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John Frederick White and Vida May Fowkes

Personal History of John Frederick White


I was born on July 19, 1910, in Salt Lake City, Utah to Fred and Ruth White. I have two sisters, Marjorie Thomsen and one who died as an infant, Ruth Helen White.

I was loved by my parents who provided me opportunities to grow and learn and to succeed. My parents took me to doctors to find out why I didn't hear. At an early age, I knew I was deaf and tried to communicate with my parents using signs that I invented. I loved to eat potatoes and would show my parents the sign for that by making an oval sign with both hands.

I remember asking my Dad for a tricycle and was so happy to get one. I rode that all over the town and loved the freedom to get outside and explore. My parents were worried about me getting lost, and I can remember being upset when the screen was locked to keep me inside.

When I was 7, my parents took me to the School for the Deaf in Ogden. It was hard to be away from home, and I looked forward to home visits during the holidays and summer. All of the boys at school had to do chores. I remember I had to clean the pig pen and do farming chores. On a home visit, I told my Dad that I hated cleaning the pig pens and wanted to learn how to be a printer. I was so happy when my Dad visited with the principal at the school and requested I be put in the printing program. He was successful and this started my training that led to my long career as a printer.

During my early years at the School for the Deaf, I was timid and afraid I would get hurt playing sports. Charles Fowkes, (older brother to Vida), took me under his wing and explained that boys are to be aggressive and strong and sports would help me be more confident. He worked with me and showed me how to throw and catch and hit base balls. He showed me how to play football and not to be afraid of the contact. He instilled a desire to play basketball. I developed a love for the sports and soon excelled. One of my fond memories was to play quarterback and was captain of our football team. My senior year, our team beat Ogden High School who was awarded the state championship because our players were older. Students at the School for the Deaf graduated at the age of 20 and 21. I made life long friends with my school class mates who played sports with me. I played right forward on the basketball team and shot a two handed shot from the chest that would have been the same as the three pointer of this era.

I graduated from school during the depression and remember how difficult it was during that time and worked for the CCC building picnic and park areas in Emigration Canyon. I did what I could to help my parents. I wanted to serve my country in the Arm Forces and went to the draft board and asked to be a recruit. I was denied because of my deafness and the man praised me for wanting to serve my country.

linotype operator I wanted to work as a printer, and jobs were difficult to find. I worked as a printer for a candy company and at night at the University of Utah Press. I considered moving out to Chicago to work at a large newspaper company but decided to stay in Utah and applied at the Tribune Newspaper Agency. I took the test and passed and started my career working the night shift for five years. I worked up in seniority until I was able to work the day shift. I worked as a linotype (picture on left) operator and then in the photo department, then in the paste up department in the composing room. I prepared the ads that were put in the newspaper. I worked until I was 77 with over 40 years in my career.

I met Vida at the School for the Deaf. I have fond memories of driving up to Almy to visit her at the ranch. I had a 1936 Plymouth and the roads were narrow. I had a portable heater in my car and loved the drive. Vida's mother was a good cook, and she made me feel welcome on my visits. I proposed to Vida in August of 1938, and we were married October 31, 1938.

I wanted to be a good provider and worked two jobs to save up enough money for a down payment on a home. It was important for me to have a home in a good neighborhood for my family to grow up. We lived in the same home for 58 years and have three wonderful children: Carol, Jack and Sherri. My children have always been good to me, and I am proud of them. Carol would listen to the U of U ball games for me and interpret the play by play action to me. She was always a loving daughter who helped us in so many ways. Jack was a good son, and I love him. Sherri was our youngest and was special to us too. Vida and I have 10 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren and one great-grandchild that preceded me in death. I am proud of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and love to be with them. Our family gatherings and traditions have made me so happy.

