Life Sketch of Dennis L. Lauper

13 March 1977. Initial transcription by Viola Lauper Johnson. It is incomplete, only covering the period up until his proposal to wife Helen. Some additional accounts are found in the oral interviews done with Dennis and Helen.]

Dennis Lauper, 1933
Dennis Lauper, 1933, high school graduate

Frequently in my activities I am asked by someone who is acquainted with one of the members of my parent's family, what my relationship is to them; and I usually respond by saying; “I am the ninth of the "Ten Tribes". It is fair to say that my brothers and sisters and parents have undoubtedly had a greater influence on my life than anyone or anything else. We were a large close-knit family; and our parents were an unusually strong combination--both with good character, free of sin, physically as well as mentally. I never heard either one of them tell a dirty story or use bad language. I suppose their only vice might have been their partaking of an occasional cup of coffee--a carryover from the old country; but this was frequently abandoned for some other hot drink as substitute. Father used to ask for hot ginger, for example; or some 'Mormon Tea', which, of course, is an innocent drink of sugared water with cream.

I came into the light of day on April 2, 1915, born in a tent, which was a part of my folk's living quarters as they attempted to homestead some land in Penrose, Boxelder County, Utah. I guess they were living in rather primitive conditions at the time--father never having been blessed with much in material wealth. When it became evident that. another baby was to come that night, one of the older brothers was dispatched to get the midwife; but before Mrs. Friedahl arrived, I had made my appearance, with no professional aid. Some weeks later, cousin Mabel Olsen from Rexburg, came to help Mother for a few weeks.

Being a remarkably healthy baby, I was welcomed by all the family except perhaps by my next older sister, Viola, who was only two years and ten days old at my birth. She was now deposed as the reigning 'baby' and attention-getter and was just a little miffed with this new intruder. Later, when Ralph was born, and I was nearly twenty months of age mother became seriously ill with what was named Cancer. I was looked after by my older brother; Ivan, who had been relegated to most of the household tasks--including the care of the baby. He did such a good job of it that when mother finally came home, I preferred to run to Ivan rather than answer her summons -- even for hugs and caresses. The perfidiousness of a young child is something to behold; but the fact deserving emphasis here is that Ivan filled this bill so very well, having cared for us tenderly and patiently.

My earliest recollection of family experiences is that of being in the kitchen of the old home on the North tract, or Sugarville. When the news came that an Armistice had been signed for World War I, Mother commenced crying and saying now her sons, who were just becoming 'of age', would not have to go to war. The episode created so much drama and tension that it stayed in my mind as an event not to be forgotten.

My childhood was spent on that farm which was named "Bonne Eau" Ranch, which means "Good Water". This came as a result of the fact that father had dug a fine artesian well, which continually produced a good inch of fresh, cool water. People would come from far and near to partake 6f that water. We were some distance from other farms, and a mile and three-quarters from the General Store, the Schoolhouse, as well as the Ward Meeting house, which was the center of the social life; and this comprised 'Sugarville town'.

My earliest assignment of responsibility was to go get the mail from our R.F.D. (rural free delivery) mail box, situated perhaps a quarter mile from the house, out on the main roadside. Ralph liked to follow me, and in thinking to assert myself, I forbid him, this only created an extra problem for Mother. The mail was awaited eagerly each day, either for merchandise to come from Sears, Roebuck a Company Mail Order House in Chicago or for communications from relatives; and most particularly from the older brothers after their leaving home. Eventually, both Serge and Ivan had gone to Los Angeles, California "to seek their fortunes".

The winter of 1923 was very severe. The amount of snow that fell was excessive and a lot of wind had caused the snow to drift against the fences, covering them, and the snow filled the canals, which normally carried water but not this winter. Everything was leveled off with snow. Trudging to school was most difficult that season in the prevailing freezing temperatures; but the extreme cold had caused a heavy crust to form on the snow so that we could walk on these high, high drifts. I was having fun, until I became too cold, in jumping over the telephone wires, which was only about two feet above the snow. On one occasion, upon arrival at school, Viola's hands were in pretty bad shape and I think she bears the marks to this day of having frozen fingers. Marc too, was in on that episode that day and suffered some frostbite.

