1940 - 1950
During the early 1940s, the families slowly pulled themselves out of the Great Depression. The herd of sheep John Durtschi bought during the depression was sold for 10 or 15 times the amount he paid for it. The counsel the general authority had given him proved to be wisely given. Now John and his family were debt-free for the first time in Teton Valley.
"Then, without even moving into our new home, events took a completely unexpected turn. I headed for Los Angeles, leaving my family in Salt Lake. A few weeks later I found work and an apartment, and then my family joined me in California. In a way, it was sad we had to leave with a new home so very nearly completed. It was the first place we could really call our own. But I felt strongly that it was something I had to do. And this was the way things went during those years. We returned to Salt Lake in 1941 and moved into our new house.
"We were excited to finally get into our new home. There was something warm and rewarding about living in our very own home. But somehow, it was just too good to be true. On October 1st disaster struck. For some reason both Ruth and I had left the house. Only baby Cleon and Belden were home. Cleon was in his crib by the window. Little 3-1/2-year old Belden was playing by himself. Then somehow a fire started next to the stove in the kitchen. Belden remembered, 'I can still clearly recall some of the details of the fire. It began in the wood box behind the kitchen cook-stove. The fire spread to the wall. Then the heat began to break the windows. Cleon was crying in his crib. Somehow I got out of the house, but my infant brother and the house were lost.'
"Cleon's death had the most profound effect on the entire family," Fred added. "We were all struck with anguish, and Ruth and I felt great guilt and heartache. Ruth and I knew the shock of this was something we would never forget. The fire and death have haunted us ever since, and will probably do so to our graves. One of our greatest prayers is that we may be worthy to greet him on the other side of the veil. Yet, we have faith, and believe that it will be a joyful and tearful reunion when Cleon meets us there.
"The loss of the home was complete. Our greatest blessing was that Belden somehow got out safely and was not physically hurt. After the fire, and after everything was taken care of, the family moved to Driggs. We stayed there on and off for several years, where I worked mainly for my brothers, Alfred and John."
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On the Kaufman farm, Rosa's health began failing in 1940. In 1941, this prompted them to sell half of their land to Alfred, their youngest son. This gave Rudolph, Sr., and Rosa more free time to visit their married children.
On Mother's Day 1941, while Rudolph and Rosa were attending Sunday School, their children moved a new electric range and refrigerator into their kitchen. It was one of the great surprises of her life!
Clara's son, Nephi, went to the Central States Mission February 1941. Then the Second World War started, and many of the children from these families went into the service. Clara sent three boys, and Alfred, and John each sent a boy, as well as others.
Fred Durtschi continued with the carpenter trade. "In the early '40's in Teton Valley, I designed and built a home for Mary Weston, my sister Clara's daughter," he stated. "Clara also helped with the project. I also designed and built a home for Elizabeth, Ed's widow. Then there were the barns. I built barns for my brother, John, and for the Kaufmans. I worked very hard when I built to ensure the very best building possible. There was only one way to build things. I felt it ought to be built that way the first time, even if it did take a little extra time. It was either this, or go back over it 10 or 20 years later and fix everything which had broken down because it wasn't done correctly the first time. I feel the barns I built were just as well-built as the houses. In fact, everything I started to build was either well-built or I didn't do it. If others tried to hurry me to the point of taking short-cuts, I left it to them to complete. I would not allow myself to be pushed into hasty, and consequently, shoddy workmanship. On one occasion I was building a barn for the Kaufmans. I had all of the framework pre-cut and laid out on the ground. I was not quite finished with all of the little preparations which I felt were essential for a proper job. One of the Kaufmans became impatient and began to erect things before I was ready. So I said, in effect, 'If you can't wait until tomorrow when things are ready to assemble, I don't want anything more to do with it.' I did not want people coming around in 20 or 30 years and saying that Fred Durtschi had built this fallen down barn. I had been taught that craftsmanship was the controlling factor, rather than the time it took to do it. If it took two hours to make a simple wooden door latch for a barn, and do it right, then so be it. Doing things in a substandard way for one-fourth the time didn't interest me, even if the result was functional. Some say I was a perfectionist, yet I only wanted to see the job done right. It was not long before the Kaufmans and I smoothed out the little misunderstanding and I was working on their barn again."
