I was born on March 17, 1910, in the big house in Grouse Creek, Utah to Charles Kimber and Josephine Persis Laird. I was about two months premature and being tiny, I was wrapped up in cotton and placed on the oven door of the wood stove so I’d stay warm and survive.
When I was three years old, there was a smallpox epidemic and many, many people died. I think most of my family had it but none of them died of it.
One of my earliest recollections was at age two or three sledding down the hill behind the old blacksmith shop (directly south of our house). I insisted on being in front of Jim, my brother, who was with me. The hydrant had been running and it was icy and as the sled hit the ice we went out of control. We ran right into the wall of the shop and I cut my upper lip. For years it was noticeable (nothing could be done to help it heal any better) and at age seventy, that experience is still vivid in my mind.
At age six I began school in Grouse Creek and went through nine grades there. I had Florence Shepherd (Warburton) and Miss Wahlen as teachers. In the middle room, my teachers were Mrs. Beckner, an old lady whom we called Pegleg and LaRue Burnham. I was Miss Burnham’s pet. In the big room, Russell Call taught me and then Ferd Krosch. There used to be a new bunch of teachers every year.
On April Fool’s Day each year, most of us kids would play hooky from school and go over to the rock quarry just over the hill west of the school to climb on the sandstone rocks. When the Box Elder County School Board came out from town, my friends and I also played hooky. The rest of the time, though, we went to school.
In about the fifth grade, Jim and I had whooping cough and missed six weeks of school.
The Grouse Creek school had grades one through nine, except for a few years when they only had eight. For the ninth grade, I went to school in Ogden and I attended the old Central Jr. High on 25th Street.
I remember quite a lot of times staying with my sister Chloe and her husband, Ralph Tanner, when they lived in Etna. I was about seven or eight. Later at age thirteen and fourteen, I herded horses for them and stayed there during the summer.
As kids, my brothers and I planted a garden up Joe Lee Creek. We grew peas, potatoes, corn, carrots, cabbage, lettuce and turnips. It was fun coming off a horse ride and getting a fresh carrot, etc., out of the garden. At that time, we didn’t have deer in the fields and down so close so they didn’t eat the vegetables and fruit like they do now.
During winter evenings, we played card games like “High Five” and “Razzle Dazzle.” We also played a lot of checker games. I was a very good player but Ray was the champ. We’d also gather around the organ and sing and sometimes make taffy. Mother didn’t sing well but Dad could carry a tune and was the one that sang songs to us as kids.
I was baptized on June 29, 1918, below my sister Louie Kimber Roberts’ place in the creek in the “Betteridge’s Swimming Hole,” as we called it. Archie Toyn and Ellis Wakefield were also baptized. We were all baptized by Bill Betteridge. Ellis, who could swim like a duck, just swam off across the pond after he was baptized. On June 30, 1918, I was confirmed by John Hadfield.
Because Dad drove freight, I learned young how to drive four-horse and six-horse teams. I also learned a lot working along side Dad in the blacksmith shop. I remember we would take off the iron wheel from the wagon, heat it and use a “tire shrinker” to squeeze it smaller. Then to get it back on the outside of the wood wheel, we’d heat the iron wheel (it expanded), slip it over the wood wheel and throw on buckets of cold water so it quickly contracted and was tight.
A few times, Grouse Creek had a big fancy masquerade party. They sent to Ogden to a costume house and rented costumes. They were brought Pony Express. I remember once when I was about sixteen, Chloe was dressed as a harem girl and I was dressed as a Sheik. Those masquerades were where I really learned to dance.
Also when I was about sixteen, I began working for U.C.C. (Utah Construction Co.) out in Nevada. Elmer (my half-brother) took a contract from them and I worked for him. A lot of people from Grouse Creek worked there, including my brothers, Winfred, Ted and Elmer and Charles Toyn, Lester Ballingham, George E. Ballingham and Lyman Kimber. We worked for them five or six Summers for about thirty-five or forty days. One summer, we put up 2,400 tons of hay. We stacked hay for a half day and rode the buck-rake half a day the first year. Our pay was $3.00 a day stacking and $3.50 a day with the team.