In my youth I was rather shy and introverted. My early days in school were a difficult. experience, but I soon found that I was average in Arithmetic and Geography, but excelled in reading, writing, spelling, and phonetics. This brought me some degree of self-confidence and recognition; so that at one time I was the teacher's hope to bring recognition to the school in the State Examination. Later I was pushed ahead to read with the classes above me; going from the small school room into the larger room. There was some slight problem concerning my age, having been born in April, I did not qualify to start school with the other six year olds,. so that some of my friends were a grade ahead of me. This bothered me because of my associations with peers on Sundays, and weekends; so with Dad's encouragement, I asked the teacher if I might take two years --7th and 8th grades together, which was allowed, and I qualified to enter High School along with my friends.

Because all of us in the family had to help with the harvest in the fall, and habitually had to start school three or four weeks late, we were always behind at the first of each year. making it extremely difficult to catch up in certain courses; so my combining two years in one later proved to be a handicap, having missed some of the essential ground work.

Life on the farm was pleasant enough and a good place to grow up except for the conflict of being such a large family, Dad found it necessary to have us working on the farms. Immediately, as school closed in May, we went into the fields, never being able to consider summer a “vacation time”, as most school children do. Going back to school was “vacation”. At first our chores were to take care of the chickens and live stock, feeding etc., later, to start milking cows, later herding them during summer time; and as we became older and grew larger, we were put to work in the fields doing lots of stoop labor, since the big income crop for the year was in thinning, hoeing, and topping sugar beets. Dad would contract with the farmers for this work, those who could afford to hire us to do their stoop labor. Then there was alfalfa haying time, as well as working in the grain fields to gather the sheaves and shocks to take for the threshers. One of the highlights of the summer would be when the thresher crews would come to our ranch to thresh our grain and/or the alfalfa seed. Large meals had to be provided for this crew, an extra responsibility for our Mother. As children we considered this festive, to see the table laden with an abundance of good food from our garden and our poultry yard to feed this hungry gang as well as us.

Occasionally if we had a holiday or half-holiday from school, or if Dad hadn’t caught up with us with an assignment, we would go out on the desert with our friends to look for wild horses, These animals ran loose from the open plains and were anyone's property who could catch them. Our difficulty was that we needed the-good horse first in order to run down the wild ones--so we were limited in what we could round up. One day, however, we did come up on a young gray mare with her mother, the older horse being in not good condition. The young mare made the mistake of staying with her mother making it possible for us to overtake and capture the young one and to take her home. She was a beautiful animal and my pride and joy as I was able to 'break her and tame her to be ridden, and she carried me many miles. Later, when moving to California, we managed to find a place for Virginia, my little pony, along with a team of horses and three or four cows in the freight car, which carried our load. However, in Camarillo, conditions were a bit tight so that we were unable to keep her and feed her on a five acre piece of ground and I had to sell Virginia.

Regarding my religious training, I was raised as I have already indicated by stalwart and stout parents who taught by example as well as by precept. Mother, especially, used to call us in occasionally to read an article from the genealogical magazine or the Relief Society -- one with a strong moral; and talked with us concerning eternal principles. I must say that the daily ritual of having family prayer was a powerful influence on our lives. Mother and Dad prayed like the Lord was right in the next room or directly above us; and I recall Dad teaching us the law of tithing by cutting out several cows from the herd one day, singling them out to be taken to the Bishop's home where they would be accepted as our tithing in kind. Then, on another occasion, I remember our taking a full bag of wheat, poor as we were, to be credited in the same manner. Sunday was always a day of rest, unless it was our family turn to 'take the irrigation water' in which case we had to look after it.

There were very few cars in the early 1920's, so most folk came in buggies or wagon to church, and then because of the distance, the Sunday School would be followed closely by Sacrament meeting, at about 2 o'clock and continue for a full two hours. This was something of an endurance contest for two active young boys as we would tire and become restless but Mother nearly always had a handbag with some little goodies; cookies or some little treat, which she would 'shell out’ at the appropriate time in order to make it through the meetings with Ralph and me. Along with this, the meeting house was usually hot and stuffy, inducing us to doze off. We could not have meetings during the evenings in those days for there were not always lights in the building. Later, an expensive project was undertaken to correct this situation, and carbide lights were provided; that same type used on miner's caps --those working in the dark mines. Even then, I remember those meetings as being held in semi-darkness.