Jackson's Hole had now changed entirely. In 1942, President Roosevelt signed the papers accepting the land which had been bought up by the Jackson Hole Preserve Company. Then he made it a national monument which later became Teton National Park.
"We still refused to sell," Caroline related. "Finally, we were given a choice of either our property being confiscated, or trading for land. The land they had in mind was bordering the edge of the Park near our son Walt's ranch. So we accepted this offer. The Park Service eventually had all our buildings and fences removed. Today, except for a border of willows growing along forgotten irrigation ditches, the land looks just as it did when Fred first saw it."
After the painful decision to give up their place, Fred Feuz put his affairs in order. His son, Ed, took over the property which they traded for, and it later became his ranch.
The year 1944 saw raging storms pass over the Teton Valley. For Fred and Ruth Durtschi they were both storms of rain and foul weather as well as storms of passion and ill will. "Ruth and I were often 'at logger heads' with each other," Fred sadly explained. "My brothers didn't understand me. And my ideas were more or less under an open attack by them.
"Ruth and I were sealed together as husband and wife for time and all eternity. Together we had passed through many experiences; through sunshine and sorrow, but never had I been sorry I made the step. Without the guiding hand of the Almighty, I never would have dared to make that move. But knowing the Omnipotent Power back of it, I hoped never to allow our union to be dissolved, whatever else may happen. Yes, Lucifer had been working hard and would probably continue to work hard to separate us. He has tried that everywhere with every soul that has entered that union in the temple as we had entered it. Of course, temple marriage is the only way to be married. If such a dark day ever came into our lives as to have our union dissolved, it would be on account of our sins and wrong doings. I prayed for heaven to help us.
"Even though dark clouds of despair often obscured the sun, there were occasional rays of hope. One very bright spot was the birth of our last son, David, in 1945 at Sugar City. Another saving light was the prospect of another home which we could call our own. It was situated on an 80-acre parcel of land just to the west of Milo Dally's place. (Several yards west of Arnold and Marian Durtschi's present home.)
"With the help of relatives and friends, a small house was moved into place on those 80 acres. Someone dubbed it 'the wilderness' (referring to the house). Much time was spent during the summer of 1945 fixing the house and making it livable. I think we were living in Driggs at this time, just before moving into 'the wilderness'. David, the baby, was only three or four months old at this time. Without going into a lot of detail, I would like to mention a couple of the more interesting features of this home. The water supply consisted of an irrigation canal running just a few feet north of the house. This same canal served as the refrigerator. Unfortunately, sometimes the sack of refrigerated goods was washed downstream when someone turned a big head of water into the canal.
"One of my favorite hobbies was to invent new and interesting dishes from the plants that grew in the wild," Fred continued. "Already possessing the knowledge of such foods could very well save a person during times of famine, I invented some interesting dishes. Some of my more successful dishes were salads, containing among other things, clover flowers, dandelions, honey, and whole wheat flour. One thing the children always looked for, usually to my displeasure, was the inevitable insects. Wild flowers simply have insects in them and the children didn't like the thought of eating these little critters. So they picked around through my salads looking for bugs. I scolded and reproved them to no effect, telling them that a few little bugs wouldn't hurt them. But they were not impressed.
"At bath time, Ruth often gave the children the old tried and true 'spit bath,'" Fred proceeded, "and we grew accustomed to bathing in a laundry tub when we wanted a good bath. In fact, a bath in a real live bathtub was a seldom-enjoyed luxury.
"Now the toilet facilities were really unique. Someone had procured an old cane-bottom kitchen chair, minus the cane material. The result was a chair with a nice round hole of about the proper size for the designated function. The chair would simply be placed out in the sagebrush and used when needed. Seven-year-old Belden said of that experience, 'I can still remember the cat calls from some rowdies passing in a car on the nearby road as I was using the chair.'
"We lived in 'the wilderness' a few months working the 80 acres as we tried our hand at farming. One job which Ruth and my children thought we did far too often was picking up rocks from the fields. We loaded them on a hay rack, and hauled them to the pile. We then unloaded them and began all over again. There were plenty of rocks available. Peas were planted that spring of 1945. The weather was kind to us for we were able to harvest them."
