeling that the Lord had a particular reason for our being there.
We learned many things that day, all about the living conditions and problems in this part of the mission, about our members and those who were still faithful, and many other things that were pertinent to our visit there. Brother Vrba, a brilliant and vibrant man, was able to run the affairs in this branch in a manner that was most pleasing to Wally, and under difficult circumstances. The law that deprived our saints of meeting in groups was still very much in effect. To circumvent this law the priesthood brethren all over the mission had worked out a plan that in order to get the sacrament and teaching to our members they would take it to them personally. Working underground, made it difficult because they had to do it faithfully, and yet be undetected. Every Sunday these brethren would go by twos and visit the homes of our members. It took them all day and they changed districts and partners often so they wouldn’t be spotted and arouse suspicion. They would go into a home, and the sister in that home would have her good china and a goblet ready so they could break bread and have the sacrament to pass to the few, sometimes only one, member present. This meant a great deal to our people, isolated as they were in the middle of a large city. Then the brethren would teach them the gospel for 20 or 30 minutes and cautiously leave the house, never staying long enough to make it seem unusual, and be off to the next place. In a metropolis like Prague and Brno, our members were not concentrated in one area but lived many miles apart, with transportation only by streetcar.
Very few of our people knew of our coming, so many were taken by complete surprise. It seemed cruel in some instances, but it was the only way we could have accomplished our purpose. The priesthood leaders were the only ones informed. Toward evening as we were being served a delicious supper, our first real Czech meal, the doorbell rang and a hush fell over the small group assembled. Our first thoughts were “the police.” We had parked our car quite far from this house, as a precaution so we couldn’t be traced to any certain house, and we were puzzled. Brother Vrba closed the door to the dining room where we were all seated as he went to the door. We heard voices, and then he opened the door, and there stood one of our little old sisters who made it a habit of calling on the branch president on this particular day of the week. He didn’t say anything to her as she came in, so she just looked at us sitting there, and she turned white as a sheet and began to tremble. She asked Brother Vrba, pointing to us, “Is that Brother Toronto?” Wally stood up and walked over to her and put his arm around her shoulder and said, “Yes, sister, it is Brother Toronto.” She burst into a flood of joyful tears as she embraced him, and still white and trembling she started toward me. I rose to greet her, and kissing me on both cheeks she kept saying over and over, “I never thought I’d ever see you again. How is this possible?” It was a very touching moment.
Brother Vrba and his counselors met with Wally in another room to lay plans for our visit in the short time allotted us so we could do the most important things. They discussed what things were needed, and they decided that we should tour the other end of the mission first and then return to Brno for our last few days. Then we would leave again to return to Vienna.
After a good night in our hotel we returned to pick up Brother Vrba, who was going to accompany us to Prague where we would meet with the branch president in Prague and the acting mission president. We drove through the countryside that had recently had a freezing rainstorm, leaving the roads very slick but the landscape beautiful. The trees hung heavy with ice that sparkled in the sun. Some branches, unable to bear the burden, were broken and hung at odd angles. It was my first experience seeing the aftermath of such a storm. The recent layer of ice on the snow-covered hills made everything look like it was covered with frosting. The little villages we passed through, with castles on the tops of the hills, were pictures out of fairy tales. We observed a jarring contrast to all this beauty, however. Although the cities looked the same as we had remembered them, and we found our way around easily as we drove through the familiar streets, yet there was a difference. The cleanliness and sparkle were gone. The brilliant lighting and beautiful displays in store windows were now replaced by a drabness. Broken tiles from the sidewalk designs and loose cobblestones from the streets were not fixed nor cleared away, providing hazards for pedestrians and motorists. The buildings were in a state of disrepair. Once restored and pointed to with pride as one of the oldest cities in Europe, “golden Prague, the city of a thousand towers”, was golden no more. The Czech people, once the most industrious and inventive of the Slavic nations, seemed to be overcome with a lethargy and indifference that force and tyranny foster. They seemed to have no pride in their work and no incentive–just a humdrum existence of hard labor without reward.
We visited some of our people that lived in small towns along the way from Brno? and by evening we arrived at the home of Brother Kubiska, the acting mission president in Prague. Another beautiful Czech dinner awaited us and the few brethren and Sister Kubiska were very glad to see us. We answered lots of questions and discussed many things. Then the brethren decided that this was the best time to have a meeting. Since it was New Years Eve, there would be no problem with secret police out looking for people breaking the law. We wouldn’t be bothered, even if house lights were on all night. With all the gaity and noisy parties going on in the city, a little religious meeting like this would go unnoticed.
