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From Returned Missionaries

William O. Whitaker

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MISSION NOTES FROM THE 1950s FROM WILLIAM O. WHITAKER
Written 02-05-2009

Part II

Elder Awa, my new companion, is a big bear of a Hawaiian boy. And an absolute sweetheart. Everyone who knows him loves Elder Awa. The members love him. The investigators love him. He has that kind of personality. I remember a time when we were returning from MIA by train to our new home in Okamachi. MIA was held in a girls school in the town of Juso, a few stops down the track from Okamachi. It was maybe around 9:30 PM and pitch black outside. The train stopped in Okamachi and Elder Awa was busy shaking every hand in reach. I got off the train, but before Elder Awa had finished shaking hands, the train doors closed and the train began to speed out of the station. Elder Awa had the most interesting panicked look on his face from inside the train as it departed. I didnft know whether to wait on the station platform until he got back to the station or go home. I elected to go home--laughing out loud all the way!

Elder Kekoolani was afflicted with a bad case of stomach ulcers and was periodically bedridden. At such times Elder Awa was asked to stay with him and I would team up with Elder James Jackson Jones, Jr. Elder Jones was a convert to the Church and tended to move about 100 miles per hour. I recall one time when we were going from door to door that we came across a housing area where clotheslines were set up in the back yards. Attached to one of the clotheslines and tethered by a leash, was a very mean looking dog. The dog had the entire run of the length of the clothesline. Elder Jones would taunt the dog by pushing his briefcase at it and calling out, gYah, yah.h The dog didnft like this and came running full tilt with bared teeth and barking at the top of its lungs. Elder Jones stood safely back a couple of feet beyond the reach of the clothesline. To our horror and amazement the leash broke. The dog went end over tea kettle. We didnft know whether to run or stand still. The dog made our choice for us. It put its tail between its legs and ran off in the opposite direction as fast as it could, yelping all the way.

On April 22, 1957, President Andrus called me to be the Branch President of the Okamachi Branch (formerly Juso Branch). Between this date and June 10, 1957 I had a seasoned companion, Elder Lewis Funk, but he was shortly transferred to become the Branch President of Kyoto Branch. A new companion, Elder Donald Goaslind, arrived on June 10, 1957. It was interesting having a companion fresh from the United States. Elder Goaslindfs father was a principal in a company in Salt Lake City that made things out of aluminum. Every month Elder Goaslind would receive a package from home in the form of an aluminum box filled with all sorts of good things: cake mixes, candy, etc. All of us in Okamachi Branch looked forward to his monthly goodies which he freely shared.

On May 6, 1957, Elder Jones, our District President, was transferred to Tokyo. He was replaced as District President by Elder Mark Hoover. We eventually nicknamed Elder Hoover gjuji choroh because he was a stickler at making us all be in bed by 10:00 PM each night which was the mission rule. He would turn off his light exactly at 10:00 PM regardless what he was doing. But then, when District business was pressing, hefd turn his light back on about 10 minutes later and continue with what he was doing. It was Elder Hoover who was inspired to divide the Okamachi Branch which I, as Branch President, had difficulty in accepting at first. That night, however, I received a feeling that the division was what should be done to help the area grow. The announcement at Church the following morning was a real surprise to the members. My counselors and I were thrown into great activity calling basically newly baptized members to fill positions of leadership. They accepted these callings without complaint and Okamachi Branch continued to prosper.

On November 14, 1957, I went to the Osaka train station to meet my newest companion, Elder Goaslind having been transferred elsewhere. He was Elder Henry Takahashi from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He was a year older than me, a mature person, and potentially a great missionary. He introduced himself using an accent appropriate for Canada but not in Japan. I corrected the pronunciation of his name and we went from there. I remember, one time, going with him for a haircut. The barber, who was familiar with our missionaries, wanted to know where my companion was. I pointed down to another chair where Elder Takahashi sat. The barber said, gNo, hefs first generation Japanese, not Niseih gWrong,h said I, hefs from Canada. The barber went over to Elder Takahashi and ran his hand through his hair. He came back to me and said, gNo, hefs not Nisei.h gYes he is,h said I. The barber never could figure out how Elder Takahashi could be a Nisei from Canada and not be able to speak a word of Japanese. In fact, as he and I would go shopping together for Branch supplies, the merchants would always address themselves to him and not to me. Hefd look blank and I would conduct the business to the delight of the merchants.

I remember we held some baptisms in the Minoo River, in a national park not far from Okamachi. On one early cool winter morning we went to the river to conduct a baptism. Elder Fred Dalton took his convert into the river, a rather rotund young woman, and accidentally let go of her hand. She slipped and started to drift down the river with the current. She was rescued and the baptism continued.

The Tokyo Era

Just after Christmas, on December 27, 1957, I received a telegram instructing me to telephone mission headquarters. I did. Elder Norman Shumway, a member of the Mission Presidency, told me that I would be transferring to the Mission Home. Thus on January 2, 1958 I boarded a train that took me from Osaka to Tokyo. During the time I was working there I had a number of appointments from supervising the auxiliary organization of the mission to, before I finished my mission, First Counselor to the Mission President. Some interesting things about my time there that I remember:

Sister Andrus was our etiquette teacher. She taught all us Elders how to be gentlemen. Normally there were about nine or ten missionaries around the dinner table each night. She made sure we knew that we were supposed to help seat the sister missionaries before we sat down ourselves. We also learned that we were not to dive into the dessert until the hostess began her dessert first.

We learned about charity from President Andrus. One time during dinner the doorbell rang. One of the Elders got up and answered the door. When he returned President Andrus asked who it was. The Elder replied that it was just someone seeking a donation. Beggars were often at our doors seeking assistance of some kind. The Elder said he had sent him away empty handed. It turned out that the solicitor was a representative from the Salvation Army. President Andrus sent the Elder back out to catch the man and he gave him a donation. Then he explained to us that the Salvation Army folks helped out people so low on the economic scale that we missionaries would never be able to help. Ifve remembered this and have been a regular contributor to Salvation Army drives.

One of my jobs in the Presidency was to accompany the Mission Secretary, Elder Dahl Walker, to all the Branches of the mission in Japan for the purpose of taking an inventory of Church owned property. On one occasion, en route from Tokyo to Hiroshima, the train made a short stop in a small village on the way. I jumped off the train, ran to a small noodle vender near the stop, and bought a bowl of gyakisoba.h It was delicious. It was also very cheap, about the equivalent of twenty-five cents. We arrived in Hiroshima on a Saturday but I ended up with a gastrointestinal attack that lasted until the next Monday. I was force feeding myself bread and peanut sandwiches hoping to get my problem under control. The bug finally left. But it was still one of the best bowls of gyakisobah I ever ate!

Another time we were taking inventory at the Okamachi Sisters' apartment . Sister Marilyn Hug prepared a dessert of tapioca pudding for Elder Dahl Walker and me. It was really a treat. Little did I know that Sister Hug would eventually be my wife. Wefve been married for just about 50 years now and I donft think she has ever made me another serving of tapioca pudding!

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