In Provo during 1945, Clara went by Greyhound bus with a group of 44 people on a two-week excursion to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. In 1946, Clara's stake was building a big meeting house. After the walls were up, they asked for help to clean out the rooms and chapel. "So I went and hauled out 16 wheelbarrows of junk and dumped them out over the hill," Clara stated. "No one else came to help. I helped many days when they put the floors down. The next summer I went and took care of the landscaping after they had it all planted. The weeds were getting the upper hand of things. They had asked the boys of the Ward to do the weeding. However, they destroyed 14 choice shrubs, so I worked 140 hours that summer keeping things nice." She would have gone the next summer too, but BYU wanted her place and so it was sold to them.
In 1949, Clara had sold her home to her daughter and son-in-law, Gordon McQuivey. He built a room for her and she lived there. When Gordon sold the home to BYU he bought two acres in Lindon. He built a beautiful home on it, and let Clara move a little house for her onto the property next to them.
In January of 1946 on the Kaufman farm, Rosa became seriously ill with anemia and heart trouble. She did not respond to medication and passed away in her beloved home on June 14th, 1946, at the age of 68 years and 9 months. She was buried in the Pratt Ward cemetery by her husband John, and the rest of her family.
Rudolph continued to live at home with Alfred and Phyllis, who were married about a month after Rosa's passing. It was hard for him to adjust to being without his companion of 49 years, and he made frequent trips away from home. He was returning from a visit to Boise on July 1st, 1947 when his son Arnold was killed. His bulldozer had tipped over while clearing trees from a hillside.
This blow was almost too much for Rudolph, and during the ensuing months he became nervous and restless. His children hoped that he would improve away from the farm and its memories. So he was invited to visit his children away from the valley. For the remainder of his life, he lived among his children, including those in the valley. Each time Rudolph visited a family he was welcomed as only a beloved father could be. Always quiet and uncomplaining, he fitted easily into any home.
Things between Fred and Ruth Durtschi continued to deteriorate. Then in 1946, the storm clouds of discord between them gathered so oppressively that escape seemed next to impossible. Before long, the totally unthinkable happened and Ruth and Fred obtained a civil divorce. Ruth obtained custody of the children and moved to Provo, Utah. She lived in Provo until just a couple of years before her death, in April of 1978, near her son David's home in Shreveport, Louisiana.
"Ruth and I were simply two people who had different opinions about many things," Fred lamented. "We were not able to reconcile these differences and so decided to live apart, particularly for the sake of the children. It is a devastating thing for a child to see his parents bitterly and even violently fighting each other. The children, no doubt, still get a terrible feeling in the pit of their stomachs when they recall those fights in the log house near the Weston's place on the state line.
"After the divorce, I lived mostly in Driggs and Salt Lake City, with most of my time being spent in Salt Lake. Even though we were divorced, I tried to maintain the lines of communication between Ruth and the boys. And this was something Ruth also wanted to continue. I wrote frequent letters to her and the boys in Provo. And fairly often I visited with my estranged ones. During these visits I would always find time to spend with my boys and give them counsel. Now young boys don't usually appreciate lengthy talks about all sorts of subjects ranging from how to do well in school to why it is important to keep physically and spiritually clean. But bless their hearts, they listened. I have always had a great love and concern for my boys. On my visits they sat quietly and listened to what I had to say. No doubt, much of my advice went in one ear and out the other, considering the attention span of young boys. It was so wonderful to see them all. The high point of my month was to go to Provo and visit them. After my visit I would give them what they learned to call 'his famous kiss'. As young boys are, they weren't much for kissing. This wasn't due to a lack of love, but rather due to the presence of my prickly mustache. It was, or so it seemed to them an ordeal to receive a kiss from that prickly mustache.
"I always had the greatest aspirations for my boys," Fred continued, "and I often told them so. I often hoped for them to become leaders, such as admirals or generals. But really, I have only wanted one thing for my children. And that is, as all parents wish, to see their children attain greater heights and accomplishments than their parents. We all pray for the very best for our beloved children. And I prayed and fasted for my little family long and often."