We had already checked in at the hotel and left our things. We dared not stay at the homes of our members, for they would have been in deep trouble had we done so. We had to stay in hotels so the police would know where we were. If we made a trip to the surrounding towns where some of our members were located, we always got back to Prague to be in our hotel at night, even if we had to travel a long way and very late. We were required to leave our passports at the hotel desk at night because the secret police would make the rounds of the hotels during the night to check passports so they could keep track of all foreigners. We stayed within the law as much as possible.
In the meeting of the leaders of the mission that New Years Eve, it was decided that the most important thing for us to do would be to see each of our members, if possible. Their morale was very low after fifteen years of servitude and oppression, and a visit from us would be like a shot in the am for them. Some had even become disgruntled with the local leadership of the Church, men appointed to their callings by Wally. So it was decided that the acting mission president or branch president would make these visits with us. Wally always made it a point to mention that these leaders had been appointed through him by the power of the Lord to lead them during the time of his (Wally’s) absence, and they should heed their advice and follow their leadership in all things pertaining to the Church. Brother Vrba left to go home to Brno after an itinerary was planned. We began making these visits, and it was a very rigorous schedule. Having a car made it possible to accomplish this. We made 10 to 15 visits each day, from early morning till late at night. The only warning our members would have of our coming was a phone call from Brother Kubishka an hour before our arrival. When we knew where we would be at dinner time, he would give those sisters time enough to prepare for us, so we didn’t lose much time looking for food. In fact, too much food became our problem. The hospitality of the Czech people is really tremendous, and each place we went we had to partake of tea (herb tea or apple-peeling tea, whatever they could find) to warm us up. At Christmas time people had many varieties of holiday cookies that were served with the tea. By the time we had visited 15 homes we were so full of tea and cookies that it was hard to eat a meal so lovingly prepared for us. I’m sure these folks used a whole month’s rations in order to provide for us. We couldn’t refuse such generous hospitality.
At the hotel, usually late, we were so exhausted that our aching stomachs didn’t keep us awake. Wally called it "exhilarating exhaustion." We were up early the next morning to face the day. Some mornings we would eat a breakfast at the hotel in order to get something in us before we had to face the tea and cookies again. The international hotels catered to Americans, and we could get anything there, even ham and eggs if we wanted. Foods in the hotels were not available to the Czech people, only foreigners. Fruits and vegetables, light bread and rolls, butter, even real coffee, which the Czech people hadn’t seen for twenty years, was available. One had to pay a high price, but it was there. We enjoyed the black bread and cereal coffee that the Czechs used, anyway.
As we would go from one place to another, Wally’s main concern was to bless those who were in need of the Lord’s blessing. Many were sick and found great comfort in their president being able to administer to them. At each home we were always greeted by tears of great joy. It was a touching moment. We couldn’t stay long in each place, but it gave us a good idea of what had happened to them all during our absence. The young Beehive girls were now married and were happy to show us their families and introduce their husbands. Young boys who were now men and were anxious to be advanced in the priesthood took advantage of having these things done while Wally was there. He had to make some changes in the branch presidencies and set brethren apart into these positions and call others to replace those who had died or moved from the branch. We finally realized that the Lord did have a purpose in our being back in our mission. Our people needed us, and seeing us in person was a great morale booster for them. And we knew the Lord was protecting us, too, because we were not detained anywhere and were never approached by the police nor were we followed. But we knew that they knew we were there and what we were doing. As long as we were not bothered we just kept going as fast as we could in order to accomplish what the Lord sent us to do.
After a week in Prague, our home base, we went to the other end of the country–west toward Germany. We stayed in Pilzen for a few days, doing the same things in that city that we had done in Prague. In order not to bring any trouble to our members we tried to be back in our hotel by early evening. A foreign car in front of a house at night was a sure sign of suspicion, and the people in that house were in danger, even when we took special care to leave the car on the next street. On a couple of these evenings we decided to go to the opera. Being the opera season, every fairly large town had its opera house. In Pilzen there were two, so we made arrangements with the desk clerk to get tickets for us, making quite a fuss about his getting us good seats. We wanted to make sure he knew where we were, so he could tell the police when they came to inquire about us, that we were at the opera. We always spoke English, trying very hard not to slip into Czech, with all hotel personnel, waiters, bellboys, and doormen. It worked well.