Finally, I reached eight years of age and it was explained to me how my 'sins' could be washed away if I were baptized. This was arranged by having the Bishop and Clarence Smith, the actual person who baptized me, together at the canal with a swift flow of irrigation water. It was quite an experience. Later, I became a Deacon at age twelve and was required to attend Priesthood Meetings on Monday nights. I would walk the near two miles with Dad and brothers, sometimes through snow or frozen ground to attend those meetings. Walking to Church, on some of those occasions, I had some very interesting conversations with my Dad. One I remember was on the subject. "The Wonders of the Universe". He explained some things about the Stars and the Moon; and I think it was on one of those walks that I talked to him about the propriety of taking two grades in one year so that I might accelerate my schooling.

I should mention that while I was a Deacon I had my first memorable Church experience in that our Stake President, from Hinckley, Utah, was in attendance at our Sunday School one morning. This fine brother was sitting on the stand as I was passing the Sacrament in a routine fashion, but I did have the responsibility of passing to the very small children seated up front. Afterward, President Hinckley, in his sermon, commented upon the patience, care and reverence exhibited by the young Deacon who had served the children. I took his comments very personal with a great deal of appreciation, which helped to give me some degree of self-confidence and identity. I didn't realize that he was a close friend of the family and might have said something nice anyway.

Later, we were fortunate to have the same Alonzo A. Hinckley as our Mission President when we were residing at Ventura, California. He went from there to become President of the Salt Lake Temple, and later an Apostle of the Church.

Death visited our family on three occasions and in rather a traumatic way during my youth. The first was my brother, John, whom I didn't get to know very well in that I was but eight years of age at time of his death. He and brother Felix had gone on a Scouting trip. On the way back, somehow his bag of clothing and belongings had been lost off the top of the bus, and he left the bus --presumably to go back to look for his belongings. This only contributed to a rather prearranged plan that he had thought of leaving home for a while to see if he could make some money to further his schooling. He went up into Box Elder County, to Tremonton, where he obtained work with an Innkeeper, working his field with horses. One day, while watering the horses, John was kicked by one of the spunky horses, causing serious internal injury and bleeding. He passed away within three days, almost incognito, in that hotel. John had written earlier to mother, stating that he planned to go to Jackson, Wyoming, to make some money for schooling and would return (I think he said 'within one month or a year'). It developed that his corpse was returned within exactly one month. There were no mortuaries in those days and the body had to be cared for in the front room of our home, it being a small abode to begin with. In addition, there were some relatives who arrived for the funeral, so our living was disrupted for days; and of course, left a deep impression on the mind of a young boy such as I.

It is hard, at best, for a young person to understand life and death; but the difficulty Mother encountered in trying to adjust to the situation remains unforgettable in my mind. A little more than three years later, on January 1, 1927, another brother, Felix died as a result of a hunting accident--as told in detail by Ivan in another account. Our family went through this experience all again! I remember one night having awakened, I saw Mother kneeling beside my bed in prayer amidst sobs that shook the bed. To lose two such fine upstanding, nineteen year old sons, by accident, was almost more than our dear Mother could stand. Felix had expired on New Years Day, 1927; and strangely enough, this same day - New Years, 1936, our Dad passed away after a short but painful illness, involving surgery, which revealed cancer of the stomach. Dad's passing occurred in Ventura, California, so I am getting a little ahead of my story.

Going back again, to Utah, my summers were spent on the farm; and particularly the last year there, I worked four head of horses on a plow in preparing a large field for winter wheat. I had no watch and it was a little difficult to judge the time as to when Mother would have some lunch ready, so we developed a way in signal where she would hoist a large piece of canvas on the scaffold, which was usually used to hang the carcass of livestock following a butchering. That canvas would be my signal that I had about a half-hour to finish my round and unhook the horses, bringing them in for lunch. This was quite a task for a young thirteen year old boy to harness four horses, take them out to the field, hook them up to the plough. and follow the furrow around and around. This was good experience, I suppose. One day I found an 'Indian Battleground' and picked up some arrow heads and a large spear point.

