Willis Nels Jensen

June 3, 1910 - March 22, 1990



Willis Nels (Bill) Jensen was born in Richfield, Sevier County, Utah on June 3, 1910. He was the son of Peter Andrew and Georgina Larson Jensen

Willis (called Billy by his family), grew up on family farms in Central Utah. In his youth he learned the value of hard work and imparted that virtue to his children. In the last years of his life he would get very emotional when speaking of the closeness of his family in those early days. One day Peter, his father, hitched up the horses to the wagon. He took little Willis with him. Old Toby, their dog, sat between them. Willis clenched a rope that was tied around Toby's neck. As they left Richfield, the horses bolted and Toby jumped from the wagon, pulling Willis after him. The young lad landed right on top of the dog. Toby raced for home and Willis talked Peter into going back after him.

In Richfield, sister Clara went with a boy called Neil. He would walk along and drop a nickel and Willis and the other kids would scramble to pick it up. Sometimes, people called Clara "the little mother". One of her jobs was to take care of Willis and her brother Boyd. While she was pushing Willis around in the buggy one day, a bull came after her. She grabbed Willis, threw him over the fence, and just barely got over herself in time. The bull went for the buggy. Clara was scared to death. Once she took Willis to get his picture taken.

When Willis was five years old, the family made an attempt to settle at Cove Fort, Utah (Today, Cove Fort is the second most visited tourist destination in Utah, next to Temple Square in Salt Lake City.) The water there was polluted by the sheep upstream. They tried to make strong coffee to get rid of the foul taste, but that didn't work. Water had to be purchased for 25 cents a bucket. One day Peter was traveling with Willis in a driving rainstorm with a team of four horses. Peter thought they could safely cross a creek. He drove the team in but they floundered in quick-sand-like mud. Peter jumped from the wagon, cut the halters on all of the horses, and thereby saved the horses and wagon. Peter spent the rest of the night putting the halters back together while Willis cried. At Cove Fort, Peter raked the ground but was never able to plant it.

The family decided to move to McCornick. Before the entire family moved there, Peter and Willis (who was seven years old), went there for two or three months at a time to clear land so it would be ready for mother Georgina. Peter used four head of horses and a large railroad rail for clearing. They had 320 acres at Antelope Springs, plus another 40 acres. Peter and Willis lived in a sheep wagon until they got the house built. In about a year, the rest of the family joined them. In 1920, the Jensen's dug a well in McCornick. Sometime after the well was completed, Willis was sent for water. As he approached the well he decided to play a joke on his mother. He screamed and threw the bucket down the well. He then ran around the corner of the house and watched as his mother ran out of the house in panic. She yelled down the well for Willis, but no answer came. Rescuing someone from the bottom of a 90 foot well was impossible. Georgina returned to the house. Willis sneaked into the house and found his mother laying unconscious on the kitchen floor. He never tried anything like that again.

In McCornick, the Jensen's had many animals. Queen was one of their marvelous horses. She was powerful. When she had a load, she would put everything she had into it. Peter and Willis went into town one day and left Queen tied up at home by a hay derrick. When they got back, they found that Queen had fallen on the pipe she was tied to. She managed to get up, but all of her innards were spilling out on the ground and she was stepping on them. Willis ran for the 30-30. Queen kept turning her head and looking at him. It was difficult, but he finally had to shoot Queen. Father Jensen went out to the barn one morning to milk the cow. In the yard there was a metal hoop laying on the ground from an old nail keg. Peter, unaware, and carrying a bucketful of milk, stepped on the edge of the hoop. It flipped up, but he kept on walking, and his feet tangled up, hurtling him to the ground with the milk right on top. Boyd and Willis laughed their heads off. Old Blackly, the beloved Jensen cow, was kept in the barn. One day Willis picked up a little stick and flicked it toward the cow. To his amazement, it stuck in the cow's eye. He rushed over and pulled it out, but the cow was permanently blinded in that eye.

"I had a dog called Tob. No more faithful animal could exist. Once I told him to chase a rabbit that had appeared in our yard. The rabbit ran into a wood pile. Tob stayed there until the rabbit came out the next day. One of Tob's chores was to bring in the cows. Yapping at their heels, he would drive them home from the pasture in the evening. I sent him to get them one night, but he just laid down and whined. I finally got mad at him and told him to get the cows, which he did. When the cows were safely home he walked up to my feet, laid down, and died." Willis Jensen

Bill and the other kids played hide-and-seek around 20 hay stacks in the field. They also played run-sheep-run. Ginny was played with a stick that was beveled on the ends. They hit it with another stick and it would flip into the air, and they would hit it again, the object being to see how far they could hit it.

Church was held in the school house. One Sunday, the meeting was about to start when they discovered there was no bread for the sacrament. Georgina said, "Billy, ride home and get some bread and get right back here."

