Autobiography of Vernal Veross Jolley

   A collection of writings from

Vernal "Ross" Jolley

See Pictures of his Navy Career aboard the USS Wasp

I was born April 20, 1922 at Grand Junction Colorado.  I am the eldest of seven children, two brothers and four sisters.   One brother, Bud, was stillborn. My father Vernal Jolley, son of John Alma Jolley and Lydia Johnson Jolley was of a farm family. They lived most of dad's life near Tropic, Utah.  About 1910 the family moved to Basalt Idaho. Mother Amy May Fairchild, daughter of Amy Jessie Hatch Fairchild and Moroni Joshua Fairchild resided at Burley, Cassia County, Idaho.

Dad was working an a farm near Burley when he met mother. Mother, adept in horsemanship was helping the family drive a herd of horses back east to sell. When dad learned they were moving, he rode horseback from Basalt, overtaking the Fairchilds near Peterson, Utah. He helped them to drive the horses to Grand Junction Colorado where he and mother were married.  This occurred in October 1921.

I am unable to remember any events of my early childhood. In 1928 the family moved to Onyx Idaho. This was near McCammon. Our home-to-be was a one room shack atop a sagebrush covered hill. The first night, beds were made on the floor. After dark our sleep was interrupted when bed-bugs began dropping from the ceiling. The remainder of the night was spent sleeping out of doors.  The house had to be fumigated before we could move in.

My first year of school in 1928 was attended at Onyx. Grades one through eight were taught by Latisha Gibbs. I was very fond of her. She made me feel as though she favored me. I know however, that she treated each one equally. Only three of us, all boys in the First grade. One was Bob Talbot. I cannot  The name of the other boy. Church was held in the school house and dad was superintendent of the Sunday School.

At the church Christmas party I recited the following poem:

         No little pillow soft and downy had baby Jesus for his head.

         No pretty quilts or dainty blankets adorned his humble manger bed.

         The baby Jesus, meek and holy came to give the world his love.

            He became the world’s first Christmas present when left his heavenly home above.


I remember the dances on Saturday nights at the schoolhouse. I loved to go just to listen to the musicians, and was especially fascinated by the accordion player.  Music was one of my favorite things and I longed so very much for an accordion. But times were hard and we were poor. For Christmas I got a harmonica. It was my first musical instrument, and I soon taught myself to play a few songs.

During the year of 1929, we moved to the Holmes place on the Portneuf River. It was about three miles South of Inkom. Each morning my sister Lena and I walked to school at Inkom, then again at night.  I was in the second grade and Lena a first grader. Sometimes in the winter we rode with the neighbors in a sleigh drawn by horses.

Our house was near the mouth of a narrow canyon. One day a cloud-burst came down and flooded the house. We were able to get out in time, but it filled all the bottom rooms with gravel, mud and huge boulders.

Occasionally transients, (Mama called them bums) would stop at our house and beg for food.  Mama would never refuse them, bur she insisted that they chop wood before she fed them.

My brother Burbank and I caught suckers in the Portneuf river and kept them in a ditch as pets. Ted Webb taught us how to catch trout.  We love to fish.

Dad worked nights at the Inkom cement plant. He was Engineer of a small ore train that carried rock from the quarry to the crusher. Riding the “Dinkey” engine with Dad was fun.

In 1930 we moved to Tyhee, a farming community North of Pocatello.  My best friend was Melvin Pontius.  His family and mine were good friends, and we spent many enjoyable times together.  Melvin and I enjoyed playing harmonicas together.

Our Fourth-grade class had a harmonica band. It consisted of about thirty students. At first I couldn’t participate because my harmonica had worn out, and the folks couldn’t buy me an new one.  On Christmas Eve our good neighbors, the Devaney’s brought a box. It had oranges, groceries, candy, and a small gift for each of us.  My gift was a brand new harmonica.  We loved the Devaney’s. Compare to our standards they were rich, but really they were not.  They often gave us food and clothing.  We had to carry drinking water two blocks from the Devaney’s pump.