The happy occasions remembered by Ralph and me were when we got to go with Dad and/or the brothers to the Cedars --some thirty miles distance, where they would arrange to get our winter's supply of wood by pulling down large dry pine trees or cedar trees; also the cutting of fresh, young trees to use as fence posts. Dad would accumulate hundreds of those during the winter and sell them for ten cents apiece as they were needed by other farmers.

Ralph now had the sole responsibility of herding the cows as I had graduated into working the fields with horses. When fall came, we would harvest the alfalfa seed and the sugar beets, miserable jobs to accomplish, for it was cold, the ground partly frozen and muddy. In picking up a beet, you picked up an equal or greater amount of mud, to be placed on your knee in order to cut off the beet top. It was strenuous work and time-taking, accounting for our three to four week's tardiness in entering school at the season's beginning. This was to our extreme disadvantage; nonetheless a necessity.

I recall my first time to go along with Viola and Marcel to catch the school bus at the roadside about a mile from our house, on which we rode for ten miles to the city of Delta where we attended high school. I felt it all to be way over my head--socially and academically. It was also decided that I should learn to play an instrument and a trombone was selected from my older brother's discards. I started that class but had no advantage in reading music and lacked so much, the experience proved to be a nightmare; and I was greatly relieved when during the Christmas holiday vacation, the school house caught fire and burned to the ground. The famous trombone went up in smoke. I finished my freshman year by attending double sessions, going to the nearby grammar school during the mornings, to be dismissed for afternoon attendance by the elementary grade students.

Two or three years earlier, Serge and Ivan had left the farm, going into Southern California seeking employment with a steady income: and later Alice joined them in Los Angeles, having returned with Ivan immediately after Felix's funeral. Our family at home was now considerably smaller with Marcel being the eldest. Our-poor Mother; grieving over the loss of her two sons, contracted a plague from some insect bite and became quite ill; in fact she became delirious and we had to summon a doctor who came out from Delta. Following this, she suffered a complete nervous breakdown and our home life was completely disrupted. Our very young sister, Viola, had to take over as chief cook and bottle washer; even to the canning of great quantities of fruit during that summer, while Mother was sent to Salt take City to abide with friends for a while, and eventually to Los Angeles at the insistence of Ivan and Alice; and where they were eventually able to help her recover.

Serge was serving a mission in the Southern States, with Ivan's financial support, and completed his assignment very successfully. Now it was Ivan's turn to serve, and he to the British Isles, with Alice taking the responsibility to support him. Just prior to Ivan's mission departure, he went back to the Sugarville farm to undertake a move of the family to California.. An auction was held in order to sell whatever would bring a bit of cash, and also to lighten the load of moving. Dad had gone ahead to find a place, and did locate in Camarillo Heights of Ventura County, a potential strawberry tract, consisting of five acres. This was rather small after having lived on comparatively large farms, but an entirely different situation.

As mentioned previously, some of the livestock along with our belongings was loaded into a freight car, which had been brought out from Delta onto a siding there among the greasewood in Sugarville. Marc was assigned the job of accompanying the goods enroute to California. He asked me to go with him but I weighed the prospects and decided I would rather go with the family in the Ford Sedan, which Ivan had brought us from Salt Lake. Poor Marc had to proceed alone in this freight car and encountered some wild experiences; having to milk cows enroute, hoboes 'hooking' rides with him, along with some shakeups when the engineer made some abrupt stops, causing the cattle to fall together and onto Marc. It appears I did make the better choice. Ivan, with Mother, Viola, Ralph and I started our journey, going first through the Salt take area, visiting some of the relatives, and then commenced the long drive via the southern route toward Los Angeles in our Model T Ford--a journey of some two full days and nights of driving.