"I jumped on Old Diner and rode as fast as I could to get the bread. I ran into the house for the bread and was soon racing back to church. Everyone was watching for my return. I saw the school house in the distance and spurred Diner on, so as to impress everyone with my speed. I circled the school house for effect, and then as I passed the windows, in full view of everyone, Diner stopped, and the bread and I kept going. We both hit the ground at the same time. I quickly gathered up the dusty bread and took it inside. " Willis Jensen

Once a small pig walked by and Willis gave it a swat on the rear legs with a sturdy stick he had been playing with. The piglets hind legs were permanently paralyzed and it had to pull itself around the yard using only its front legs from that time on. Willis made money by following big sheep herds and killing coyotes for the bounty.

I had 75-100 trap lines. When I left McCornick, I didn't have time to gather them up so I guess some of them are still there. Willis Jensen

The water eventually dried up in Scipio (where McCornick got most of its water). One by one, families were forced to leave including the Jensen family.

The bishop showed up at the Jensen home one afternoon to see what the Jensen's thought about Willis serving a full-time mission. Georgina said this would not be possible since he was needed on the farm. With the Jensen's, work on the farm came first.

"When I was sixteen I moved to Salt Lake City and worked for the Maloufs driving a truck from Salt Lake to Dixie, Utah and Boulder City, Nevada. I transported peaches, lettuce, and other produce. I made $60.00 a month with room and board. I drove a three speed international, a 1 1/2 ton truck usually transporting 10 tons of fruit. Once I tried to make a large grade but could not get to the top with my heavy load. I backed down and tried again. I finally made it on my third try. Once my truck broke down in Tockersville. I got to Hurricane and found a replacement part. I asked a trucker for a ride back to my truck. He said, "I'm not taking anyone." I got another ride. On the road I was flagged down by a trucker who had lost his lights. It was the same guy who refused me a ride. I stood in the shadows and he didn't recognize me. He said, "Will you follow me to the next town, since I have no lights?" I replied, "Yes, since you were so good to me the other day. I would be happy to." I followed in. Mr. Webber, supervisor for Safeway, offered me a job, as I was the only one getting the produce through. I went down, but the foreman had just hired someone else and said he didn't need me. I called Webber who called the foreman and said "get red of that other guy, right now." " Willis Jensen

Bill met Clara Taylor and they were married in 1934. In 1936, they moved to San Francisco, California with their first child, Boyd, who was one year old. In San Francisco, Bill worked for Western Garment repairing sewing machines. He made $15.00 a week ($2.00 more than he had been making in Utah). The factory floor was covered with many women sewing garments using 200 high powered machines. The women were continually yelling "Bill, Bill!" He would have to rush over to their machines and quickly repair them so that production quotas would be met. Bill used to bring scraps home for Clara to put buckles on. He often helped Clara and they spent hours and hours doing the work. If they wanted to go somewhere on weekends their friends had to help them finish sewing the buckles before they could go. Bill hated this job and only worked there for fifteen weeks. The Jensen's first lived in the Portrero District and finally rented an apartment on Delores Street in the Mission District, right next to Mission High School.

World War II opened up many war related jobs and Bill was hire on by Madsen Navigation at Hunter's Point. He worked as a pipe fitter's helper, then became a 1st class pipe fitter. In six months he was made lead man and became his boss's boss. He worked at Hunter's Point for the duration of the war. Naval ships were repaired and refitted there. At this time Bill had been smoking cigarettes for a number of years. Clara hated the habit and often let him know how displeased she was. She even threatened to eave him once if he didn't quit. Bill had a friend at Hunter's Point who also smoked and was trying to quit. One day the men were on the deck of the aircraft carrier and decided to give up their cigarettes, cold turkey. They walked to the edge of the carrier and threw their packs of cigarettes into San Francisco Bay. It was extremely difficult but Bill never smoked again.

After the war Bill moved the family to West Sacramento where they lived with Grandpa James Taylor for a time until they could find a place of their own. A house was purchased on Virginia Avenue in West Sacramento and eventually Bill built a house in Linden Acres, several miles to the South. He had never built a house before, but he was a vry hard worker. Mistakes were made and had to be redone, but the house was eventually completed with help from Cara and Boyd. Bill also built a garage and, later, another house on the property. When he and Boyd laid the cement for the driveway, Bill poured it over an old set of box springs from a double bed. The property at Linden Acres was three quarters of an acre. It was enough room to raise chickens and beef. Bill started working for The Taylor Dairy (no relation) and eventually went to work for Crystal Creamery. He worked there for many years until his retirement. During his final years there he was the supervisor on the swing shift. He hated every day that he worked at Crystal Creamery.

Willis (Bill) died in Sacramento, California on March 22, 1990.




This page last updated on September 10, 2011 .