I spent many years in sports and loved to watch sports as well. I was awarded three National Hall of Fame awards for my service as a player, coach and leader with deaf athletes for over 60 years. There were times when I drove my car with team players to tournament sites. I used my own money at times to help my players with the cost of motels and food when we traveled out of state. I have loved going to the U of U ball games for many years and to the Jazz games. I use to watch the U of U basketball team practice and was able to get a set of uniforms from the school that we used for our Utah Deaf basketball team. Those were the best uniforms we ever had.

Life has been good to me. I have worked hard and tried to be a good example to my family. I love my wife, Vida, and my children and my grandchildren and great-¬grandchildren.

Stories told by John White as remembered by Jack White, his son.



Personal History of Vida May Fowkes White


I was born on March 20, 1918, in Evanston, Wyoming. My parents were Charles Mortimer Fowkes and Edith Louise Bell Fowkes. My siblings in order of age were: Mary, Ethel, Charles, Lillian, William (died 3 days after childbirth), Emily, Arnold, myself, and Clarence. Clarence and I are the only children still alive at this time.

My parents had two homes. We lived in Evanston, Wyoming for nine months during the school year and then moved out to the ranch in Almy, Wyoming during the summer months. My grandfather, Reuben Fowkes, homesteaded on the upper Bear River and was the first white man to settle in that area. Native American Indians, the Shoshone Tribe, inhabited the area and there was always a fear of them. My mother would tell me stories of the Indians who would make a yearly trek from Riverton, Wyoming, by the ranch on their way to St. George, Utah. The Indian tribe would stop at the ranch in the spring on their way to the south and again in the fall on their way back. My mother mentioned that her mother would hurry and bake cookies for the Indians when she saw them coming. This was a fast gift to prepare. She explained that if the Indians stayed long, they would help themselves to a sheep to eat on the way. The Indian Chief was Chief Washakie, who became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

During the Depression, we had to give up our home in Evanston and move to the ranch in Almy. I remember we all had to do our part and it was hard work. My chores were to feed the lambs and herd sheep in the fields. I loved animals, and we had sheep, cows, horses, dogs and cats. My favorite cat was Tom. I had watched my Father cut the tails off the sheep and thought I should do the same to my cat. My parents were very upset with me for doing what I thought needed to be done.

I was close to my older brother Arnold and my younger brother Clarence. We had fun playing on the ranch and rode horses and fished at the river and ponds. I can remember at the age of two sitting in my high chair and pushed my foot against the table and tipped the high chair and fell back and hit my head against the coal stove. As a result of the accident, I lost my hearing in one ear. Later that year, I lost the hearing in my other ear due to Scarlet Fever. My Father was so angry following the accident that he chopped up the high chair. My younger brother Clarence never had a high chair to sit in after my accident.

I can remember riding to school in a horse and buggy and in the winter time with a horse drawn sleigh. The ride was eight miles and during those cold winter months, my parents would put warm rocks or bricks wrapped inside a blanket to help keep me warm. I attended school with hearing children until I was eight years old. The hearing kids were jealous of me because I was a good student. I remember one incident that frightened me. My teacher asked the class a question. I was the only one to raise a hand and answered the question. The teacher chided the rest of the class for not being prepared and stated, "Shame on you. Vida is deaf and knows the answer". After school that day, some boys from the class beat me up for being the teacher's pet. I was afraid to go back to school and never returned. When I was nine, my parents had me attend the School for the Deaf in Ogden. It was difficult being away from home to attend school. I made friends easily, and my best friend was Fern Player. This friendship started at age 12 and lasted a lifetime. I was a good student and received a scholarship to attend Gallaudet College. My father died at that time, and my mother did not have the money to cover my room and board. I feel bad that I never had the chance to go to college.

I remember my mother as a beautiful woman who was sweet and kind. She would read bed time stories to us, and I looked forward to them. She was a wonderful woman who worked hard and focused her efforts to make us feel loved. She was active in the church and held home evening once a week to teach us gospel principles. She was a good example to all of us, and I remember her praying often. My mother was always busy keeping up the home and preparing meals for eight children and her husband. To help with the finances, my mother would raise turkeys and sell them.