When I was about seventeen and for the following four or five years after, at the end of the summer, Jim, Ray and I went to Burley, Idaho to Wilford and Almy Richins’s farm to pick potatoes. Sometimes when we were through picking Richins’s potatoes, we’d help some of the other farmers with whatever they needed.
In the late winter and early spring when I was about seventeen, I went sheep herding with Bill Kimber. The area was above the Kimber Ranch (which is south of Grouse Creek), south to Chokecherry and in the Uncle Tom’s Cabin area. I had a really great time with Bill, who had a great sense of humor, and we got along very well.
My dad, my brothers and I bought 200 or more sheep and we were in the sheep business for about three years. One winter, in the late 1920’s, we sent them out on the flat below Grouse Creek to winter graze. That winter was so hard (cold and deep snow) that almost the whole herd died because we couldn’t get to them to feed them. After that we didn’t own any more sheep although I herded them for Heber Simpson and Val and Ralph Tanner later on.
I went to work on the Bar-B (Browning) Ranch at Connor Springs, thirteen miles west of Tremonton in about the spring of 1938. Eugene Miller was the foreman and he hired me.
Mr. Miller lived there with his family, including a daughter, Opal. At first we would see each other at meals. That summer, she went to SaltLake to work (she tended a little boy and cleaned house) and she lived with her cousin. In the fall, I ask her out a few times and she finally relented. On our first date we were invited and went to Claude and Myrt Staples’ trailer. We played checkers. On the second date I ask her to marry me. I was dead serious, but she said no, it was too soon. We dated a little during the fall. That winter, I was staying out at the Fort taking care of the cattle and I rode my horse, Silver, eighty miles round trip to see Opal. In the early spring of 1939 we were in the old Plymouth automobile and I ask her to marry me. She said, “Yes.”
We were married civilly in Kaysville, Utah on May 13, 1939, by a man who was Frank Paskett’s (formerly of Grouse Creek) missionary companion. Oren was twenty-nine years old and Opal was twenty years old. We stayed overnight in a Salt Lake City motel and saw a movie starring Alice Faye. (A Rose of Washington Square) Two years later, on May 8, 1941, we went through the Salt Lake Temple and were sealed by Stephen L. Chipman.
In 1941, I was working up in Pine Canyon, above Huntsville, Utah, carrying salt to the cattle with one pack-horse. I started with what I thought was a bad stomach ache, then the pain got so bad that I dropped off the salt saddle and turned around to go home. I was in terrible pain as the horse came slowly off the mountain. Opal, who was pregnant with Joetta at the time, immediately drove me to the Cooley Memorial Hospital in Brigham City. My appendix had not ruptured but were so bad that they operated that very afternoon. I was hospitalized nine days and then went to my sister Elsie’s in an ambulance. She lived in Brigham and I stayed there a few days.
In 1941 I quit the Bar B Ranch and we moved to Grouse Creek and continued ranching.
We had five children: Joetta, Karla, Oren II, Terrel and Randy.
Around 1942 I ran the Grouse Creek Post Office and store for a year. They were together in one building at that time.
When our children started going to high school Opal moved into Brigham City to put them through school. I stayed in Grouse Creek for two more years and then I moved into Brigham and worked there. Later I got a job at D.D.O. in Ogden.
Raymond, Louisa Roberts, Elmer, Chloe Tanner, Ellen Toyn, James, Vera Tanner, Osborne, Fern Shaw, Charles Junior, Edwin (Ted) and Winfred Kimber
After our son, Terrel, was killed in Vietnam we moved back to Grouse Creek.
I served in many LDS church positions, including the Grouse Creek Ward Bishopric.
I was past president of the Grouse Creek Livestock Association and secretary of the East Grouse Creek Water Company.
My health started failing and in September 1993 we moved to an apartment in Brigham City near our son, Randy and his family.
Oren passed away on September 4, 1997 and was interred in the Grouse Creek Cemetery. He left a legacy of warmth, honesty, good humor and a stream of family and friends who remember him with admiration and love.