Now, back to the harmonica band. I could now participate.  The school planned a concert and a contest.  The best player in the band was Roger Vining. He was certain to win first prize with his rendition of  “Little Rosewood Casket”.  He belonged to the Seventh Day Adventist Church.  The contest was scheduled to occur on Saturday evening, which was their day of worship.  Roger did not attend the contest.  I won first prize, a new harmonica, with my version of  “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”.  I have been eternally grateful to the Seventh Day Adventists. 

On forty acres Dad raised hay and potatoes.  We had good crops when the depression hit.  We couldn’t sell the crops because there was no money. Script was printed to take the place of money.  We traded hay for flour and other needs.  A huge cellar full of choice potatoes was fed to the pigs.

At Tyhee we lived just inside the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.  Most of the Indians were friendly, but we had occasional problems.  Dad owned a unbranded yearling colt.  One day the horses got out onto a dirt road that the Indians used. A teenage Indian attempted to separate the colt to steal him. When mother interfered by holding the reins of his pony, he attempted to lasso and drag her. He finally left after mother convinced him that he could not harm her as long as she held the bit.  A few days later the colt was stolen from the field.  We never got him back.

In 1931 Dad got a lead on a dairy job at Gibbonsville, Idaho. He loaded all our belonging  into an old truck.  We older children rode atop the load.  The babies rode in the cab with the folks.  We rode about two hundred fifty miles, mostly dirt roads to Salmon.  I remember being embarrassed as we drove down Main Street.  I would crawl down into the furniture so people could not see me. 

Arriving at Salmon, we had to wait a few weeks before occupying our new home at Gibbonsville.  No temporary housing was available.  Dad arranged for an unused chicken coop which we occupied.   Mama wall papered it with newspapers to make it clean.

Later, we moved to Gibbonsville, (Gibtown) and took possession of the Holbrook farm.  Dad and I started out hand milking fifteen cows, gradually working up to about thirty.  The cream separator was turned by hand, and the cream was placed in ten gallon cans for truck pickup.  Hard luck seemed to plague us.  For the nest one and one half years all cows gave birth to bull calves, which were valueless.

The North Fork Creek drained through the length of our field.  The fishing was excellent.  We discovered that Salmon were in the creek.  We could catch them at night by wading the icy water with a bright light.  When a Salmon was located it became momentarily blinded the light, then speared with a pitchfork.  Many times at night we followed Dad in the creek to carry the Salmon.  Some weighed twenty pounds.

My first money job was delivering a lard pail full of milk to miner Ed Burrows.  Each week the milk was carried to his gold mine atop the mountain.  I was paid twenty five cents.  Ed Burrows, a grizzled old miner lived alone the his cabin.  He was my friend, and taught me how to pan for gold.  He permitted me to fill the emptied bucket with gravel which  I would carry home and pan in the creek.  The gold flakes were saved and sold for fifteen dollars.  With the money I bought my first new suit, a shirt, tie, socks, and had money left over!

Once, old Ed showed me a pint jar full of gold.  He let me hold it.  It weighed several pounds.  He kept it hid outside his cabin so thieves would not find it.

I attended high school at Salmon, graduating in 1941.  Through the years 1938 to 1941 the folks moved several times, finally ending up at Salmon city.

I helped finance my schooling by working evenings and Saturdays at Cavaness Grocery.  I was paid two dollars and fifty cents per week. On Saturday nights Dad and I played for the miner’s dance at Gibbonsville.  Dad played honkey-tonk on the piano while I accompanied with the accordion.  The miners wee a wild, tough bunch who did lots of drinking and fighting.  At midnight all activities ceased as the older ladies served sandwiches.  Our pay was from donations from the miners.  On a food night we made ten dollars each (all in silver coins).  The activities usually lasted all night. 