We drove back to Prague for another day of visiting people we had missed before and then started back to Brno, where we had three days of scheduled visits before leaving. By now all the Church members were aware of our being there and anticipated our visits. It was a most rewarding experience, and we felt the spirit of the Lord wherever we went. Brother Vrba said something to me as we were about to depart the country that rather pleased me. He said, “Sister Toronto. I want you to tell President McKay something for me.” I replied that I would be delighted. He said, “I want to thank him for sending you along with your husband.” I said, “Why is that?" He answered. “Because you have been an example to our women. Our wives are afraid and won’t let us go when we have assignments. We know there are dangers, but now they have seen you, and your assignment with your husband has been far more precarious than ours, yet you have gone with him under very trying circumstances, and they have seen how you share in the priesthood." I was really overcome by such a statement, but I promised I’d tell this to President McKay when I got back to Sal t Lake.
After three days we headed back to the Austrian border loaded with openface sandwiches, rolls, cakes, and all the goodies we had been eating for two weeks. Our poor stomachs had been tested to the limit, so we couldn’t possibly eat all that had been so lovingly prepared for us. We left much of it with the border guards, who seemed very happy to have such elegant fare. There was no trouble at the border, and we were let through the gates without too much inspection. A few days in Vienna with some normal eating had us feeling much better. We read over the blessings we had been given by the First Presidency and were astonished by the prophetic nature of these promises. Every item mentioned in the blessing had come true, and we sincerely thanked the Lord for this opportunity. It was a thrilling experience.
We had a week before we could meet with President Benson in Frankfurt to report our assignment to him, so we embarked on a side-trip for some welcome relaxation after our strenuous two-week assignment. We first flew to Rome. Wally had been there but I never had, and I enjoyed the few days we had there, seeing all the famous landmarks and art works that I’d seen so many times in pictures. Then we flew to Cairo, Egypt, and had a fabulous time there seeing all the ancient pyramids, the Nile River, and ancient mosques and shrines. We even climbed up into the middle of a pyramid. The Hilton Hotel was on the Nile and it was beautiful, especially at night, with the mosques and towers lighted on the opposite shore. We were very impressed with the ancient city and the artifacts of King Tut. From there we went to Jerusalem and were met by Fontella Kimball, mother of Stan Kimball, one of our missionaries, who was living in Jerusalem at the time. She showed us all around and introduced us to the mayor of the city who was very gracious to us and dispatched one of his aides and a staff car to show us the city. Through him we were able to see many things that ordinary tourists don’t see. We really were given the V.I.P. treatment. It was such a pleasure to be in a warm climate after our stay in sub-zero Czechoslovakia, and the rest and relaxation was doing us a world of good. Then we made our way over the troublesome border into Israel. Tel Aviv is like any other big European city, and there is always trouble between the Jews and Arabs, and I’m sure there always will be. From Tel Aviv we took an Ethiopian Airways plane, the most modern and luxurious plane of the whole trip. We had wondered what kind of airline would be coming out of the little country of Ethiopia, and it was a very pleasant surprise.
The flight to Athens was fabulous. The white marble city built following the curve of the land on the shoreline of the blue Mediterranean was a marvelous sight from the air. The bright sunshine enhanced its beauty and peacefulness as we glided into the airport. We loved Athens. I’m sure it’s the most beautiful city in the world, and there are so many interesting things to see. The ancient ruins of the Acropolis were so fascinating you could spend days there. We stayed in the Athens Hilton and had a view of the Acropolis Hill with the Parthenon and other ancient buildings lighted at night. It was a beautiful sight. The lush green of the foliage, trees, and exquisite gardens profuse with flowers, all over this enormous city, was such a treat for us. We took all the tours and heard all the stories of the ancient Greek democracy. It was really fascinating. We even took a bus ride up into the mountains to Delphi. We rode through miles of olive groves on mountain roads that were very narrow and scary. We stopped at a village on the way to have lunch, and it was so interesting. Little open-air sidewalk cafes or restaurants served the most interesting food. On street corners there were vendors with their little specialties, mostly lamb shishkabob. They cooked them over some kind of an open grill and handed us these luscious bite-sized pieces of lamb on a stick. Nothing else was on it but the meat, and we rolled this in a special seasoning salt and herb mixture that really made it taste good. Then they handed us a hunk of Greek bread to eat with it. It reminded us of buying "horky parky" (sausages or frankfurters with bread and mustard) on the street corners in Czechoslovakia.
After visiting the ruins of Apollo, famous for the Oracles of Delphi, we took the long ride back to town, arriving at night, and could see the lights of Athens as we came down the mountain. It was beautiful, so we didn’t mind the rickety old bus clonking down the narrow roads. Next morning we left Athens in a huge plane and headed again to the frozen north. The airport at Frankfurt was almost as familiar to us as the one at home in Salt Lake. We had landed there several times during the past few years.
