Merlin in tux singing
Image of musical notes

Merlin's Notes

Merlin's Fifth Grade Class Merlin's Sixth Grade Class Merlin Playing the Piano Merlin Drives a Car

My Many Happy School Days

My education was consistent with my ideals. I walked about 1½ miles to elementary school from 1st to 10th grades. The building was from kindergarten to the 10th grade, but the lower grades were in the south wing and the upper grades were in the north wing. We always walked even when it snowed. In going to high school, we were given bus tickets and could ride the bus from our front door to school at Ogden High School on Harrison Blvd. It stopped about a half block from our house and sometimes we had to run to catch it. In the winter it was very cold and we had to try very hard not to miss the bus.

My first memories of school I have is of Mrs. Williams. She taught me art in the fourth grade. One day she brought some iris to school for us to paint. I can remember struggling to try to begin painting an iris on my paper. I didn’t have the flair for painting and I was rather rigid with my brush, not knowing how a fourth grader should paint with water colors. She came to my desk, observing how I was struggling and took my hand and swished around on my paper until we had an iris on the page.

The teacher that I liked the best was Mrs. Margaret Schmaltz. She conducted a class called “Auditorium.” I can still remember the encouragement each time I sang a song in the Auditorium. Our class went to the Auditorium on this particular day. We all sat in the back of the auditorium. The hall was very large so you had to sing out. I don’t remember the song I sang, or who played for me but I did get a lot of praise and encouragement.

My reading skills were not very apparent when I was young. I didn’t read very much as a youth. As I grew up, I wanted to read the plots of operas in order to understand them and enjoy the music better. I like collecting books for reference mainly. When I was married I developed the skill necessary to fulfill requirements of classes or making reports of various kinds.

I feel like I learned the most from a Mrs. Paucet, in the earlier years. She gave us flash cards with words to pronounce and to take home to learn. From that experience, I gave my students flashcards.

At recess we played games one of which was to have a group of children joining hands and by capturing someone in the circle, by asking “Who is the best looking.” Sometimes I won! During the winter we played in the snow making forts and throwing snowballs. One day we were so busy playing we were late getting back to class and had to ask our parents to write a letter to the teacher as to why we were late. My grandfather was very ill at the time and mother was busy at his bedside and didn’t come home till late so I wrote my own note to the teacher. The letter was later mailed to my mother. We had a great laugh over it. I didn’t get any punishment.

I always carried my lunch in a sack of homemade bread. I longed for baker’s bread and tuna fish but I didn’t get it very often. One day I threw my homemade sandwich away. The teacher found it and announced to the class that a homemade sandwich was most nutritious and should NEVER be wasted. I didn’t ever do that again.

Student discipline was sometimes severe. Delay Homer talked back to the teacher in the 7th grade History class. Mr. Seegmiller picked him up and threw him across the room! He was not hurt. I was never punished for anything.

Our school had several steep steps going up to the entrance. One day I needed to use the bathroom urgently so I proceeded to run down the steps inside the building two or three at a time. The principal was Mrs. Black and she saw me running down the stairs. She told me to march back up the stairs. She started shaking me so severely it caused me to wet my pants. When she saw the little puddle by my feet, she was apologetic and embarrassed. I don’t remember ever running down the stairs again.

For a music teacher, we had Mr. Douglas Brian. He was great for telling musical stories, especially Peer Gynt. He made music enjoyable for us. He praised me a lot. He told me I would excel in music and eventually sing “Martha.” I took privately from him and enjoyed singing very much because of him. His praise to me was well received, but his method of teaching me singing was not as good as other teachers I had at BYU.

We had ward dances in our ward building. We went often and had a good time. Budget cards were needed then and by paying budget to the Bishop, he would issue you a budget card. In Janet and Doug’s house we would learn to dance. Doug would play the piano and Janet and I would dance. I felt that I danced quite well and had a great time at all ward dances that I attended. I never felt like a “wall flower.”

Going to church as a family never happened. I can’t remember going to church as a WHOLE FAMILY. I can vaguely remember Dad ever going. I remember going by myself. My brother seldom ever went that I know of. In the Navy he drifted even further from the Church. John Albert and Glen Cosby were very influential in my development.

Family reunions on the Sorensen level never existed. Mother’s (Phyllis) line had them very often. I tried to organize it and was President for a while before I went on my mission. Phyllis’ side of the family had reunions every other year. They were very well organized, spiritual and fun, and very well attended.

Once in a while there would be funeral held. I had one Uncle Roy Hunter who also sang. When he died I was asked to sing at his funeral. People thought I had received the gift of singing from the Lord. I sang and felt bad that he had died by accidentally falling off the roof of a church he was repairing.

Since I just had one brother, each time there was a piece of pie or cake dad would allow one to cut the pieces and the other to make the first choice. Consequently, the pieces were very fair. I felt like things were very fair.

My field of interest was always in music, because music was always on my mind. I took lessons from Better Bowman, a friend of my brother, Ferrell. I had to walk up over the hill, cross the river. Lessons were $1.50 as I remember and I liked them. I also took lessons from Douglas Brian, and Glenn Hanson at Ogden High School. I felt successful in music and enjoyed singing at various events.