We saw, briefly, our first glimpse of city life from Ivan's and Alice’s apartment, and then we continued on to the Strawberry Acres at Camarillo. Dad had commenced, but was still planting and we helped in this project for the balance of the summer before enrolling in the new schools of California. Ralph vent to a grammar school in Camarillo, while Viola and I rode a bus to Oxnard Union High School, which proved to be predominantly Catholic as well as Mexican in enrollment. I think there were but two other Mormon students in the school so it was quite different in many respects.

We eventually found the nearest Latter-day Saint meeting. place to be in Ventura, so each Sunday we made the trek, twice per Sunday, in the “now open' model T Ford, to Ventura and back--keeping up our church activities.

The Lauper people mature rather late, in comparison to other youngsters, it seems; so I was comparatively small, enabling me to play only lightweight football in high school, even at my senior year; but there was a certain amount of prestige accompanying this activity which I enjoyed I remember the local delicatessen owner invited us, whenever we won a game, to have a free malted milkshake which was a real fine treat; one I'd never known previous.

Economically, we were still pretty poor, and it was now the height of the great depression of early '30s. We had no steady income and it was mighty difficult for a family to live off five acres of anything so Dad would work for other farmers as well as the German Seed Company in order to secure a little cash to pay the bills. Mother eventually went to work in a Lima Bean Packing House and was able to buy groceries for the family to the amount of about $5.00 per week. With one good cow, which we had saved from our flock, we usually had milk, along with plenty of strawberries in season as well as good vegetables from our own garden. Later, Dad planted some grapes, which gave us another variety of fruit; but there, was always little or no money.

During the summer, we boys endeavored to secure jobs with the local farmers; and during the school year, we tried selling for different agencies; as I did for Lockwoven Hosiery, in order to make a few dollars.

Sport activities were always fun and brought recognition but I had to pay the price, for we lived about ten miles from school, and each night after a practice or game, I had to hitch-hike home; arriving many times in the dark and cold, without having had dinner; unless I had been fortunate enough to see Alice who was now working with Merten's Cafe in Oxnard; and she sometimes was able to set me up with a plate of dinner. Finally, upon graduating from high school, I decided to work a year before going on to other studies. I secured employment with the Seed Company, working horses there with Dad; but soon realized my future was limited unless I obtained more education; even the boss there encouraged me to go back to school. Marc had also sensed this and had moved into Ventura, living with one of the Mormon families there, and working with a Furniture store--Rogers. Marc finally reached a salary sufficient to entitle him to the rental of an apartment for $19.00 per month and invited Mother and the others of us to join him there in Ventura. We were not aggregating much with the strawberries, so it was decided that we move into Ventura; except that Dad would keep plugging along, and would join us in Ventura on weekends.

The following school season I enrolled in Ventura Junior College; and now having matured, somewhat, I weighed approximately 185 lbs, and had attained my full height of 5'l0-l/2", so decided to go out for the varsity football team at junior college, which was quite a courageous undertaking since I had never before played varsity ball. I was accepted as a running guard on the team and I did play a few games, which helped me a great deal in gaining some self confidence.

About the same time, I was encouraged to enter a speech contest in M I A at church and with the help of my family, I worked up a fairly good talk and which I was able to deliver reasonably well. (After all, we were practically the only young folk in the entire Branch, and we were called upon frequently for 2-1/2 minute talks, and so received a good deal of practice.) Here I found another way to excel, enabling me to become one of the first Charter M Men, I was invited to Salt Lake in 1934 to attend a special breakfast along with the Y M M I A General Board and to be given recognition as a MASTER M Man. There was no possibility of my going, but it was most thrilling and encouraging to receive the letter and invitation. I won the local speech contest, among the few entrants, and went to Van Nuys where I won another phase of the contest, finally taking part in the great Wilshire Ward of Hollywood, where I competed against some fairly good speakers, and eventually defeated. I had also been asked to serve as secretary to the Y.M.M.I.A. in our Ventura Branch; later serving as second counselor to the Sunday School Superintendent.