In high school I was not very athletic.  Being rather awkward, I did not participate in basketball or football games.  I enjoyed playing baritone horn in the high school pep band, and sang baritone in the men’s quartet. My best friends were ( and still are) Melvin Pontius and Cleon Christensen.  At the time of this writing (1980) they, with their families live in the Ogden area.  We still visit occasionally, enjoy playing harmonicas, and reminiscing.

I joined the Navy in September 1942 and was sent to Farragut, Idaho for basic training.  Following completion of  “boot camp” I was transferred to the Naval Photographic and film processing.  Many aerial photo missions were flown before completing the course.  Following completion of short training courses at Washington D.C. and Norfolk Virginia, I was transferred to Boston to board my permanent home—the Aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp.

The ship departed Boston Harbor in January 1944 to participate in the initial (shakedown) cruise.  We steamed to Port of Spain, Trinidad, South America.  Following completion of three months training the ship and crew returned to Boston.  After reprovisioning and farewells, we sailed South, then East traversing the Panama Canal, North to San Diego, and finally San Francisco.  Army troops were loaded and were ferried to Pearl Harbor.  The ship then sped directly to the Naval combat areas in the South Pacific. Our experiences during the great war were many.  I will describe a few of them here.

To view photo's and special memorial pages, go to this site: 

I was assigned to take movies of our planes landing on the Aft flight deck. Warrant officer Knapp, my photo officer stood nearby.  A plane landed, breaking the stop cable.  The broken cable snapped over my head at high speed, striking the officer, killing him.  I was extremely greif-stricken of his death, however was thankful my own life had been spared.

Many terrifying experiences occurred.  Japanese airplane attacks, the roar and flash of blazing guns, and the black of night made our hearts pound with fear.  We were especially fearful of the Kamikaze (suicide) attacks.  The desperate Japanese would dive their explosive laden planes headlong onto American ships.  Many Kamikaze attempts were made on the U.S.S. Wasp, but all were shot down in the ocean. 

Periodically the fleet returned to Ulithi Islands for refuel and provisions.  Then church services were permitted on Sundays.  L.D.S. services were held in the ship’s library.  Of three thousand five hundred men aboard, approximately twenty five were Mormons.  Priesthood meetings, Sunday school, sacrament, and testimonials wee conducted by the Elders.  We drank the sacrament from fifty caliber machine gun casings which had been sawed short and polished to form attractive little cups.  I played a borrowed accordion to accompany the singing.  Tearful testimonies were borne by young men who were lonely, frightened, and homesick.

Each morning via ship’s intercom the “plan of the day” was announced, preceded by the Boatswain’s whistle.  The usual announcement was simply “turn to”  which signaled the commencement of the ship’s activities.  Christmas 1944 found us deep in enemy waters near Formosa.  Each of us hoped for some degree of relaxation during this special day.  This special Christmas announcement enhanced our day.  “It’s a good ship, you’re a good crew. Merry Christmas—turn to.”

During an enemy attack in March 1945, an armor-piercing delayed action bomb pierced the flight deck amidships.  It burrowed downward through five steel decks exploding deep in the ship’s innards.  The galley was destroyed, and the lives of more than a hundred of our shipmates were taken.  Three of our Mormon bretheren were among the casualties.  To those who survived was given the unforgetful task of clean-up.  Many were buried at sea with last rights conducted by the Chaplain.  Several dozen, who had previously requested burial at home, were draped in white and stacked cord-wood style in the refrigerated film storage room.  On several occasions it was my duty to go alone in this room to procure fresh film, which was lighted only by a dim, eerie, red light.  Needless to say my visits there were abbreviated.

It was essential that the ship return to the State for burial services and repairs.  Thirty days leave was granted to all personnel at Bremerton, Washington.  It was during this leave that Dot and I were married, May 20, 1945.

It was difficult to leave loved ones again to return to duty.  But the advent of the Atom bomb and war news greatly encourage us.  The ship returned directly to the Pacific combat area where we rejoined the task force.  Time passed rapidly during the remaining months of the war.  It was all over when Japanese finally surrendered.  I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Naval Reserve on 2 November, 1945.

