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Phil Temple was born in January of 1944, three months after his father, Loren Temple, left home to do his part for America in World War II. Loren had been in the U.S. Navy for four years prior to the war, and had received his discharge in May of 1941. Loren and Phil's mother, Molly Raymond, met in January 1941 while Loren's ship was in dry dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard at Vallejo, California, adjacent to San Francisco Bay. Molly worked in a Navy Department office there, and the two of them were introduced by a mutual acquaintance. They liked each other, and their courtship developed thoughtfully and happily. They fell in love, and in May they decided that after his discharge from the Navy, they would get married. There is a photograph of the young lovers, taken in the spring of 1941 on the sidewalks of San Francisco by one of those street photographers who pops up, takes your picture as you walk along, and offers to sell it to you. Loren and Molly were courting, young, in love, brimming with fun and energy, and clearly showing the joy and excitement they felt. They look like they were meant for each other, and the picture shows a lovely start to their life together.
In late May 1941, Loren received his Navy discharge and left California for Cheyenne, Wyoming, to where several members of his family had moved from his childhood home in Oklahoma. The family move took place while Loren was in the service, so Cheyenne was new to him. He found living quarters for himself and his bride-to-be near Cheyenne's City Center, and took a job driving a cab, a good way to learn his way around Cheyenne. When he had established circumstances to that extent, they set the date and arranged for her travel to Cheyenne.
Molly flew from Oakland to Cheyenne on June 16, 1941, the first plane ride of her life. Loren greeted her when her flight landed, and they spent the next two days getting ready for the wedding. Being proper young people of the time, they stayed in separate quarters until the ceremony. On June 19, they were married in a relative's home, and those in attendance included Loren's parents, his two older brothers and two older sisters and their families. There were no members of Molly's family, most of whom lived in Oregon and Washington, in attendance at the wedding.
What a brave, or perhaps naive, young woman Molly must have been to go to a strange city where she knew not a soul, to meet a large group, never before seen, of in-laws-to-be, and to marry a man whom she had known for five months. When Loren died in March of 2002, the two of them were approaching their sixty-first anniversary, so it seems that there may have been some wisdom included in her naiveté. They passed away within ten months of each other, with Molly following him in January of 2003. She missed him very much and did not wait long to join him.
Loren kept the cab-driving job for a short time after their marriage until he was able, through family connections, to get into the Iron Workers' Union, at which time he began doing construction work for good pay. The newlyweds had fun playing tennis together and attending pinochle parties at the homes of his family. They made friends around town and did some notable nightclubbing at some of the more well-known night spots in Cheyenne. They danced to the big band sounds of Les Brown, Eddie Howard, Ozzie Nelson, and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, to name a few. They smoked and drank with enthusiasm, as young people sometimes do, without much thought for the future consequences of such habits, and settled, with the normal adjustment struggles, into their new life together.
The December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place when fewer than six months had passed since the Temple's wedding. The lives of all Americans changed dramatically as a result of that attack, no less so for them, and Loren continued in construction for a while. As 1942 went by, the country transitioned into wartime configuration, and Loren went to work in essential defense employment, taking a job manufacturing military ammunition at the Remington Arms Co. plant west of Cheyenne. During 1942 and 1943, Molly suffered two miscarriages, which began to call into question the likelihood of their being able to have children, but in the summer of 1943, they learned that she was again pregnant, and they were determined that this one would make it.
Not long after they got the news that a baby was on the way, Loren began to get indications that despite his defense-related job, he was likely, before long, to be inducted into the Army by the Selective Service System. He and Molly discussed it and came to the conclusion that reenlisting in the Navy at an advanced pay rate made more sense than waiting to be drafted. So he rejoined the Navy at the end of the summer, and in September 1943, he boarded a train bound for San Diego. They would not see each other again for two years.
