Vera Jean Cassel – Bold Lady

Vera Jean Cassel in WWII WAC Uniform

Vera Jean Cassel in WWII WAC Uniform

My aunt, Vera Jean Cassel, led an interesting life. It is captured quite well in two letters, one from my sister Kallie Foutz Parker to Bernice Peck, Beauty Editor of Mademoiselle Magazine, dated August 18, 1971 and one from Vera Jean Cassel to Bernice Peck, dated September 10, 1971. At the end I have included some of my memories of her and have added some corrections and additional information about the letters based on some genealogy research.

From Kallie’s August 18, 1971 letter.

You asked about my “Tante” and I have the feeling you pictured her as a little old grey-haired lady sitting in a rocking chair and attending Ladies’ Aid Meetings. T’aint so. I think Aunt Vera was the original Auntie Mame. She was the post-humous child of Brigham Young, Jr. He had married my Grandmother Young when he was a ripe 55 and she a nubile and gorgeous 17. But his drab little previous wives in Salt Lake were frightfully jealous, so he had to keep his last family stashed away down in New Mexico, and when he died, they got practically none of his ample estate. Even when they moved to Salt Lake, they were poor as church mice, and Vera had to quit school at 14 to work as an apprentice beauty operator at the Mormon Dept. store at twelve bucks a month.

From there she went to California and opened her own shop (some seven years later) and finally went into a new face peeling business with a Dr. Brown in Beverly Hills. They made scads and scads of dough which enabled her to have a posh apartment and fur coats and diamond rings and foreign cars and an Irish Wolfhound and trips all over the world. I remember her telling about the time she was kidnapped in Honolulu and hauled off to another Island because the King there had fallen in love with her and wanted to marry her, but she didn’t dig him and escaped. I always thought she was the most glamorous thing afoot with her slinky satin gowns and steel-buckled pumps and sheer black hose and flaming red tresses and always trailing wafts of French perfume.

She married and divorced…joined the WACS in WW II and when Grandma Young took ill, she returned to Salt Lake and took care of her until she died in 1959…and still lives in the old fashioned 14 room house alone…the flaming red tresses have given way to iron gray locks and the slinky satin gowns to printed Mu Mus, but she still has a jillion projects going all the time…she gardens…plays the piano and guitar…paints…studies languages…roots for the Green Bay Packers and reads copiously and is anti-social. I think Pat and I are the only people she gives two beets about.

For several years, she was in New York and had a Hair Dressing Salon with another woman called SATTLERS..I think it was on 55th just off Fifth Avenue. You may even have met her. I had her in tow on many occasions when I was undergoing my metamorphosis…and she was intrigued as hell over the whole thing.

I think she would be terribly thrilled and flattered by a dollop of fragrance. I suspect she is rather lonely but would never admit it. Address:

Mrs. Vera Jean Cassel
374 Sixth Avenue
Salt Lake City, Utah 84103

From Vera Cassel to Bernice Peck dated September 10, 1971.

My dear and so Friendly Bernice Peck:

Well, thank you bushels and bushels for the Arpege by Lanvin, a long-time favorite of mine, and the delightful fragrance of Mme Rochas. Such generosity on your part amounts to lots and lots of dollops in my book. It’s enough to bring lumps to me larynx. I shall enjoy them down to the last — as Kallie’s brother Jay used to say to me when he was a wee lad, “Gee, you stink pretty. Whatcha been stepping in?” — drop of “stink pretty” in both containers.

You are one hundred per cent right on that farmer bit, except I am not a wife, just the farmer. How I love to dig in the good earth. Since my retirement, organic gardening has been my bag. My yard is the size of a postage stamp, Eisenhower not commemorative, but even a Japanese couldn’t get more production out of every square inch than I do. To the pedestrian passersby, on their way to the large shopping center in the next block, I am know as “the flower lady.” My front yard is all flowers and the back gets planted with vegetables. This summer, production has not been too good as I had to get other people to do the planting for me and they just didn’t say the right words. Extreme heat and more and more air pollution hasn’t helped either. Up to date my efforts have paid off very well in the grocery department. Makes me sad, but I just can’t cut the lifting and digging any more. I shall keep my herbs, grapes, and can still scratch in a few cucumber seeds so I can make pickles. With me, gardening is a labor of love, although that “green thumb” business runs more to a weak mind and a strong back, me thinks. Maybe I’ll speculate with a couple of dwarf fruit trees.