Up to this time, my social life had been almost nil; but now with the activities I had been thrown into --athletics, speaking, offices in the Church, even some drama, I was beginning to come slightly away from my shyness; and then a great thing happened. One night while attending an M.I.A. dance, a young lady appeared in our midst. She was on vacation from her home in Ogden, Utah, and was visiting with some of her family in Ventura. As I recall I had suffered a football injury and was unable to dance that night, but I did arrange to sit out a couple with her and we became acquainted. This young lady was the one who would change my life--my future wife, Helen Froerer. We enjoyed several dates during that interesting winter as we took part in plays, socials, and church together; and a new dimension came into my life. The bad thing was that when spring came, she had to return to Ogden again with her parents and we were forced into correspondence in order to keep contact. That correspondence developed into a marathon in that we wrote to each other for almost five years before our marriage.

The following year, Marc left for a mission to Denmark, being called as the first missionary from our Ventura Branch; and then I had to become a wage earner and fill his role regarding family income. Together, he and I, went to his employers: Mr. and Mrs. Roff, serving somewhat of an ultimatum stating that he was going to leave and that I should take his place in their store. Everyone realized I was unable to take his place as furniture salesman, but I could work out in back as well as doing the deliveries, along with helping the linoleum layers, etc. Marc and I had prayed over this and were so righteous-about the problem, we didn't really give the Roffs much chance to say no. They hardly were aware that Marc was leaving when we suddenly 'snowed' them with our plans. They felt that Marc was probably leaving to obtain more money other where but when we explained what he was actually going to engage in, Mr. Roff was. so breathless, he could hardly come to grips with any opposition, and more or less accepted our plan. It appeared that perhaps against their better judgment, they allowed me to come to work at $19 00 per week which was a royal wage for me and a life-saver even though it didn't go very far in taking care of the bills at home. Previous to this time, Dad had managed to 'sell out' at Camarillo and had moved into the town of Ventura and we were together again. . He secured another lot on the hill above Ventura town where he was trying to develop something. He also worked about, doing yards for some of the affluent people, and any jobs he could pick up.

Suddenly, on one weekend during Christmas holiday of 1935, Dad became very ill and before he hardly realized it we had him in the hospital and into surgery, from which he barely rallied. On New Year morning, 1936, we were called to a very serious situation. All of us at home rushed to the hospital and within a matter of less than two hours, he was gone. I was the only one by his immediate bedside as he expired, and I remember my helpless feeling. (I should mention that the other members of my family were simply standing in the hall outside the room, but the strict nurses had pushed then out even our Mother, stating that only one person could remain by his bedside). I stood there watching this strong man, who had worked so very hard, had gone through so much, and suddenly he was slipping away and nothing was happening; there were no cannons fired, no shots beard, no doctor appeared, the nurse in the room sat reading The Saturday Evening Post as if it were her day off, and I called to her, "He's dying; can't you do something?" She jumped up, coming to Father's side, and shook her head. He had rallied for a moment asking for a drink. Against orders, I had given him some water. He was so grateful for his mouth was dry, his breathing hard and his breath so hot. Father looked up at me as I placed my hand on his head and I almost felt his spirit slip away. So that was the end of Dad at Foster Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, and he is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, same city.

Now, things changed again. Mother and Alice departed to take up residence in Oakland, California. I should say Ralph also accompanied them. They located near the area where Serge and his family were now living. Serge was Bishop of Dimond Ward; and engaged in selling office supplies for the Charles R. Hadley Company. Viola and I, each having jobs in Ventura, stayed on in that community--I for several months, and she an entire year. Eventually both Vi and I relocated in the Oakland area also; and the five of us banded together again. Jobs were never very plentiful, it always being a struggle to find gainful employment. I, first worked for Mothers Cake & Cookie Company, along with other minor jobs, and at that time we were looking toward the possibility that our mother's dear Uncle Julius Sorensen might have enough funds left from financing Marc’s mission, and might be able to foster a mission for me. I was rather aiming that way; planning and hoping; and finally, it did happen. Marc's mission term was extended to beyond three years, so it was even before Marc’s return that Uncle indicated to Mother that he was able to send another of her children.

