Keena - the early years (fuller version)
Note: The following was taken mainly from an autobiography written for a class at BYU in 1965.
I was born in the University of California Hospital in San Francisco on November 19, 1945. My father was in the army and going to dental school and my mother had left the WAVES and was working as a stenographer for a railroad company. I was the first child but didn’t enjoy the limelight too long since the twins, Janet and Russell, were born a year and a half later.
In the meantime, my father graduated from dental school and we moved to Oakland, California. We lived in the upper room of a two-story apartment just above Dad’s practice. Barbara was born in 1950 while we were in Oakland and about the only thing I remember is that Dad taught me how to tie my shoes while Mom was in the hospital. Before the practice could really get going, Dad was called to serve a second time in the army – this time as a Captain in the Dental Corps. We stayed with Grandma Gnehm in Logan, Utah while he was stationed in Texas.
When my father was assigned to Fort Warden in Washington, we moved as a family to an officer’s house that was a converted lookout post in Port Townsend overlooking Puget Sound. The foghorns used to put us to sleep every night. Our house was next to a park with a wading pool. I would sneak off with the twins and find someone to give us licorice. At home, along with our chicken coop and rabbits, we also had Roger & Delores (my mother’s sister and her husband), Rex Ivie and Orland Heaton in our home. I have many fond memories of Port Townsend. Digging clams, watching the fireworks on the forth of July, fishing with Uncle Abe and catching tadpoles, climbing the stairs to go uptown and searching for fairy dust, pulling faces with my friend, Barbara McClery, being chased around the yard by Rex the Rooster, playing in the snow, watching Roger and Deloris kiss through the window, taking tap and ballet lessons and dancing around the fireplace, taking the “brown hound” army bus home from school – these were all vivid experiences.
After Dad had “served his time,” we moved to Pleasant Hill, California around 1957. Dad set up his practice in Concord with a group of dentists in a clinic. There I finally made it to the first grade and the twins went to Kindergarten. After many family house-hunting trips, we moved to Walnut Creek to a home on Norris Road where we lived until I went to college. In second grade the teacher assigned a girl in the class to show me around and we soon became best of friends. Every day after school, we would go to her house and play in their old windmill. We used to wade through the "bamboos" where the “Swamp” was in their frond yard, as well as playing pioneer and hiking up on Shell Ridge. When she moved the next year, I really felt lost.
In the meantime, at home, the kids on our street became the center of attention. Cindy, Ernie, Ricky and the rest of the gang used to meet every night at the bottom of the road to play four square, baseball, or army. In the daytime, we would watch one of the older boys make glazed pottery and then we would have bazaars and trade him things for what he made. It wasn’t all that peaceful though. My younger brother, Russell, and I built a fort to keep up with the progress and when you have forts with secret entrances, you have wars. That was the beginning of the dirt clog and rock fights. We would wait until late to sneak into Ricky’s fort and in the morning the rocks would start flying. Russell once trapped him in our garage and I jumped him from the ladder. How do kids survive?
From fourth to sixth grade, I was befriended by a group of kids who were the “popular “ group. Lynn and Teen were my best friends and we played with each other almost exclusively. We buried crickets, had water fights on a log pile, wore our bermudas and ivy-league shirts down town, learned how to “bop,” and spent the night at each other’s homes. Steve Quartarolo was my assigned “number one." I used to follow him around on his paper drive and go to his Little League games.
In seventh and eighth grades we assigned ourselves to be cheerleaders and bought blue sweaters and cut a letter out of a washcloth. We would go to the games and stand on the sidelines making up a cheer to “Horse and Buggy Team." That was also when the partying started and I decided that I was different and did not take part because of the smoking and drinking. As I got into high school (1960-1964), it was hard to make new friends and I was the only member of my church in my class. My friends became the “eggheads“ as Dad described them. Grades became all important. There were about 300 in our class out of a student body of about a thousand. Classes were geared toward college preparation with the University of California at Berkeley the preferred goal. I only had a few close friends in high school but I did want to participate. I was a flag girl, editor of our school newspaper, a member of the House, senior class treasurer and a life member of the California Scholarship Federation.
At home, I stayed out of trouble and tried to be the “peacemaker." By this time there were seven children in our family. Besides Russell and Janet, there was Barbara (born in 1950), Kathy (born in 1954), Michael (born in 1958), and Kenny (born in 1959). The two younger boys were only 11 months apart and provided a lot of opportunities for babysitting – which was always preferable to housework. My father was a great believer in work. Saturday was dedicated to hoeing, shingling, spraying fruit trees, cleaning the garage, etc., etc. On vacations we usually went camping and boating. Those were the times we’d do the most fighting and have the most fun. There was always some competition to see who could lean the most while water-skiing and who could get the darkest tan, not to mention tease the most or act the craziest. But the main thing was that we enjoyed being together as a family.
The summer after I graduated from Las Lomas High School, I worked for Rhodes Department Store as a sales clerk and for my father as a dental assistant. I had also worked as a secretary for a freight company. During that summer I received a journalism scholarship to Brigham Young University, which was really an answer to prayer since Dad was set against it. (In his day, BYU wasn’t too well thought of academically.) He had been pushing for the University of Utah or the University of California, but how can you refuse a scholarship?
So on to BYU. After making the adjustment to college life, I decided it was time to get “involved” again. I majored in English and joined the ballet club and the diving team (such as it was.) By my second year, I realized I could never teach a class of high school students and changed my major to Nursing. (I had read about Clara Barton in the fourth grade and decided taking care of people was what I really wanted to do.) I enjoyed the spiritual community at BYU and by my junior year signed up for a mission preparation class. I had told my bishop that summer that I wanted to go on a mission, but then Kent Price, from my student ward, showed up in Walnut Creek for the summer. Well, then I decided, what I really, truly wanted to do was to marry the man of my dreams and be a wife and mother and pass on the benefits of my happy “early years” to our children.
For the shorter version of Keena's early years, click here.
To continue the story with "Our years together," click here.
To go to Kent's early years, click here.
To return to our home page, click here.