Parchment Stationery with Embedded Flower by Vera Jean Casel

Parchment Stationery with Embedded Flower by Vera Jean Cassel

I am really thrilled that you have enjoyed some of the parchment stationery I made via my beloved Kallie. Would you believe I’m fixing to build some for your very own firsthand? Yeah, will do at my earliest possible moment. For the rest of this month, I shall be busy getting my canning done. Still have peaches, pears, apples and grapes to get under glass. Sometimes it is on the discouraging side to have my degree of fatigue and accomplishments end up in reverse ratio to what they should be, but then I remember that the tortoise did win the race, and stalagmites and stalactites are made with only a drop at a time, so I carry on.

There are many wonderful memories of my years in N.Y.C. which I cherish. How we loved weekends and vacations on Fire Island, long before Con Ed. and the gay boys every found it. There was one tumble-down hotel and otherwise a few cottages. We stayed with a friend in her cottage as she took in paying guests. What fun to go treading for clams in Great South Bay. We always took along lemons, salt and strong pocket knives. Ate dozens of cherrystones before collecting a big bucketful to take back with us as chowder clams and snails. The latter — Yuk! I never tried them unless or until I was in a good festive mood, but they always tasted to me like a gob of mud swimming in butter and garlic.

Such wonderful swimming when the ocean wasn’t too rough and the Bay when the red flag was up. The other couple who always went with us were both fanny dunkers, but my husband and I were strong swimmers and we loved those big long swells on the ocean side. Early mornings we could go out and pick a huge bowl of the most luscious blueberries for our breakfasts. And the fresh fish were always a gourmet treat. I always brought back a bouquet of bayberries. I had an old black and white Aztec bowl in which they looked so wonderfully well. They are so frightfully delicate, it was a job to get them home, but I always loaded Raymond down with the luggage and I carried the berries. I always wanted to make a bayberry candle but never got around to doing it. We always burned one on New Year’s Eve — in fact — still do.

I could go on and on until I’d bore you to tears. Maybe you already are, eh?

Again, a million thanks for your kindness fro lit’l ole quainty, dainty, sweetsmelling me.

I interacted with Vera Jean Cassel at two different times in my life. First was before I was ten years old and lived in Salt Lake City. Second was December 1954 when I was 22 and and I traveled to Salt Lake City with my brother Stuart to represent the California branch of the family at my Grandmother’s funeral. Below are my memories of those interactions, but first let’s clear up a few things that might give the wrong impression in the above letters.

Vera Jean was not a posthumous baby, she was born 5 Nov 1902 and her father, Brigham Young, Jr., died 11 Apr 1903 at age 66.

Brigham Young, Jr. supported six wives and 31 children. Polygamy was illegal and he had indictments against him. He lived “underground” either at the homes of his “stashed” wives or in Europe until the indictments against him were dismissed in 1893. By 1900 he had moved my grandmother Abigail into a home on 6th Avenue in Salt Lake City which he bought for her and in which she died in December 1954. She lived a simple life and from all I could tell, she never wanted for anything.

Very Jean married Ray Wesley Cassel, a traveling musician, and eventually divorced him. I don’t know the details, but I believe it was on friendly terms and they remained friends. She lived in the house on 6th Avenue and took care of her mother until Abigail died.

Now to my memories.

My memories are tied to the house on 6th Avenue and are a mixture of both my grandmother, Abigail Stevens Young, and my aunt, Vera Jean Young Cassel, so the following narrative is a mix of memories of both.

I used to visit my grandmother before I left Salt Lake City when I was about 9 years old.

My first memory of my grandmother is of digging dandelions for her. She would pay me ten cents for grocery bag full of dandelions including the full root. Since my allowance was five cents a week for watering the lawn and pulling weeds, including dandelions, this was a huge financial bonanza at the time. She use to dry venison in a rack over a steam heater in her upstairs front room kitchen, and I always got a piece of venison jerky when I vistited her. She would make dandelion tea and other herbal medicines from the dandilions.

The back room of the upstairs was where she spent most of her time. Her favorite pastime with visitors was to play Chinese checkers with them. Both my cousin Gordon Knight and I would play with her when we visited. I was not very good at it and she preferred playing with Gordon who was more of a challenge.

At the head of the stairs was her quilting room, which consisted of a large frame for quilting surrounded by chairs. Her church friends would gather once a week for a quilting bee and all of her children had quilts she made for them.

She pretty much lived on the second floor and her youngest child who took care of her, Vera Jean Young Cassel, lived on the first floor. I only saw her come down the stairs once in all the time I knew her.