We gave a report of our short mission to President Benson, who was very interested in our activities behind the Iron Curtain, and he congratulated us on our success. Next morning found us quite early at the airport again for the flight home. The most interesting thing about the flight is that we followed the sun across the sky. When we got in the air the sun was shining directly into the window where I was sitting. It shone there all day long and was still in the same window when we dropped from the tremendously high altitude to come into New York. To me it was quite a phenomenon. We took a small plane, then, to fly down to Nashville, Tennessee, to visit with Judy and Don. They had been in Nashville for a couple of years, and we enjoyed seeing them again and visiting with their little family.
At home it took me almost a week to get my days and nights straightened out. It was strange. The boys were fine, so our absence hadn’t been too difficult for them. Then came the many requests for us to speak of our experiences. We spoke to various groups, social clubs, sacrament meetings, firesides, banquets, High Priests parties, and Elders gatherings. Everybody wanted us to tell our experiences. We had been through all this before, after each of our missions, but this was really something special. We spoke at least three times a week for months. I lectured to groups. Wally lectured to groups, and we did it together often, too. It finally got so we had to cut down on some of these engagements. It was a real strain, talking about these interesting but trying experiences, and as time went on it became difficult for me. Recalling all these things brought back some of the old depressing feelings that I was trying to forget. It would take me a whole day to recover from the pain in my stomach after I had told our story to a group.
My nerves were beginning to surface again. Though standing and talking for an hour didn’t bother me the physical strain did. I usually stayed in bed for a day to recover enough strength for the next lecture. We had to tell the whole story from the beginning to give significance to our last visit there. We belonged to a couple of choice groups of our own, and it was nice to go there and just listen to a program instead of being the speakers all the time. Dinorators is a group that we were invited to join many years ago and loved going there. They were couples of our own age, all good church members and leaders in church positions. We had a dinner once a month at the Lion House with a lecture or program. We also joined the Highland Park Church History Group and enjoyed that very much. These couples were mostly older than we were, but a choice group that we enjoyed very much. In the group was a nice couple, Maurice and Vesta Anderson. Wally and Maurice were alternately president and vice president of the group two different times, and we had such fun in planning our dinners and programs. Sometimes the group would go out to Maurice’s ranch in the mountains east of Draper. We used to have fun there of a summer evening.
Wally was kept very busy with the Cancer Society, which was growing and becoming more demanding, as well as the General Board work and ward positions. He was a very busy man. All three of our girls were married, but Bob was still going to school and couldn’t seem to find the right girl. He went back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a Doctor’s Degree. Allen was away on a mission to Chile, so Dave was home alone with us and going to high school. It’ tough being the youngest in the family, but he had friends his age, and it was always lively at our house. They had built a complicated communication system from our house to each of theirs. The neighborhood was a mass of wires from our house to Gill’s next door along our street, and even up Wilmington a half a block. These boys had outgrown the treehouse and were advancing into electronics. I was even afraid to go into Dave’s bedroom to clean it up because I couldn’t touch anything for fear of doing something wrong. I was cautious even of plugging in the vacuum for fear it would start playing music.
During July of this same year, 1965, Wally had another opportunity to visit Czechoslovakia. The big athletic festival that we had seen a couple of times before, called the “Sokol Slet”, now with a Russian name, “Spartakiada”, was being held in Prague. All nations of the world were invited, so it was no problem at all to get a visa to visit there at this time. This festival is held every ten years. We applied, and a visa was granted within a week. Then, with that visa in his hand, Wally went again to President McKay to ask his advice on taking another trip into Czechoslovakia. This time he wanted to visit not members but the government authorities, especially the ones in high offices of the ministry of religion and education. He was sure he could talk them into letting him reestablish the mission and get permission for public meetings again. He already knew some of these men in high places because he had visited them in Washington D.C. when they were in the Czech Embassy there. He felt this was a way to open the door. President McKay agreed and said he would send him again in an official capacity, but he advised him to go alone this time. This made me unhappy, but who was I to question the President of the Church. As things turned out it was a fortunate inspiration on behalf of the President, because he himself didn’t know why he had given such advice.