My high school days always included music. I was always in a choir. I was in the school play, “Tiger House.” I also sang “On the Road to Mandalay” with the high school band. That was especially thrilling for me. I was an officer in the Radio Broadcasting Class which was aired on KLO each week. I had the part of a teen-aged kid with parents and family. It was significant in my growing-up years.

I was an attentive son to my parents. When I had a job I always bought mother something with my earnings. Sometimes it was throw rug for our home. I still have one of them in the trunk of my car. Sometimes it was a vase. Mother didn’t have any vases for flowers.

Poetry had a place in my life. I admire the prophet Joseph Smith as much as any other person. He was strong physically as well as spiritually. When he came to Nauvoo along by the river and saw so many people sick, he blessed them and they immediately got well. He helped all kinds of troubles without complaining. Even Emma gave him some problems and he progressed through it all. I can TOO!

My dates were in my neighborhood. My first date was with Janet Stewart who lived next door. We went everywhere together and played and danced, sang and picked cherries. I helped her with her campaign to run for Student Body President, She didn’t win, but we had fun trying. Her brother Douglas was also a very good friend.

I always had a fruit picking job from the neighbors. I was a good worker. Janet and I were a good team. Janet and I were in demand in our neighborhood because we would clean the trees! I would get up in the trees and weigh the branches down so Janet could clean the lower branches of fruit. Up in the trees I would clean the high branches of fruit. The fruit growers would contact us to clean their branches of cherries and apricots. This way we earned money for school and clothes.

Movies have always played a dominant role in my life. I was most impressed with “Gone with the Wind.” To see all the destruction of the Civil War was very depressing but Scarlett was so determined to prosper anyway. I was in my early teenage years when I saw it. It lasted for four hours. Olivia DeHavilan was our favorite because of her humility and sincere feelings for people really affected me. “Tomorrow is another day,” by Scarlett was a challenge that life goes on. Tomorrow can bring a lot of happiness if we have that kind of faith. Janet Steward and I saw it together.

As I graduated from Ogden High School, I intended to go to the McCune School of Music in Salt Lake City. When Bill Nash came to me and said he was going to Provo to check out BYU, he asked me if I would go with him. I consented and found BYU to be very friendly and feeling the spirits of the students that went there and because of the football games and other activities, decided to go there with Bill Nash. I did get a small scholarship to BYU and have always been glad that I went there, besides I met Phyllis there. I gave two concerts. Florence Madsen prepared me and Nurell Weight also prepared me. See the program and recognition article.

When I was at Weber College, I tried out for a musical part in “The Desert Song.” There were three male roles and three guys were there to try out. The director was Roland Perry and he gave the part I wanted to his private student. I was broken-hearted because I had spent my hard-earned money to buy the complete score. When I got home and told my mother with tears in my eyes and she said, “there will be many other chances to sing.” As I entered BYU and had my first recital, my mother was there. When I graduated she was there. When I performed in my graduate recital, she was there, giving me her support and confidence. When I was set apart in Salt Lake City to go on a mission to Germany, she was there taking notes of my setting apart.

After I graduated from Ogden High School and Weber College, I was invited by Bill Nash to wander down Provo way to check out BYU. I was very impressed with the friendliness of the students and was inclined to enroll at BYU. I roomed with five other guys, two from Canada. We lived with the Jackman family. They were quite poor and their house was old-fashioned but it didn’t seem to bother us. We batched it by buying and preparing our own meals. It was also cheaper for us. One time we decided to move in the middle of the night. I don’t remember the reasons but after going there and seeing the difference, we found what we had was a better situation. We would have to furnish our own bedding and we didn’t have any so we returned.

At college, I had an algebra class that was very discouraging and it wasn’t hard to skip the bus so I didn’t have to go to the algebra class, consequently, I got my only D in Algebra on my report card.

One scripture which has helped me build my life is as follows: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Music as always been a part of my life. I started taking piano lessons from my brother’s friend, Betty Bowman. I was in Jr. High school when I began. The lessons were $1.50 per lesson once a week. I had to walk up over the hill to her house. I felt that singing was more necessary for I sang in choirs for years. My teachers were very different from each other. Douglas Brian appealed to me so I took lessons from him for three years. When I got to Odgen High School, I took from Glenn L. Hanson who directed the choir in high school. I still treasure those days and the opportunity to sing anytime I got an invitation. My goals have always been to sing even for money. That hasn’t happened yet, but I have had many opportunities to be exposed to good music and have had many places to sing: at BYU with the Acapella Choir and the Delta Phi chorus and the many trips I enjoyed singing with groups. Going to New York and singing at Carnegie Hall two different years was a great thrill. Since then I have enjoyed singing with tapes which Phyllis made for me. She was a remarkable accompanist and pianist. At her passing I greatly miss and love her even still.

I have had chances to see the world. My military time was spent in Japan and Korea. I saw Germany while on a mission there. Those experiences made me appreciate America very much. We have very many blessings living in America. No, I don’t like going anywhere without my family or a part thereof. With them it doesn’t matter where we go as long as we’re together.

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