After graduation from Wayne High School, I came to Provo to attend the Brigham Young University. I had a scholarship in my hand and a big huge shock awaiting me. Probably the biggest shock was that of a shy farm girl leaving home and coming to the big city. I got a real jolt!
I missed my family, my friends, my L. D. S. Ward and the security of a life all laid out. Until now, I knew I would attend the next grade in school as was planned, and life rolled on. True many classes were somewhat laid out in college, but, the security of my home, wisdom of my parents, and their immediate hands-on warmth and securities were missing. Now all of that laid out security and structure was gone. I felt totally untethered!
Life hit me like a bomb and I didn’t like it! I wanted to go back to former days, if that was possible, but life is a continuous line and I was required to continue on that line. I felt lonesome and lost and I often cried. However, the strong determination ethic that I had inherited from my pioneer fore fathers and the value system that had been instilled by my parents, rose up and I went forward again, however faltering. I registered at the Brigham Young University and started to attend classes.
I found College to be a new and much deeper level of knowledge than I had ever known before. I got a grade on the first story I wrote in my Freshman English Class that just about blew me away. To my utter horror, I got a D -! What an educational shock! Can you believe it? I, Arleen Taft, got a D -. I thought I was going to faint. The professor put a comment on the paper that said, “Your grammatical skills are very lacking, but your innate ability to write saved you, and you at least got a grade.” Got a grade! Maybe a D - is a grade, but what a terribly sorry grade it is! I found words lacking to describe my shattered ego. I had never gotten grades that low in my entire life, and how could I do better when I had never had a teacher who taught me grammar!
Well, let me tell you I dug down deeper than I ever had before in my entire life. I studied hard and really gave my best effort. My endeavors began to pay off, but it was not long lasting because in the spring semester of l949 I married Robert Boyack Johnson on the 26th of March 1949. We were married in my home in Bicknell, Utah by Bishop Clifford Mangum, my beloved ward bishop.
Children came along and I thought a college education was a thing of the past, and I directed my energy and total effort to raising my four young children: Tafta, Robert, Wesley, and Kerry.
But, a strange quirk of events helped shape a change for the rest of my entire life. A renowned visiting Professor, Dr. McNair, came late in the fall semester to the Brigham Young University. She was to teach several classes in the Family Life discipline. Because her appointment to teach was late in clearing, her classes were not listed in the Fall Semester Schedule. Hence, Dr. McNair’s arrival and intended classes were spread by word of mouth and memos. Her classes were very small, with few students. Boyd Rollins, a professor in the Family Living College asked his wife, Erma, and me, if we wanted to attend one of Dr. Mc Nairs’ classes? His secretary was even sent to his home to tend our three non-school age children.
Wow! What a shocker! How could I refuse? But, I also had very many misgivings. Many misgivings! I wondered in my mind was capable of learning, advancing and stretching? I was eight to ten years older than the students now attending college and my entire focus had been focused on my husband, diapers, menus, sick babies, dispensing love, and teaching children. I wondered if I could still learn academically?
But in spite of all these misgivings, I again went forward and thrust in my sickle. I found, to my surprise, amazement, and great pleasure, that my mind was a fertile field, tilled, leveled, and ready for planting. A whole new and enlightening world opened to up before me, and to my utter shock, I found I was still capable of gaining a college education.
Basic intellectual skills were firmly planted in my brain and I found my soul was hungry and eager to exercise and expand. I ask my sister, Juanita Taft Rodgers who had taught English at B. Y. High School, to help me with English Grammar mechanics. She wrote an outline of English Rules. That was a great deal of assistance to me and I studied and imprinted those rules deep into my brain. I also got an English Grammar book and delved into the information contained with in the covers. I found I remained capable of putting out quality work and being at the head of the class! I earned an A in that course! However, I had no idea how this one course would change the direction of my life.
What a blessing this class brought to me and the lives of my family. The gapping, hungry abyss in my soul was thrown wide open and ready to advance and grow. Bob and I carefully talked over the matter of my returning to school. We then talked with the children during Family Night and the children were pleased their mother would go to college and pledged their support. And I must truly report that neither they or Bob ever let me down in their backing and support, not even one time.
So it was decided that I would go back to college. I applied to the evening school at the Y for a scholarship which I was pleased to receive. I went to evening school the winter semester of 1960. I attended in the evening because my family was still my first priority, and I do mean first priority. Bob watched over the children in the evening when he got home from work. Supper was always ready when he got home and that helped, but it also helped that I did not have to fuss or worry about the well being of my precious children. I never could have done it without Bob and the children’s total support.
The Lord certainly and truly blessed me and I was able to carry on my other duties: teach Primary, sew clothing, do canning, prepare delicious meals, raise a garden, read stories to children, and study. I still wonder where I found all of that energy!
I attended college one night a week and took a couple of classes which amounted to five or six hours per semester. I studied during the nap time of the children and late into the night. One evening I was deep in concentration and effort with a food chemistry class. Oh wow! That was a darn hard class and taxed my brain. I was in the basement studying, where it was quiet and still. I sensed my eyes were tired and I looked at the clock. It was 3:00 A.M. in the morning. Oh, my gosh! I stopped and went to bed.
I must tell you about a cute thing that happened in that darn Food Chemistry class. Dr. Franz wrote out a chemical formula
Days passed into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years and credits slowly, oh so slowly, added up. On a visit home to see my parents, my father asked, “Leanie, how long will it take for you to graduate from college?”
“I have fifty-six semester hours done now,” I said. “I need to have one hundred seventeen hours in all to graduate.”
He shook his head and laughed and said, “Leanie, you will never be able to make that. You can’t hang in there that long.” I knew right then Dad did not really know the real depths and determination of my character and soul. He did not know that I was a Taft through and through.
I had just finished the last sewing project and turned the dress in. The dress was for Deseret Industries to be used in a Bishop’s order for a poor or needful family. I made it extra special and decorated the dress so a little girl would feel pride in wearing her new dress. I had also passed the last exam and I knew graduation was mine.
As I walked across the parking lot toward my car, I began to weep and as the tears freely flowed I said, “Oh, Dad I made. I did make graduation!” With lots of very hard work, the help of the Lord, wonderful instructors, Bob, and the children, I did indeed graduate from College with honors. God be praised!