Packing his things for a summer trip was not nearly as difficult as our winter preparations had been. So off he went again, but only to be gone a couple of weeks. David and I stayed home to take care of the house and yard, so we were busy. I didn1t expect to hear from Wally because he would be gone such a short time. He flew directly to Prague, and at the airport he rented a Czech car so he could get around easily. He went to the two-day festival at the stadium, and it must have been marvelous. He said it was bigger and better than any we had seen before. I remember when we had seen one in Prague a year or so after we had gone back after the war, and it was so tremendous that I can hardly describe it. Ten to fifteen thousand young boys, girls, men or women, were, in turn, on the floor of the huge Hasaryk stadium, which was the biggest one I had ever seen. All these thousands of participants performed exercise routines in such rhythm and unison that it made the whole field move at the same time. The colorful costumes and flags made it even more spectacular. This time the whole thing was televised, and it went all over the country. It was the only thing the Czechs were watching. As Wally was sitting there in a crowd of 25,000 people, a cameraman spotted him as an American and asked him to stand in front of the camera and tell the nation about his impressions of the “Spartakiadal” and relate why he was there. He had hoped to go in and out of the country without anyone knowing he was even in Europe, but the television really fixed that. Everybody knew now. In one of his blessings long ago he had been told he would testify to the nation, so at this moment that prediction began to be fulfilled.
He answered the newsman in perfect Czech, telling him he was glad to be back in Czechoslovakia after a fifteen-year absence, and that he loved the people and their land. The newsman, surprised and amazed at hearing this not-so-typical tourist speak Czech, asked him how he liked the Spartak1ada. Wally replied that it was the most spectacular he had ever seen.
The next day, as he began visiting various offices of the ministries, many people recognized him as the man they had seen on the TV screen, and, of course, some of our members came to Prague to visit him. This was exactly the thing he wished to avoid. He wanted nothing to jeopardize his mission to the officials of the government. However, the purpose of his being there seemed to go well, and he made progress in the offices of the men he had come to see. He was treated well, and from the reception he got from the officials, he felt he was well on the way to getting the permission he so much needed to get the mission "above ground" and recognized by the communist regime.
His most important interview, set up for Monday, July 12, was to be with the minister of religious affairs at the Ministry of Interior. This appointment was somewhat uncertain because this man was very difficult to see. So on Thursday the 8th of July, he and Brother Kubiska, the acting mission president, drove his rented car to Brno, our second-largest branch. On the way they stopped in a small village called Jakubin, where Brother Kubiska had a sister living on a farm. This place is 200 kilometers from Prague. While they were there four secret police in their big black car came and arrested Wally and said he must go with them back to Prague to the Ministry of Interior for interrogation. One of them drove his car back, and he was taken in the police car for the four-hour ride back to the capitol. During the interrogation he was accused of such subversive activities as stirring up the people and inciting them against the regime, trying to establish the Church illegally again in Czechoslovakia and bringing in missionaries and so on. He had to deny all these charges and tell them that he was there only to visit the ministries and to tell our people that the time wasn’t ripe for bringing the mission back into the land. He told them about our visit to Czechoslovakia in January and that at that time he had told the members we couldn’t do anything by way of open worship, etc. They told him that they knew of our visit in January and everything we did. We knew this anyway, or suspected it strongly, but they didn’t bother us at that time.
In the blessing President McKay had given Wally before our journey six months previously, when all these things were so miraculously fulfilled, he was told that he would have opportunity to bear his testimony in the highest places. Now, when Wally looked back on this last experience, that he was brought into the ministry to stand before these high officials as they accused him, he did have this opportunity, and he used it to best advantage. An interesting thing about this severe interrogation is that one of the interrogators was the very man he had hoped to see the next Monday morning before he flew to Vienna. This man, being in charge of the religious affairs of the country, was naturally called in on this case. He said to Wally that “communism espouses religious freedom” and that seventeen other churches had state recognition, and that’s enough churches”, and he slammed his fist on the table. The period of questioning started on a rough and severe note, like they all do. But Wally was not quick to anger or fright, which confused them. The Communist officials can’t stand a man who doesn’t fear them, especially one who talks back to them. Wally did this and said the Lord gave him the strength and the wisdom he needed to say the things that had to be said and to "bear testimony”. He gave them the whole history of the mission, which, of course, he had been a part of since 1929. He told them that in 1950 they expelled the best friends Czechoslovakia had ever had, meaning the missionaries and himself. Then he explained that his desire at the present time would be that the Church members be left alone, and even if the mission were not given state recognition, that they be allowed at least the privilege of meeting in groups under the direction of the local men who had been left in charge. These priesthood leaders were wonderful and capable men. The police, of course, knew who they were. Naturally they knew nothing of the importance of their calling or of the power of the priesthood invested in them.