Loren went through an accelerated reorientation program for prior service personnel, and then, probably because of his iron working experience, he received orders to duty with Seabees, the Navy's combat construction arm. By November of 1943, he was in the South Pacific, working on the construction and maintenance of air strips, port facilities, and military camps on the islands captured in the American advance toward Japan. Loren's name and history can now be found, along with those of millions of his fellow Americans who served during that time, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., entered there for him by his son. Unfortunately, Loren saw neither the Memorial nor his history contained therein, because he died in March of 2002, before the Memorial was dedicated. Loren came home to Molly and their twenty month-old son in September 1945, having helped make the world safer for all Americans.
Loren had two to come home to instead of one because Molly's third pregnancy had reached full term, and their son, Phillip Loren Temple, was born alive. The decision was made, because of Molly's history of unsuccessful pregnancies, to deliver the baby by Caesarian section, and young Phillip emerged, to use Molly's words, as a big, bright, beautiful, bouncing baby boy. Phillip weighed in at more than 9 pounds, and grew up to reach six and a half feet in height and 240 pounds in weight. Both Molly and Loren were tall, five-eight and six-two and a half, respectively, but Phil grew up to be so tall just as much because Molly was a nutrition enthusiast. Phil never had a choice about eating right and was seldom allowed access to the kinds of food that Molly referred to as "junk." Phil grew up grateful to his mother for her insistence on a healthy diet. It is likely that, in large part, Phil's excellent health, as well as much of his advantageous size, is due to that.
Phil was twenty months old when his dad came home from the war. The story of what happened at the railroad station when Molly and little Phillip greeted Loren upon his return, and then later at home, is one that Loren enjoyed telling. Phillip's maternal grandmother had been living with Molly and Phillip since Phillip's birth, and the grandmother had left a few days before Loren's arrival. Maybe she considered it prudent to be gone from the small house in Northeast Cheyenne, to which Molly had moved while Loren was overseas, so that the reunited couple could, without extra personnel around, get reacquainted after two years of separation. The prompt arrival, nine months later, of Phillip's little sister Amy would seem to indicate that they did pretty well at reacquainting.
Young Phil was already dealing with the departure of his grandmother, who had been present for his whole life. The sudden entry of this large, exuberant, forceful man into the domain in which little Phil had been the only male, with his every need seen to by two doting women, was apparently a shock to the child, and he was extremely standoffish. He huddled on the opposite side of the car from his father, exhibiting body language that vigorously expressed suspicion, unfriendliness, and unwillingness to be open to Loren's fatherly advances. Even after they arrived at the house, it took a few days of coaxing and patience before Loren was able to penetrate his son's resistance. He ultimately did so, however, and thus began the relationship between father and son that went on, with mostly ups, but some downs, for the next fifty-six and one half years.
Loren was a very affectionate man, whose overt demonstrations of love for and devotion to his wife provided some of Phil's favorite childhood memories. Loren also enjoyed lots of hugging, gentle horseplay, and wholesome physical interaction with his two children. Phil has many happy memories of how safe and loved he felt with Loren's shows of affection. Phil especially treasures the recollection of the way his father tucked him into bed at night with a big snuggle while Phil said his prayers. Molly was more prim and proper about bedtime, sitting on the edge of the bed with her hands folded while Phil said his prayers, and then saying good night with a kiss on the forehead and a gentle pat. Phil liked the bedtime techniques of both parents, but preferred being pinned under the blankets with this giant hug from his dad while the boy said his prayers. Remembering his preference for this massive bedtime hug, Phil deliberately borrowed it from his dad in doing the same for his own children. Phil took great pleasure in imagining that he was able to make them feel as safe and loved by this as his father was able to do for Phil. There was never a time while Phil was growing up that he ever felt unloved by either of his parents, although feeling inadequate and disapproved of, particularly by his father, was something that was familiar to Phil.
Shortly after his arrival home from the Navy, Loren bought a military surplus truck with which he intended to open up a trash hauling and general conveyance business. As his fledgling enterprise began to take shape and he began to gather customers, he became aware that some pretty nasty people had a strong hold on that business around Cheyenne, and that he and his family could be in peril if he insisted on continuing his efforts in that direction. Loren did not like to talk about what happened or exactly how this information was presented to him, but by the beginning of 1946, he had obtained employment as a firefighter at the Federal Medical Depot in East Cheyenne and had left the hauling business permanently.
