Mary Nelson Atkin’s Courtship and Wedding

This is she second half of a two-part series of Mary Nelson Akin’s autobiography, an eleven page document titled “Mary Nelson Atkin History”, and composed in May 2008. It consists of two related documents: “Mary Atkin History”, dated 01 Mary 2008, and a letter to Mary Carlisle, a granddaughter, dated 18 May 2008.

Original document in possession of Thad Call. Original includes handwritten notations in Mary Nelson’s handwriting (included in this retelling). I have added the sub-headings.

The document ends on a somewhat incomplete note. Obviously, this was a work in progress by the author. It’s possible that additional pages were typed, but not printed. My plan is to gain access to and search the computer of Mary Atkin for additional information.

Part 1 was published here.

A New Dress for Mary

Mary Nelson student card, Logan High School, 1943.

As I mentioned earlier, I played in the high school orchestra. I also sang with two good high school choirs. One, an all girls chorus called the “Cantadoras”, and the other the “Acappella Choir”. When we performed in either chorus or in the orchestra we wore long evening dresses.   I borrowed my sister, Leone’s until my mother decided that I needed a long dress of my own. Leone’s dress was a beautiful powder blue, a design from a popular movie-“Gone With The Wind”.

Mother surprised me by meeting me after school one day and said, “We’re going shopping.”   I resisted because I thought we couldn’t afford a new long dress for me and because I was happy enough wearing Leone’s beautiful dress. Mother insisted. Besides, she had found a great sale. I ended up with two beautiful long formal dresses.   I think it was at about this time that Mother bought my wedding dress. She knew almost before I did that John Dwain Atkin and I would be married some day. I didn’t know about the lovely white dress until we actually began to plan the wedding.

Meeting John Dwain Atkin

About John Dwain Atkin. He was a student at what was then Utah State Agricultural College. Then, he was called Dwain by his family and by his friends.   I have never been sure how he came to be in the same apartment with my foster brother, Ross Weaver; but it was through Ross that I met him. Ross was at our house one Sunday afternoon. He sprained his ankle so that he could hardly walk. I took him home and helped him into the house. As we entered, he called out, “woman in the house!” The response from the guys he called to was, “Yeah, sure.” So when I went into the apartment there was Dwain sitting on the bunk bed in his underwear.

[Beginning of May 2008 letter to Mary Carlisle]:

Mary, Mary, Mary mine – Carlisle

Thank you for writing again-and for the telephone messages. The card with the San Francisco picture arrived yesterday. I’ve been in that very place. I love the pictures on your blog-l even showed them to Nola.

I am remembering that long ago, I promised to tell you about my wedding. Are you still interested?
Too bad. I’m telling you anyway. If you get through reading before I get through writing it’s OK. However, there may be an exam at reunion time and the penalty for not reading may be great.

Christmas Ball dance card, with notation by Mary Nelson about John Dwain Atkin coming to the dance.

So, this is how it was: When I was 16 and a freshman in high school, I met John Dwain Atkin. Then known to his family and his friends as Dwain. He was a freshman at Utah State Agricultural College- now Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

Dwain was a roommate of my foster brother, Ross Weaver. Without going into that detail; we met through Ross and my brother, Leon Nelson. We dated a little and before Dwain went home to St. George for Christmas, we decided that when he, Dwain, was 21 and I was 18, we would be married. That was in 1941.

I saw Dwain a few times when I was included in group dates with Ross and my brother Leon, and Dwain. I don’t remember who else was there. We sometimes went square dancing or to dances at the college institute.   It was a few weeks before Dwain actually called me for a date. I didn’t immediately remember him until he said, ” I live up here with Ross Weaver.”   Thelr apartment was near the college in a house that we and others called the “cracker box” because it was almost a perfect cube. Later we referred to some of the guys who lived there as “the crumbs from the cracker box”.

On one of these group dates I had my first driving lesson. Leon my brother was driving.

As I got ready for my first date with Dwain, I was really excited. We went to a movie which I have no memory of now. But I do remember giving my mother a full report when I got home. I was 16 and a sophomore in high school. Until that time I had not dated much. It was war time. World War II.