Wally was not able to change anything as far as our members were concerned. But he did put the Ministry of Interior on notice that he would keep trying, but at a later date, to accomplish his purpose. He felt that his visit to the highest ministry in the land was successful, even though he was detained as a prisoner. Otherwise he never would have been able to see all these important government officials, and especially all at the same time.
After that Wally was told that his presence in Czechoslovakia could no longer be tolerated and that they must accompany him to the German border and see that he got out of the country. He said, “Look. I have a plane ticket to Vienna. Let me stay overnight. One of your men can stay with me in a hotel, and I’ll make arrangements to leave in the morning.” The answer to that was a firm "No! The decision has already been made and we must take you to the border tonight”. It was about 9:30 so they put him in the big black car with his baggage and drove him another three or more hours to the border. He had not made plans to go to Germany at all Anyway, the same three guards who had brought him in took him and deposited him across the Czech border and said, “This is as far as we go.” Wally picked up his bags and walked the half-mile to the West German border station. Fortunately he knew German almost as well as English and was able to satisfy the German guard’s suspicions at seeing a man appear at his station at 1 a.m. without a car. “You mean you walked.” he asked in great surprise.
After talking to the German guard and engaging him in a gospel conversation for a while, Wally was offered a wooden bench in the small guard hut to sleep on for a couple of hours. In the morning a taxi came out to get him from a village about three miles away. From there he took a local train to a larger town and then was able to get the express into Munich. To the great surprise of the mission president John Fetzer, whom we knew very well, and the missionaries, he appeared at the mission home looking very much like a hungry refugee. Bob later said, "Maybe our Dad isn’t the best mission president in the world, but he is surely the most colorful–color all the way!"
From Munich, Wally flew back to Vienna and then came home on his scheduled flight. I guess the president of the Church knew what he meant when he said "Brother Toronto should go alone this time. I’m very grateful to the Lord that he was put out of the country. He could have wound up with a stiff jail sentence. It was good to have him home again. He planned to go back at a 1ater date to complete some of the things he was unable to do. He was a man very devoted to the Czechoslovakian Mission and would have done anything to get it above ground a gain.
After this experience the requests for lectures and speeches were intensified. Everybody wanted us to talk to groups and meetings. Wally did a lot of traveling for the Cancer Society, the Church and the School Board, especially when he was president of the Utah School Boards Association, which he was elected to for 1966 and 1967. When he was out of town and couldn’t fulfill a speaking assignment, I went for him. I substituted for him in Sacrament meetings, firesides, and even priesthood groups. People accepted me as well as they would him, and when he didn’t feel well I would go for him. As 1967 came around to spring, his spells of sickness came oftener. In March of that year we both went on a lovely trip to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Western States School Boards Convention. We traveled with another couple and drove to many places of interest, including the Grand Canyon, which was beautiful in the winter. It was on this trip when we were relaxing around the hotel pool in Phoenix soaking up the sunshine that Wally said to me, “Martha, I have a strange premonition about 1967 and I don’t quite know why.” I thought nothing of it at the time but at home during the spring he said it several times.
Eventually he went to Dr. Cannon to find out why he was running a fever all the time. He took medication for one thing and another but still had the slight fever that made him feel rundown. In June he had a bad attack with a kidney stone and was hospitalized for that. He had surgery to remove the stone, and we thought this would fix up the whole problem. We kept him in bed to recover, but he didn’t get well. After a month at home, Dr. Cannon had him go for x-rays and a complete physical, and the doctors came up with a suspicion of cancer of the colon. The shock was almost more than I could handle. Even though we had both been active in the Cancer Society and knew there were many treatments possible, I was still scared. Further x-rays indicated an enlarged liver, meaning it had spread to other parts of his body. Again he was operated on. A biopsy of the liver confirmed the diagnosis of cancer. Then began the awful ordeal of chemotherapy and cobalt treatments.
This type of cancer is fast growing and deadly. More than one doctor told me that he would have about six months. This was July, and we didn’t hospitalize him, but I took him every week for the chemical injections which made him deathly sick. In September I went with him to New York for a Cancer Convention there, and it was a nice trip. We went to Bellview Hospital, where my dad had done his internship for his injection. He had lost a lot of weight and had to lie down in the hotel room between sessions. We flew to Toronto, Canada, to visit his brother Lamont and his family where he was presiding over the Canadian Mission. It was a delightful trip, and Wally spoke in church on Sunday. When we got home he was told that the chemotherapy was not doing the job and the cancer was still growing, so then we turned to x-ray treatments. The cobalt machine was out at the old Saint Marks Hospital, so I drove him there every few days for these treatments, which made him sicker than the others. He finally couldn’t stand it anymore and told me the medication was worse than the disease, and he wanted me to stop taking him. If I’m going to die anyway I don’t want to prolong it, this sickness is really more than I can stand. So we stopped the treatments and he began to feel much better.