Vera Jean lived on the first floor. She collected both books and antiques, including antique nick knacks. The front room contained a huge book case on one wall that contained the books and the antiques were scattered through out the house. The front room also contained a piano, which she played. The back of the house looked over her beautiful garden and I remember spending many a summer afternoon watching a thunderstorm move over Salt Lake, dumping its rain on the garden, and then clearing for the sun.

Vera Jean in her teens thought she was rather dumpy looking and would not be attractive to the boys so she determined to become an excellent dancer, which she did, and was quite popular as a dancing partner. She had mulitple talents and dancing was one of them. I remember when she went to Hawaii she mastered the Hula and gave a demonstration to the family on her return when I was about 8 years old. She had an authentic grass skirt and other accessories which she donned and danced for the family, explaining the meaning of all the movements including the hand movements. As an eight year old I had never seen anything the likes of it and was impressed.

My second interaction with Vera Jean Castle was when I returned from my tour of duty in Korea and we got word of the death of my Grandmother, Abigail Stevens Young. My brother Stuart and myself represented family members from California and acted as two of grandmother pall bearers, me in my uniform since I had no other clothes. The open casket lay in the front room of he house on 6th Avenue, and hundreds came by to pay respects.

Compendium Carried by Brigham Young, Jr. on His Missions

Compendium Carried by Brigham Young, Jr. on His Missions

After the funeral, Vera Jean gave me A Compendium of the Gospel by Franklin D. Richards (1884) that Brigham Young, Jr. carried on his missions along with a calling card of his father Brigham Young.

According to my niece, Patricia Parker Weise, who knew Vera Jean Cassel quite well, she rarely parted with her books or antiques, so she must of thought highly of me to make this present. The feeling was mutual, I thought very highly of her.

Another conversation over coffee and biscotti.

{1] Letter to Bernice Peck, Beauty Editor, Mademoiselle Magazine from Kallie Foutz Parker, August 18 1971.
[2] Letter to Bernice Peck, Beauty Editor, Mademoiselle Magazine from Vera Jean Cassel, September 10, 1971

Drill Team – Korea 1953

Jerrold Foutz, Korea, 1953, Drill Team

Jerrold Foutz, Korea, 1953, Drill Team

The 67th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron was located at Kimpo Air Force Base (K14) in South Korea near Seoul and 17 miles from the Korean Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea. This is the most highly militarized border in the world now and possible then. Our mission was to process and interpret the aerial photographs and electronic intelligence gathered by the planes of the 12th (RB-26Bs), 15th (RF-80s and RF-86s), and 56th (F-51s) Tactical Reconnaissance Technical Squadrons flying their planes out of Kimpo over North Korea.

The development and printing of the rolls of aerial film taken from the aircraft were processed in a half a dozen trailers that could be hooked up and pulled out in less than four hours and driven to our backup facility in Taegu, K2, (now Daegu) 200 miles to our south. In our trailer we printed the rolls of film after they were developed. Our six-man enlisted crew was watched over by our crew chief, a staff sergeant, and we worked long hours, often seven days a week, doing our job. Even though we worked long hours, it was required we get one hour of physical training each day. At first we played volleyball for an hour in a court behind the trailers.

Our crew chief had some experience with drill teams, so he asked if he could form a drill team and let it function as the hour-a-day physical training. The six of us in the trailer were “volunteered” to be part of the team and he rounded up another six who actually were volunteers.

Our weapons were carbines, not especially suited for a drill team, but he was able to round up enough M1 Garand rifles to outfit us. We had some helmet liners painted white, rounded up some white gaiters and white gloves, and had some blue ascots made. We worked out daily in our fatigues, but when it came time to dress up we looked pretty sharp.

We have all seen honor guards and drill teams. They are part of our culture–from the inspiring changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown solder to the honor guards at sporting events and in parades.

As far as I know we were the only Air Force Drill Team in Korea at the time, but there was some drill team action in Japan. We tried to get permission to compete in Japan but it never happened. The chain of command rightly determined that is was higher priority to continue to process the film that our pilots were risking their lives to get. More reconnaissance pilots were killed than any other pilot assignment.

But it was fun, and if we had gotten a chance to compete I think we would have kicked some ass.

Kallie Foutz Parker – Writer

Kallie Foutz Parker

Kallie Foutz Parker

My sister, Kallie Foutz Parker, wrote this short auto-biography at the end of her life.

“I am a Great Grand-daughter of Brigam Young. My Mother’s father was Brigam Young, Jr, who crossed the Plains with his father at the age of nine. He and my Grandmother, Abigail Stevens, were married when she was sixteen and he was fifty-two. She was his fifth and last wife.