Loren worked in that U.S. government job long enough to learn that he liked being a firefighter, and in May 1947, he was hired by the Cheyenne Fire Department, where he remained until his retirement in 1978. He loved his job as a fireman, and the pride young Phil felt at being the son of such a person knew no bounds. Phillip's favorite thing that could happen during times when Molly, Phil and Amy were visiting Loren while he was on duty at the firehouse was when the firehouse alarm sounded. This brought the firemen hurrying, Loren's family would get out of the way and observe, and the visit was at an end.
The intense pitch of the fire bells, and in later years the electronic claxons, as they reechoed in the great sound chamber of the firehouse; the bustle of the firemen from all parts of the building, some sliding the poles, then donning their helmets and jackets, thus to mount the fire trucks; the deafening clamor as the mighty diesel engines roared to life in the trucks and the huge bay doors were cranked open by powerful electric motors; the incredible wail of the sirens, activated as the great vehicles began to move out the doors with their deep, nautical-sounding horns blaring; and the crackle and boom of the firehouse public address systems and the onboard truck radios as they broadcast information about where the rigs were headed and what the firefighters should anticipate when they got there all combined to create a fantastic atmosphere of wonder and action that still sends a furious storm of excitement through Phil as an adult as he recalls it. And, oh! the unbelievable thrill for young Phil of witnessing all this as his own dad took part was beyond expression. The rakish posture of the firemen as they mounted and rode the back steps, often still donning their gear, bespoke the pride they themselves felt about what they were doing. Above all, for his own dad to be there, alas, mere words can't do justice to the feeling in a boy about all this.
As the years went on, the back-step riders began to be required to hook on to the trucks with safety lanyards, and even later yet, they were required to ride inside. Fire trucks with anyplace to ride outside the protection of the cab stopped being built because so many firemen were injured or killed in crashes and falls while riding the back step. Thus, some of the mystique and macho demeanor of riding to fires in that fashion may be gone, but firemen are still Phil's heroes. Loren used to say that more firemen died on the way to and from fires than actually died in fires. That is no longer true.
After several years as a fireman first grade, Loren achieved the rank of engineer, which is what the person is called who drives the pumper and operates and monitors the pumps and the delivery of water to the hoses handled by his colleagues. It was just as thrilling then, for Phil, to watch as his dad horsed the gigantic steering wheel, muscled the gearshift, and operated the siren, horn, and bells of the great fire engine, as it was to see him mount the step. The pride and competence that radiated from Loren could easily be seen as he drove that beautiful thing, and it was sweet for his son to behold. Loren retired after thirty-one years "on the job," as it was known to those fortunate enough to be employed there, and the presence of the Fire Department Honor Guard, along with the shroud-draped, historic 1953 Seagrave fire engine, restored and designated specifically for carrying the remains of firefighters who have passed on, added a very special touch to his funeral in 2002, following twenty-four years of retirement.
A powerful memory of something that happened on New Year's Day, 1950, just weeks before Phil's sixth birthday, stays with him as a part of the history of his father's career as a Cheyenne fireman. Loren and Molly had left Phillip and Amy to stay overnight at an aunt and uncle's house on New Year's Eve, while the couple went out to celebrate. They did not stay out too late, because Loren had to be on duty at 7:30 AM on January 1 for a twenty-four-hour shift. The department had a policy of allowing the men, one at a time from each rig, to go home from the firehouse for two hours on the main holidays to get in a little time with their families. During the mid-afternoon of the first, Loren showed up, at the beginning of his two hours off, to pick up Phillip and Amy where they had spent the night. It was clear to all that he was upset. Hugging his son fiercely and holding on tight as he related the story, Loren told the children's aunt and uncle of what had happened after he reported for work that morning.
Excerpted from WHO SAYS LIFE IS FAIR? by JAMES C. WILSON Copyright © 2010 by James C. Wilson. Excerpted by permission.
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