In 1946 Dot and I moved into our first home at Provo, Utah.  It was a nearly new four room frame which we bought for $4100.00. The jobs I held were in this order: 

1.        Photo print finisher, 6 months.

2.        Grocery clerk,  two years.

3.        Carpet and linoleum layer, approximately 15 years.

In 1951 we sold our Provo home and moved to Ogden.  We purchased a older home at First and Jefferson.  We lived in this house for about four and one-half years.  In May 1955 we purchase the home in which we now reside; 1944 North 2000 West, Farr West, near Ogden.

In 1953 I re-entered Civil service at Ogden Army Depot.  It has since been re-named Defense Depot Ogden.  Following two months as a laborer I transferred to Hill Air Force Base as a Linoleum and Carpet layer.  This position was held for about ten years. Problems with knees and feet forced me to quit floor coverings.  I transferred into the supply section, working as a supply clerk, then finally supervision of the section.  I took retirement from Hill Field August 18 1979 with thirty years Federal service.

Mother, having been plagued with Hodgkin’s disease, passed away May 3, 1957.  On May 9, 1958 Dad was re-married to Mabel Killian, a high school sweetheart.  Dad passed away August 10, 1967, afflicted with Emphysema.

About this time I became interested in piano tuning and repair.  I completed a correspondence course and worked on a part-time basis tuning pianos for Glen Brothers Co. of Ogden, and have conducted free-lance tuning to the time of this writing (1981).

For forty years I had toyed with the idea of going back to the mountains of Idaho to pan for gold.  In 1980, following my retirement, this fantasy was realized.  Driving my G.M.C. pick-up with a mini-trailer in tow, I visited many old gold mines and ghost towns of Idaho’s past.  I experienced that which did our ancestors by working alone with pick and shovel.  Many hours of arduous work resulted in a trivial souvenir of the illustrious flakes.  My greatest treasures, however, was a trimmed waistline and the friendships of fellow panners who also were living their fantasies.

Listed below are special dates and events of my life:

My interests and hobbies are as follows:

Following is a brief medical history:


Written September 1982 by Vernal (Ross) Jolley

 Tippie, our cat, was making every effort to attract my attention.  I could tell she was bored with her usual playthings and was truing to tell us she wanted a new toy.  A bright idea (one of many) occurred to me.  Dashing outdoors I returned with a huge grasshopper.  When release in the kitchen the insect ricocheted about and was pursued by Tippie.  Dot said disgustingly, “I just can’t believe the things a grown man will do to amuse himself”.  She continued, “if you would just give me the same attention as the cat I would be much happier”.  “Why honey”, I said, “You know I will, and I’ll prove it”.  Dashing outside, I quickly returned with another grasshopper, placing it in her hand.  The reaction that followed afforded the insects their escape.  One hopped into the bedroom with Tippie in hot pursuit.  “Get that insect out of my bedroom or you will be sleeping alone”, Dot shouted.  “It’s gone. She ate it”. I said.  “How do you know that ?”. “It’s legs are lying on the bed”.  “Where is the other grasshopper ?”.  “It hid behind the refrigerator”.



Written by Vernal  (Ross) Jolley Oct 30, 1983

 This story occurred about 1936.  At Big Flat Idaho (approximately eight miles from Salmon City) we Jolley kids attended a one-room school.  There were about thirty students, grades one through eight, with one teacher.

Each morning before school brother Burbank and I would check out muskrat trap line.  Wearing our new wool-lined sheepskin coats we discovered a skunk caught in a trap.  We applied anesthesia with a club, removed the animal, and reset the trap somewhat oblivious of the terrible odor that permeated our coats.  We then proceeded on to school.  Classes had already begun as we entered the room.  All activities ceased and we were immediately extricated from the premises.  An emergency recess was declared to air out the classroom.  Needless to say, Burb and I were rather unpopular for a few days until the odor had subsided from our coats.