I had been playing basketball with the church group of Dimond Ward, Oakland Stake; had been elected first as Ward M Man president, then Stake M Man president; and we were able to perfect our team to win the division contest, going to Salt Lake to play in the finals. I didn't actually get to play there but was one of the reserves; and on that occasion I had gone out to 910 South Fourth East to meet Uncle Julius and talked over the prospects of my serving a mission. That was in the spring and it was only shortly thereafter he said his arrangements had been made and that I should arrange mine. Lo and behold, on my application, I gave my preference as the French Mission and my Call was directed there! I was in the Mission Home for two weeks during late June, 1937, during which time I was able to arrange a couple of meetings with my sweetie in Ogden.

Dennis Lauper, 1938
Elder Dennis Lauper, 1938

I recall what an eye-opener experience it was for me to be there in the Home with all those smart companions who had much more college, seminary, and institute training than I had ever been afforded. I was overwhelmed at first, in pitting myself against them; but I was able to do fairly well. On the day we had our interviews with the Mission Home Director, he gave me special attention, stating, "Brother Lauper, I can't help but tell you that when you walked through the room, there was definitely something of importance about you". Now I don't know to this day why he said that; perhaps he felt I needed a little ego builder, and he certainly gave it to me. That was Wiley Sessions, a kind man, and a big help to me in getting me started on my mission. Following a tearful farewell in Ogden, and a sendoff from the Lehi cousins and Aunt Alice, along with the Elswoods from Ogden, I was on my way across country aboard the challenger, bound for the East Coast, and thence to Europe, and many great experiences.

Lo and behold, again, I was assigned to be in charge of the group of Elders going to my mission. There were four of us. I'll here omit some of the details, by stating--I arrived in the mission field at the Home Office in Liege, Belgium only to find the Mission President, Octave Ursenbach, was an old acquaintance of my father. He had been in the Swiss-French Mission at the time of Dad's conversion in Switzerland. Sensing my background, President decided to deploy me into areas where he thought I might be effective with my own people, so after only a month or so in Liege, I was assigned to labor in Neuschatel, Switzerland, to which place I went via Paris, arriving there to spend a few months in the work. When, finally, the church was able to 'open up' the Canton where our Dad bad lived --the Canton of Vaud, as a. result of much work by the attorneys, insisting that Americans had the right, under the treaty with the Swiss Govern­ment, to go into any area of Switzerland, we were able to return to that area--as long as we did no proselyting. My companion, Willard Nelson and I vent down there and found a nice private home to lodge where. we lived and ate with the family---working that area by going only to homes of relatives, and direct referrals from relatives. By using the correspondence of previous years between our Dad and Aunt Alice, to and from, we Elders were able to build up quite a list at people to call upon. Although our success in conversions was nil, we received favorable treatment most of the time at least. We found precious little of the blood of Israel remaining in those people contacted there. It was a most interesting and pleasant place to live, very beautiful and colorful. What a joy it would have been to report back to Dad after having visited this area, which he loved so dearly, Switzerland is truly the garden spot of Europe!

The next year, in May 1938, Marc was released from his Mission and I suggested that as he tripped down through the continent, proceeding. through Germany and Austria and those countries, that he come into Switzerland and we would spend a day or two together, which I arranged with my Mission President. And so, one day, I went up to Bern, Switzerland's capital, and I met Marc's train there. We were able to take lodging there with the local Elders, attended church, and really had an enjoyable and interesting experience with the German-speaking people. There were many more members there and well organized --much more so than I experienced in my Mission. We also went out into the country, visiting the cemeteries where some of the Laupers were buried in the courtyard. We enjoyed visiting a cheese factory, riding on bicycles in the rain; and then as we came south, we stopped at Lausanne and went aboard the Lake Steamer down to the little port, where we got off at Nyon--the place we Elders were living. Marc stayed a couple more days and then took off going through France and caught his Ship to go home.

A little later I was transferred to Southern France, finally serving my last eight months in Verviers, Belgium, which is near the German border. Here we found very frightened people as the war clouds gathered and loomed from the fighting in Germany, where the mighty Germans were preparing to subdue their weak neighbors and expand the territory under the Fuhrer. It was most difficult to do any proselyting because the people were more interested in talking about the war and chances of escaping again (they had been the first city to be attacked during World War I, and now they were facing World War II). They had no bomb shelters or any defense that would offer them any safety from the marauding Germans.