Like any man, Fred Durtschi had many hopes and aspirations during his life. "Of course, my fondest hopes were related for my family," Fred said. "But one great dream of mine was to design a temple or other important building for the Church. After the divorce, I spent many of those lonely years drawing and designing buildings. One of my favorite projects which had taken hundreds of hours, was a 'timber temple'. It would have been a beautiful building which was to be constructed mainly of huge logs. Many of the logs were oriented vertically. When I was not at work, drawing, or taking care of the other necessities of day to day life, I often spent time in the Salt Lake Temple doing endowment work. I lived just a few blocks from the temple, the great temple I loved so dearly and which held so many priceless memories. I also wrote a lot in my journal and usually wrote to my children and estranged wife at least every week or so."
While at Driggs, Fred usually stayed with his brother, Alfred. Alfred Durtschi worked hard at being a good Bishop. This was not always easy to do at the same time he was trying to operate a large farm. He said, "I had lots of time while milking cows to meditate and to memorize, and I memorized many scriptures and poems. I enjoyed putting on comedy acts at different entertainments with Oral Harris, Clad Nelson and Fred Duersch. Most of the memorizing for these acts I did while milking the cows.
"I realized too, that our young people needed to have enjoyment in their lives. So we had lots of dances and refreshments to keep them satisfied. While I was the Bishop we had from two to four missionaries in the field most of the time.
"Ida and I decided we needed a new house. The old one had served us well but now we needed something a little bigger. I had my brother Fred draw up the plans. He chose to pattern our new house after my son Arnold's Swiss chalet. In the fall of 1946 and the spring of 1947, Rex Rigby helped us build it. We moved the old house to the south about 70 feet and built the new one where it had stood. However, we still lived in the old house until the new one was finished."
Most of John Durtschi's children were now practically grown. John remembered, "We were able to send our boys on missions and to college. Although they didn't have money to waste, they all received a good education. I would like to tell my grandchildren that faith and works will overcome the greatest problems. You can't give up when you have troubles. You've got to have faith and you've got to work. There is a God and He will take care of you.
"On December 19, 1947, my wife Luella suddenly passed away," John said. "She had some heart troubles after Don was born, and I often worried and prayed for her. The night before her passing, I came to the house after a hard day's work, Luella was making quilt blocks for Relief Society. We were visiting and I thought to myself, I think she is feeling better than she has felt for years. The next morning at 4:30 a.m. she raised up in bed, then fell over, and was gone. Don was just nine years old at the time. When he saw how terrible I felt, he said, 'Oh, Papa, at least she didn't have to suffer!' He had more sense than I did. It really broke me up when I found out that we couldn't revive her. It helped me a lot that Don could see the advantage that she didn't have to suffer when she died. Perhaps this helped me, to a small degree, to understand it all myself.
"For a few years after Luella died, my nephew Arnold, Alfred's son, and his wife Marian came to live with us. She was an excellent cook and took good care of us. We had a good life with them. After they moved, LaVerne, Ed and Elizabeth's daughter, came. She had lost her husband during the war. Later, after Ray got married, he and Josephine took care of us. One summer my brother Alfred, whom you will remember was the Bishop, recommended me for a mission. I was interviewed by Matthew Cowley at the September Stake Conference. He said that I couldn't go on a mission because I had a teenaged child. Don was 12. So I said that I would be happy to stay home. I would have been happy to accept the call had I been called, but he said I should get married again. He counseled with me just like a father would to his son. I told him that I had been sealed to my wife, and I didn't think I should get married again. But he said that I should."
In the late forties, Fred Feuz's health failed, and he had one heart attack which taxed his strength.
Across the mountains in Teton Valley, the newest church building project was the building of a new Stake Tabernacle. The Pratt Ward was assessed $4,000 of which Charles Christensen paid $1,000. It was not much of a job for Bishop Durtschi to raise the rest because times were much better. Then, in 1948, Pratt Ward bought a Church welfare farm for the sum of $12,000. It was a cash deal. The ward raised $3,000 and borrowed $9,000 from the Church. The income from the farm paid the bill. It was easier for the ward to raise the $3,000 for that farm than it was to raise $300 during the depression when the Pratt Ward Church house was constructed. In Alfred's opinion, the Pratt Church welfare farm was the best 80 acres in the ward.
This work Copyright 1987 for the Durtschi Family by Mark Durtschi.
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