In late November he had me sit on his bed for a talk. He took my hand and he told me he had been talking to the Lord and had been told that he was going to die and that he should get his house in order. He gave me some specific instructions about insurance, changing titles on the car, putting the house in my name, and many details that I needed to attend to. So, I did all these things while he could still sign papers. This was all done and arrangements were made for the funeral home and the burial plot in Wasatch Lawn, where my folks are. Our son Allen had been home from his mission for several months, and he was very helpful to me in taking care of all the details needed at this time. He was a great strength to me, and without him I couldn’t have done many of the things I did. David was a senior in high school, and one or the other of them stayed with Wally when I had to go somewhere.
I had some bad crying periods, but I tried to put on a bold front. While he could still talk and his mind was clear he told me he wanted me to marry again. He said I was too young to go through life alone but to be very careful about the men I went with. He wanted me to be happy, but at the moment I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else. I was still going out to fulfill speaking engagements that he had accepted many months earlier, as well as the ones people wanted me to give. The boys would stay home to care for their dad while I was gone, so everything worked out well. President Brown had given Wally a wonderful blessing that he would pass from this life like going from one room to another, and it really was like that. I would give him shots for the pain, and we tried to keep him comfortable, and just a month after he turned sixty he died, January 10, 1968.
We had so many friends, people we had associated with in many walks of life. The funeral was held in the stake center, and it was filled. Everyone was wonderful to me. Then widowhood! That, I guess, is the hardest thing I ever had to face. I tried to be brave and strong, but it didn’t always work. The Lord had given me very much strength when I needed it, and the good feeling lasted a long time, but the loneliness is indescribable. Our very good friend Clark Stohl, an associate in the Cancer Society who took over Wally’s job as director, was instrumental in helping me find a job. I wanted to do something besides stay home. I needed a little something to keep me busy and active, something to get up for in the mornings. I was hired to work as an associate director at the Bureau of Information in Temple Square. We had charge of all the guides who were taking tours of the buildings and grounds. It was a responsible job, and I enjoyed going there every day, even on holidays. It was good to have such a big responsibility and I was meeting the public every day which was very good for me. I didn’t have time to get depressed.
The Czech Mission was left now without a president. Wally had served as president since 1936. For 32 years he held that position, directing the mission most of that time from Salt Lake. President Brown asked me to carry on until they decided what to do with the mission. I guess I’m the only female mission president that ever served. It didn’t last long, just until the Czech Mission was joined to the Austrian Mission a few months later.
During the summer, on June 28, 1968, Allen and Janie were married. Bob stood in the line for Wally and Dave was best man, and it was a lovely affair. I had a hard time standing such a long time, because I had been in the hospital for a hysterectomy just six weeks before, so I had to sit down part of the time. Dave graduated from high school and then took his army training, so he was gone most of the summer. That left me home alone with Fred, our dog. I had to chain him up while I went to work, so he really jumped for joy when he’d see me come home.
Dave returned in time for winter quarter at the university, and at the end of spring quarter he left on his mission to New Zealand. I continued to work at the Bureau of Information. It was a good job and I was really happy there, knowing that I was doing something important. I went to Dinorators and Church History groups every month. Other couples would come for me and take me with them. Our friends were so good to me it made life worth living.
Early in June, 1969. Vesta Anderson died. Now Maurice and I were in the same boat. It was just awful to come home to an empty house. We both felt this way, and we began seeing each other during that summer. I had been out with an old boy friend of mine who had lost his wife, but nothing seemed to click between us. Maurice and I went out to his ranch in the hills a time or two, and we enjoyed each other’s company. After four months of delightful courtship, we were very much in love and decided to marry. We needed each other, and President Hugh B. Brown, a good friend to both of us agreed that it was a splendid idea. So on October 17, 1969. Maurice and I were married, for time only, by our mutual friend Hugh B. Brown in the Salt Lake Temple. Both of our families, those who had been in the Temple, were at the ceremony with us. Family and friends joined us for a wedding breakfast at the Hotel Utah.
Many things have happened in my family since I married Maurice. First of all Bob, who had come home for the wedding decided that he should get married too, so the next day he phoned Ellen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and asked her to marry him. She accepted, and they were married on December 29. 1969, two months after I married Maurice. We flew back to Kenton, Ohio, where the wedding and reception took place.