My father was a handsome man and worked hard. He had two other brothers, and they made a commitment to help each other go to college. He helped support his two brothers, and when it was his turn, his brothers would not provide the financial help. He was disappointed that he did not have the chance to go on to college and stayed on the ranch to find ways to support his own family. He was not active in the Church and my mother took the lead regarding religious matters. My father enjoyed hunting. He was a frail man and died when he was 54, and I was 17.

I can remember family trips to Yellowstone Park and Jackson Hole. It was exciting to be able to get away from the ranch for a trip together. One of the activities on our trip was to fish and to enjoy the wonders of the Park.

I was popular in school and met Jack. He was different from the other boys. I noticed he was more of a gentleman and was so handsome. He proposed to me at the ranch in August of 1938, and we were married October 31, 1938. Before Jack proposed to me, he knew I wanted to go to Gallaudet College and even told me he would wait for me.

We were married in the Salt Lake Temple. My mother and sister Mary accompanied me in the temple. Jack had his Aunt Cicely and Florence, Grandma Sara White, Grace and Ralph Cracroft accompanied him in the temple. Following the marriage, we had a wedding lunch at Hotel Utah.

I was married 68 years to Jack who passed away on December 23, 2005. He was a good husband and had a great love of sports. My children have provided me with great memories and happiness. I love my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and am very proud of them. I have always enjoyed gardening and taking care of my many house plants. I am a happy person who would say my best qualities are that I am generous and a pleasant person.

Notes taken from an oral interview of Vida at her home in Salt Lake on March 12, 2006, by Jack White her son.

Jack, 18 months old, 1912
Jack, 18 months old, 1912
Vida Fowkes sitting in a cart on the family ranch in Almy, Wyoming.
Vida Fowkes sitting in a cart on the family ranch in Almy, Wyoming.
Jack in about 1914
Jack in about 1914
Fred in top hat and Jack in about 1920
Fred in top hat and Jack in about 1920
At Utah School for the Deaf as Team Captain, 1929, Second from Right,
At Utah School for the Deaf as Team Captain, 1929, Second from Right,
Vida Fowkes sitting in a cart on the family ranch in Almy, Wyoming.
Vida Fowkes sitting in a cart on the family ranch in Almy, Wyoming.
Vida, age 4, on ranch in Almy, Wyoming
Vida, age 4, on ranch in Almy, Wyoming
While walking in the field by the canal at the ranch in Almy, Wyoming, when Jack proposed in August 1938.
While walking in the field by the canal at the ranch in Almy, Wyoming, when Jack proposed in August 1938.
Vida, age 12
Vida, age 12
Vida, age 25
Vida, age 25
School newspaper article in 1929 shows Jack as team captain and his stats
School newspaper article in 1929 shows Jack as team captain and his stats
Retirement Party in 1987
Retirement Party in 1987 Sherri, Carol, Dan (Carol’s son), Vida, Jack (son), John, Heidi (Carol’s daughter), John Mathis (Carol’s husband), Carl (Carol’s son)
Jack White and Fred White in 1946, in front of Sarah White’s Home and his 1936 Plymouth
Jack White and Fred White in 1946, in front of Sarah White’s Home and his 1936 Plymouth
Jack and Vida’s trip to El Salvador to visit John Holman (Laura Glass’s son) in 1998
Jack and Vida’s trip to El Salvador to visit John Holman (Laura Glass’s son) in 1998
Vida, Jack, Carol, Sherri, and Jack in 1954
Vida, Jack, Carol, Sherri, and Jack in 1954
Left to right: Christmas Greeting Card in 1961, Jack, Vida, John, Sherri
Left to right: Christmas Greeting Card in 1961, Jack, Vida, John, Sherri
Jack in 2002
Jack in 2002
Jack and Vida’s Engagement Picture in August 1938
Jack and Vida’s Engagement Picture in August 1938