memories of my father, Arlon L. Van Orden
Colaborador: smithc Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
One of my first memories of my father, Arlon Lowe Van Orden was when I was 3 years old and we lived in Brigham City. It was Christmastime and he was dressed up as Santa Claus. Lots of people were in the house, as I believe we were having a holiday party. I remember asking my mother why daddy was dressed up as Santa. She didn't know how I recognized him, but it was his hands. I knew exactly how they looked.
His job in Brigham City was working for a Mr. Kruzmark (sp?) as a draftsman.
We lived in Brigham City until I was almost 5 years old, then we moved to Springville, and Daddy worked in Provo for Fred Markham & Assoc. (architectural firm). I believe he was a draftsman then and studying for his AIA designation. He had only done a year of college in Ann Arbor , MI, and was completing his "degree" with experience.
Our house in Springville was at 367 Brookside Drive . Daddy remodeled it to have a playroom and an office in the basement. I spent many hours in that office with him, watching him work and talking with him. It was there he told me I could be anything I decided to be (in the 50's girls were generally told they could only be nurses or teachers). I argued that I could never be a doctor, but he assured me I could if I decided to do it. My playroom was next to his office, set up as school room, since I wanted to be a teacher. My class was just my cat, as neighborhood kids didn't really like to play "school".
Daddy really like cats, probably because Grandma Van (Jewel) loved and always had multiple cats. Mine was named "Hitlerina" because of her black mustache. Mother did not like her, so Daddy tried to find her another home periodically, but she always came back.
Daddy added a planter box to the front of the house, a new driveway, a patio and new landscaping in the backyard. He even constructed a built-in grill on the patio (before they were popular) as well as a fireplace. I remember some picnics and gatherings on that back patio.
Everyone called my Dad "Van" instead of "Arlon" or "A.L." or "Mr. Van Orden." Some of his high school buddies referred to him as "Archie" (for architect), as he was already designing in High School.
I remember he taught me a lot of things when I was young. He told me how our family ancestors were really from France (Huguenots) who had to flee to Holland and then to America. They took the name Van Orden from the Amsterdam suburb of Naarden. In France the name was Mabille. He taught me how to fish. The first day of fishing season, I being the oldest and not a son, he woke me at 3:00 a.m. and we went to the mountains to fish in streams. I did not like the worms. He did not like to bait my hook and made me do it myself. Daddy loved to fish. He also loved to ski and as soon as I was about 12 and Gary was about 6 and Nancy was a baby, we began skiing as a family. I was not very good; Gary broke his leg that first year; mother refused to go down the hill and stayed in the ski lodge. (as adults Nancy and Gary were still good skiers. Mother never learned, and I was mediocre. Daddy loved it) He was amazing at math and helped me through many math classes. He loved to read, especially scriptural reading and history (Talmadge & Aristotle, Plato, Milton, Josephus, and varieties of scientific writings).
When I was 10, Mother and Daddy and I flew to Detroit, bought a new car and made a church history trip, driving back to Utah via Ohio and Missouri and Illinois and the Mormon Trail. He was always sharing pioneer stories with me about our ancestors and the struggles they had getting to Utah. We also travelled to California, visited a newly constructed Disneyland and saw Mr. Walt Disney himself! We spent almost every Christmas in Smithfield, where Mum and Dad (Nelson) lived only 2 blocks away from Grandma & Grandpa Van Orden. The drive from Provo to Smithfield took 3 1/2 hours back then.
Van had bought a small house for him and Carma to live in after he got out of the service and they married. It wasn't much bigger than a garage. (a comment about WWII: Van had always wanted to be a pilot, but was selected to be a typist at the end of WWII. He was in the service for about a year before the War ended). When they decided to go to Michigan for school (on the GI Bill), he started remodeling it and making into a bigger home, which later he gave to his parents to live in. It was about a block from the old Smithfield 1st Ward building which is now a park. The Nelson home was much larger at about 350 W. 100 North. Van Ordens originally lived directly across the street from that Nelson home. (see story of Leo Nelson regarding the home).
I remember Daddy and Grandpa loving to talk together in the living room of the remodeled house. They talked about everything from genealogy to relatives to ball fields that Grandpa had gotten built when he was Mayor, to temple ceremonies. In fact I learned a lot about the Temple just listening to them talk, with me at their feet. I was not very surprised when I first went to the Temple, as I already had a good grasp of the ordinances there. They also discussed world events and architectural plans. Grandpa was very proud of his only son, Van.
When I got a little older, a young teenager, my Dad gave me the "birds and the bees" talk in a rather blunt, matter-of-fact way. I found it a bit embarrassing, but frequently Daddy would say some really awkward things. Sometimes he would make a joke that wasn't very funny ; other times his mind would leave one subject so fast that his next sentence seemed to have no connection to the last one. It was likely his biggest fault: social gaffes.
He was in the Bishopric when we lived in Springville; he also designed our new church building there while in the Bishopric. Then when I was about 12, he designed and started building a house in Provo, on the side of the hill, overlooking the BYU Campus. We moved into it before it was quite finished and he and Mother continued working on it for the 3 years we were there.
They had decided that they had been spending an awful lot of time with church and needed a bit of a vacation. So they focused on building the new house and not attending church so much. It was the beginning of the end of their marriage. Whether it was the stress of building and running low on money, or whether it was not going to church so much, or mother's desire for other companionship, the marriage soon fell apart. She said he didn't work hard enough and always wanted to play; she had a miscarriage and had been ill.
By the time I was 15, Daddy had quit work at Markham's and started his own firm in Phoenix, where we moved in 1962, and where he designed the new LDS Institute Building on ASU Campus (this was torn down in about 2007 and rebuilt completely). Daddy and Mother were trying to reconcile, but things got worse and they finally divorced in about 1964. Mother would never allow him access to us children after that. Van relocated to San Diego where he eventually remarried to Vernetta and had a step-family.
When I remember him, I think of three particular things: First, he was a great singer, as were his mother (Jewel Lowe) and sister (Gem “Maile” McCann, Huihui, Ho) . He was a bass and loved to sing “When Big Profundo Sang Low C” as he had a three octave vocal range and a booming bass voice. Second, he loved sports and had been considered for a baseball farm team. By the time I was six years old I had likely attended 100+ baseball games where he was usually the pitcher. He was a very good pitcher, but had a bad temper and sometimes got thrown out of the game. Third, he had an amazing mind--he loved to study and question and read every chance he had. He had debated whether to become a doctor, a chemist or an architect. (due to an aversion to blood, he opted out of the medical profession). His mind was quick, often jumping from one topic to another (high IQ was 165+). He often shared with us how strongly he believed the gospel and loved the LDS Church.
Van lived in El Cajon, California with his step-family from 1965 until he died in 1983 (?) He worked for Frank Hope Associates there, but he had become diabetic and had prostate cancer. In the end, he died at home with Vernetta at his side. All his children had gotten to visit him within a couple of weeks of his death. He claimed he wanted to get to heaven quickly so he could find out what it was really like, and he was waiting for Grandpa Van to come and get him. His one regret was that he was not the architect for the San Diego Temple. He would likely have been the designated one for that, had he lived; still, he did get to help select the site.
Written by Marilyn Van Orden Spittle, 2015