Monday, January 12, 2009

Stories my Mom told me

My mom grew up in Salt Lake's Emigration Canyon, right around the mountainside from the infamous Ruth's Diner. The canyon was a place that seemed to be full of something magic, chalk-full of fascinating people hidden in its crevices.

Emigration was so sparsely populated in those days Mom's family shared a party (phone) line with Ruth, a woman who wore a sundress 365 days a year and always had a cigarette in her mouth. She swore at my mom when she caught her listening in on her conversations. When the health inspector insisted she comply with restaurant law by adding a non-smoking section, she put a sign over one barstool that read "No smoking, this seat only". My mom's car once got stuck at the diner when she was a teenager. She was almost home, but needed to call her parents about the car. Ruth told her she had to buy something in order to use the phone. She bought a candy bar. Upon opening it she discovered the candy bar was so rotten it had meal worms crawling in it. Ruth also charged her 25 cents for the call on top of the candy bar.

My mom has loads of stories of the interesting people that lived in that canyon in the 50's and 60's. There was the hippy family that kept a goat in the house. The inventor who built a circular home that rotated with the light of the sun, the woman who was a former Catholic nun, but joined the church and married a widower with 10 children, the man who claims the government wanted to experiment with his telepathic abilities, the polygamist family who lived in a compound and wore clothing from the DI but drove a Cadillac. And my mom's own family, particularly her dad.

This was a man who had improved on something called the "seeing eye" (some sort of laser technology I think), built a machine that could detect oil in the ground from up in the air, went to MIT and actually took a class from Albert Einstein himself while he was there. My mom's dad was also on the cover of a 1944 Time magazine as a teenager, being heralded as "The real Superman" for his combination of intelligence and athletic achievements. He also claims to have invented the framework for what is now the modern personal computer. The story goes that IBM stole the plans out from under him while he served an LDS mission. He had given them the plans in exchange for a job after he came home, but instead IBM just took the plans.

The stories sound fantastical. Too fantastic to be true. Yet, some of them can be verified. Even his mission companions talked of his explanations of something that could take all the books in the world and someday fit them all into a little box. I used to be able to Google his name and come up with an actual record of one of his mission companions who related what he'd said...but I can no longer find it for some reason.

That canyon holds a wealth of history and people. Healers, psychics, groupies, hippies, scientists, Church authorities and even the Huntsman's. And my mom knew of them all firsthand.

She has a story about going door to door campaigning for signatures when she was about 20 and knocking on the Huntsman's family door. She told me a little boy, one of the Huntsman children, opened up and said, "Guess what? We're rich!". She doesn't know which kid it was, but it could have been our current governor.

I wish I could remember more. They'll come to me in time. I had to write it all down at least somewhere, at least once in my life. Maybe I'll add more to this later as more comes back to me.

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