I was born in Fruitland, New Mexico, but the family moved to Salt Lake City when I was five. I attended the L.D.S. (Mormon) High School there, and then went to Riverside College in California for my Freshman year of college where I majored in Dramatics and won the lead in the Annual College play…THE YOUNGEST. Continue reading

Two Rooms With a View

The Old Giants Stadium, Next to the New MetLife Stadium. Both Sharing the Same Parking Lot With My Motel.

The Old Giants Stadium, Next to the New MetLife Stadium. Both Sharing the Same Parking Lot With My Motel.

I asked the secretary to book me a motel room at government Per Diem rates if possible. This was a nearly impossible task in the region of New Jersey where I was visiting a government contractor. She was able to accomplish this task — in fact, she got me a room with a view.

A very unusual view.

It was in the 1970’s and I flew from San Diego, California, where the Naval Ocean Systems Center was located, to the Newark Airport in New Jersey, and picked up my rental car. Asking for directions at the rental counter, they pointed me to the Meadowlands Sports Complex and said the motel was nearby.

I found the Meadowlands Sports Complex and the motel seemed to be at the edge of the parking lot to the Giants Stadium. I asked at the entrance kiosk if I needed to pay to get to the motel. The attendant said no and gave me instructions for reaching it on a perimeter road.

The parking spots in front of all the rooms were deserted, but there was a car by the side of the office and I entered the office, telling the clerk that I had reservations. Giving me a strange look, he called to the back saying some guy claimed that he had reservations. The answer came from the back office with a chuckle that some woman had called last week asking for a reservation and to give me the room.

Checking into the room I picked up the phone to call my wife with the government authorized safe-arrival-telephone-call. The phone was dead so I headed back to the front office get it connected. On the way out I noticed a film projector on the nightstand pointed at the ceiling. The ceiling was painted a smooth white that made a perfect projection screen. In the office, I noticed a selection of pornographic films on a shelf. Asked if I wanted to rent any, I found out I could rent a double feature for about the same price I was paying for the motel room. I declined and changed my four-day reservation to just the one night.

When I left the next morning, the motel seemed more than half full. A couple of cars were in front of rooms, but mostly 18-wheel trucks parked in a large lot behind the motel. I also noticed a break in the fence that allowed easy access to and from the stadium parking lot.

Later I found out from locals that the motel did a thriving business during sporting events at the Giant’s Stadium. Wives thought their husbands were attending a sporting event, while the husbands were holding their own sporting event with their mistresses in the motel rooms.

This was my first, but not last room with a view this trip.

I attended contractor meetings that day and then went looking for another motel.

This proved more difficult than I thought. Every room in every reasonably priced chain motel/hotel was book solid — all at much more than the government Per Diem rate.

Finally, on being turned away at the sixth hotel I tried, I pleaded with the desk clerk for anything they had, even a cot in a utility closet. Someone in the back office overheard me and came out to the front desk. He said he could let me have a room, but it had no television. I said that was no problem and I booked it for three nights.

The room had a rather cloying pink decor and a four-poster king-size bed in the center of the room with a scattering of heart shape pillows. It wasn’t until I went to bed that I noticed I had another room with a view. A mirror, the size of the bed, was  supported by the four-poster canopy,  The bed was lit by spot lights which provided an interesting view in the overhead mirror.

For two more nights I did without television, but I did have a room with a view.






My Last Rock Climb

The Frightful Variation of the Trough, Tahquitz Rock, Idllywild, California

The Frightful Variation of the Trough, Tahquitz Rock, Idllywild, California. Can you spot the climber?

The Call to the Sheriff

Saturday midnight, summer 1979, Dolores called the Riverside Sheriff substation servicing Idyllwild, California and reported her husband, Jerrold Foutz, and son, David Foutz, missing. They left San Diego early Saturday morning for a technical rock climb of Tahquitz Rock in Idyllwild and were expected home for dinner. It was supposed to be an easy climb, The Trough. Both were experienced climbers. Dolores gave a description of the climbers, Jerrold 47 years old, David 16 years old, and the license number and description of their car, a 1973 green Renault LeCar.

The dispatcher said they would send a deputy to check the parking lot used by the climbers and call back with what they found.

About an hour later the deputy called back and said they found the car in the parking lot but no sign of the climbers. There was no need to call search and rescue before daylight because there was little they could do in the dark. He would keep checking the parking lot and let her know if they showed up. Continue reading