They were married in her family’s church by a Mormon stake president. Ellen had joined the Church in Ann Arbor, and they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple the next year. They and their two boys live in Ann Arbor, where Bob is an industrial psychologist for a business consultation firm, and they are doing well.
Allen and Janie had their first girl about the same time we were married and have had two more lovely little daughters since. They are a happy little family and at present are living in San Marcos, Texas, where Allen is a professor of special education at Southwest Texas State University. David came home from his mission in 1971, and Allison had waited for him. They were married a year later on June 29, 1972. Dave and Allison have two little boys and are presently living in Des Moines, Iowa, where David is a meteorologist and weatherman.
We’ve had some tragedy in the family, too. Carol and Gene lost their third child, an infant boy who lived for only an hour. In 1970, Judy and Don’s three-year-old Brian became suddenly ill and died in the hospital within a few days. Then on April 3, 1974, Judy’s husband Don Richards and five of his seminary students who were on a church outing to Nauvoo, Illinois, were caught in a tornado. Their car was picked up off a bridge near Monticello, Indiana, and hurled into the river below.
One girl survived, but the others were all killed, and it took several days to find their bodies. Don and Brian are both buried in Wasatch Lawn Cemetery in Salt Lake. Judy has moved back to Salt Lake with her five children, and they are doing well. She and the children have made a wonderful adjustment to their new life. Judy is busy in her ward and stake and is active in singing groups and as a soloist.
Marion’s family of six is almost grown by now. Her youngest is nine years old, but her two oldest daughters are married, each with a new baby daughter of their own. Marion’s husband, Vern Miller, is the choral director at Brighton High School in Salt Lake. At present Marion is attending the University of Utah, working toward a degree in music performance and is also teaching private voice. She, like her grandmother, is a soloist with the Tabernacle Choir.
Carol is very busy with her nine children. Her oldest boys, twins, are in high school. Five more range from junior high to kindergarten, and she has two little ones still at home. She uses her many talents in family and church activities. Her husband, Eugene Davis, is a lawyer for an insurance company in Salt Lake City.
It has been a very full and wonderful life, and my marriage to Maurice has been a beautiful one. I moved into his big home on Highland Drive, a very comfortable and livable home. We redecorated and made it look quite different than it was. I became active in the Highland Park Ward and was called to be Relief Society President. I have served in that position for six years, a wonderful and rewarding experience. Now, with my family and Maurice’s combined, we have a very large group. He and Vesta had four children, and his grandchildren number thirteen. Ten great-grandchildren have emerged so far from that group. Wally’s and my six children have produced twenty-five living grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. This past Mother’s day I was asked to give a talk on the Sunday School program describing the joys of grandmotherhood. I’ve never particularly liked the sobbing tributes that are usually typical of such programs, so I decided to give something light and a little funny. At the end of my talk I gave this poem to climax it with a little fun. My daughter Carol wrote it for me to cover what I felt about being a grandmother.
ON BEING A GRANDMOTHER
The bloom of youth has left my cheek,
There are wrinkles on my brow.
My memory banks have sprung a leak,
I’m slowing down somehow.
I fear I’ve started to feel my age.
My weary bones I coddle.
Any youth I appear to have
I apply right from the bottle!
I’ve been through life’s old grammar school,
And passed through the course of "Mother".
But this graduate study is in a way
A bigger test than any other.
A greater discipline I face,
As “Grandma” I can’ t deny it.
With this title now I must
Observe, sit back, and be quiet.
They say these are the Golden Years,
Indeed they truly are.
You young folks just do not realize
The rainbow’s gold is not far.
To see them struggle to rear their own.
Oh, I remember when
My baby boys of yesterday
Suddenly are men.
The watching eyes of my little girls
Have all grown into mothers.
I feel their joys and sorrows
As they each give life to others.
Its wonderful to see our kids,
And each with chosen mate.
I was prepared to be a “Grandma”,
Its a shock to be a “Great”.
— Carol Toronto Davis
Now, six months later, I have been released from the leadership of the Relief Society and am teaching one of the classes. Being an executive is very different and a strain compared to being a lay member again. It is enjoyable and relaxing. I have come to know and love the people in the Highland Park Ward. I have worked with some wonderful women and bishopric in my recent capacity and have made some lasting friendships which are important to me.
The Church has been the guiding light in my life, and most of my memorable experiences have been influenced by my testimony. The strength I have received in times of crisis or sorrow has built up my capacity to see clearly the purpose of my being on this earth. I thank the Lord for my blessings, and for my fine family, and especially for the two wonderful men I have had the privilege of having as husbands.