Finally, on September 1, 1939, the Germans did break through into Poland, attacking that country unexpectedly, almost to annihilation--most certainly totally destroying the Polish army before they surrendered. We expected to be sent home, although I had been out only a scant two years, being in my twenty-fourth month toward the 30-month assignment; but the correspondence was so delayed, that we had almost abandoned the idea of release when the letter finally arrived. We had spent our time in calling on all members, attempting to reassure and bolster them, when finally the letter directed us to rush to catch the Manhattan ship out of Le Havre, France. We had already received notice from the State Department that we could no longer expect any protection; thus indicating we had best be on our way. We made a run for the border but were turned back because the French line had already been closed, fearing the Germans were about to come on them, so it was futile to try to depart Belgium.

After returning to Brussels we eventually received word, after negotiating with the Dutch President that we could sail on the Pennland with the Elders out of Antwerp, Belgium. So instead of returning home on the Manhattan, we went to Antwerp and waited for the Ship there. It was a long time in coming due to the extra war perils, causing the seamen to go on strike for time-and-half wages, something you could hardly blame them for. Ships were being sunk everyday!

Finally, after a week of sight seeing around there, earning the name of "crazy Americans", having gone into museums that had been locked up for the duration, we finally boarded the Pennland and sailed out of the channel, a fete which took most of the night just getting out of the passage way into the channel and then across toward the British Isles. The life boats were left hanging over the sides of the ship, in case of attack, and already there were passengers aboard our Ship who were survivors of other sunken ships in the North Sea. Next morning brought a strange and interesting sight as we saw most of the British Navy stationed in picket formation across the horizon, watching for German U boats and other marauders. This sight was evident as we rather touched the British shores and sailed out into the open sea at full throttle. Fortunately, we had an uneventful crossing after that; and within three days, the life boats were pulled into security. The Statue of Liberty eventually welcomed us with open arms, and we were greatly relieved to return to America!

The reporters swarmed aboard but wanted mainly to talk with those who were survivors from previous tragedies in the North Sea. We were met by the Mission President in charge and we were taken to a hotel where there was at least one entire floor reserved for the refugee missionaries, and we stayed there for a while until further arrangements were made. We were asked whether we wanted to be reassigned or released; that is, those of us who had served two years or more. I said inasmuch as I had that much time in it would probably be best for me to he released. I telegraphed Helen to expect me in Ogden for her birthday on October 13th, which later proved to be a mistake; for I had no sooner sent the wire than Ralph dispatched a cablegram from the high seas, stating he was on his way back from the Danish Mission to be reassigned in the States. Ralph wanted to see me in New York, so I extended my time by staying with some good Latter-day Saints in the area, awaiting his arrival.

Dennis and Helen, 1940
Dennis Lauper and Helen Froerer, married 1940

We took a look at the World's Fair together and then went South to Washington, D.C., spending a day sleeping on the Capitol Lawns, and then caught the train the next morning for Louisville, Kentucky---his new mission, he having spent approximately six months in Denmark. I continued on to Salt Lake and Ogden where Helen had just about given me up, experiencing much disappointment over my two-week delay, and I received a rather cool reception from her. I left immediately, after checking in with Uncle Julius and Aunt Lena, going South to Compton, California and to the home of Ivan and Helen for a brief visit, and then to Oakland, California to a homecoming and to the task of securing employment. Jobs were still scarce, particularly for someone who was not well-trained. My friend, Charles Stamps, invited me to work with him for a period of time in floor maintenance work, which I did until I was able to accept other help from our M Man teacher, Brother Jack Wilkins, who assisted me in getting a job with Atlanta Sales Corporation, where I was a 'detail man' calling upon the retail grocery stores to sell French's products--Mustard, Birdseed, and Coleman’s Mustard, at a salary of $80.00 per month. I was furnished a little yellow mustard truck/car with a gas credit card so I was able to get around, even using this car for much church work and personal use. After working a while, I still desired to share my life with Helen; so I phoned her up one evening, stating I was sending her a diamond, which I would like her to wear; and that we would arrange marriage as soon as possible. Shortly after that, Helen came down to Ventura with her parents again.

[It ends there. Viola Johnson states: "he never finished it for me."]

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