World War II

Things changed abruptly with the country’s entry into World War II. John Dwain left school and worked the next few months in Las Vegas in a war related building project. Then, he decided to join the Air Force. He enlisted and took all the exams and was accepted   Then a last minute call came for him to have one more physical exam. He failed   They (the Air Force Doctors) found what Dwain already knew, that he was color blind. And that made a difference in his military career and in my life.

Knowing that his dream of becoming a pilot was not to be, he decided to join the Navy because it seemed to be a better choice than being drafted and having to serve wherever they decided to put him. He did join the Navy Seabees. The Navy “Seabees” was the catchy name for Construction Battalion. They were battalions of service men who went before the armed forces and built facilities from which the others could work-air strips, buildings, etc..

Below: John Dwain Atkin letter to Mary Nelson on her graduation day from Logan High School. Dwain Atkin was serving in the Navy at the time.

John Dwain went to Boot Camp in Norfolk, Virginia. He said service men were treated with contempt. Then he was sent with a battalion to the Aleutian Islands near Alaska where there was a threat of Japanese infiltration. They built an airstrip and strung submarine nets and other things. There, John Dwain became a Navy cook He knew a little about cooking and was not afraid to learn more and to try. This also changed his life and mine.

A small group of men were taken out to an island to work, I don’t know what they were doing-I seem to remember that they were stringing nets to keep out Japanese submarines. Anyway, they were nearly always inhibited by the weather before they could complete their work and they would have to go back to the main camp   The limiting factor was the need for a cook for the men. Long story short-John Dwain volunteered and he became “Ships Cook”.

When after 13 months in the Aleutians, he was given a 30-day leave before his next deployment, we decided to get married. We gave my mother about two weeks notice. But she was unflappable. She had already purchased a lovely white formal, which she knew I could use as a wedding dress. I did some adjusting (added length to the short sleeves) and we had a wedding.

Mary Nelson Atkin’s 1944 LDS temple recommend.


John Dwain Atkin and Mary Nelson wedding announcement.

There was no reception-only a luncheon for family and close friends after the Temple Wedding. We took a few snap shots in the front yard. John D. and I did have some studio pictures taken-not that great or glamorous. His parents were with us from St. George – not a small thing for them to come that distance then. (about 400 miles) Of course, my parents were also with us in the Logan Temple.

I do not remember much about the Temple ceremony. But I do remember that I knew I had made the right choice. The Temple Sealer was El Ray L. Christiansen. He questioned your grandfather just before we kneeled at the altar for the sealing. “Are you sure you are worthy of this young woman?” said he.

Back to the wedding. It was very simple and quiet. We received what I remember as quite a few gifts. But since there was a shortage of many things, like house hold gadgets-mixers etc., we got lots of glass items and many luncheon cloths which I used for a long time-aft very practical, none very beautiful.

The rest is more history.

Reflecting on Her Marriage

I will tell you again that I am still certain that I made the right choice – I never looked back-just forward That does not mean it was all smooth sailing. We had our storms. But we both had chosen to make it work and to work together. I am very grateful for those choices and for our Temple marriage.

I am grateful too, for your grandfather, He was a man of integrity. He was what he appeared to be. He was honest hard working, loyal, loving. One of his children has put it beautifully. I will share it here.

“A Father’s Legacy”

December 1999
In memory of John Dwain Atkin

By Christopher Heath

He portrayed a man of decency who was unwilling to wrong another but not satisfied simply not to offend, was willing to help another even when it was beyond his duty to do so.

He encouraged, by example, independent thought; to discover the hidden meanings in all things; to consider all sides before making any judgments. He exercised his own mind in study and careful thought.

He loved the gospel and taught more by example than by words though never afraid to discuss the truths he deeply believed.

He expected the best from his children so that they might have the best; not for his own glory.

He demonstrated how frugality and generosity could dwell in harmony side by side.

He guided with gentle firmness.

A father’s most influential legacy is the example he sets for his children. It cannot be granted by a will but only through the willingness to receive by those for whom it was intended   The highest honor that could be bestowed upon a father by his children is that they emulate all his goodness.

Hmmmmn. How did I get from there to here?

Oh well, It has been a good trip for me and I hope for you.

*****END OF PART TWO*****


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