My Daddy, Floyd Otto Spencer
My Daddy, Floyd Otto Spencer, age 18
BY THEODORE ROETHKE
All rights reserved.
My Memoir Backstory “My Daddy” takes up where I left off writing “My Memoirs Introduction: I Was Born a “Saint.” After I wrote this blog, I realized I put the cart before the horse; i.e., I started my Memoirs bass-ackwards by getting myself born before I told you anything about how I got here.
Since we all come from the past, my readers ought to know what it is that went into my making. So I’ve decided to present a bunch of Backstory, beginning with my father, Floyd Otto Spencer. Ending with my mother, Esther LeBaron Spencer de McDonald and her LeBaron backstory.
After that, I’ll continue with my own Memoirs that will include more tales about Mother and Father as they intertwine throughout my Memoirs.
Now for a bit of how I got here from the past. And some of what went into my making. I hope you enjoy reading “My Daddy” as much as I enjoyed writing it. Writing about Papa was sort of like having him around again!
My Daddy, Part 1
My handsome five-foot-10.5-inch, black-haired, black-eyed, dark-skinned (when tanned) father was a hot-tempered, strict, shy, witty, sharp-tongued, short-fused, highly gifted man. “Daddy,” as we called him, was also a sensitive Artist and Creative.
Born July 27, 1895, in Marion, Michigan. He died on my birthday, April 18, 1965, in Colonia LeBaron, Galeana, Chihuahua, Mexico. His death was the outcome of a freak “accident.” I believe Mother, Esther LeBaron Spencer, and her brother, my Uncle Ervil LeBaron, had a hand in it. (I will relate this whole incident in my upcoming Memoirs.)
Born in a backwoods frontier town, Daddy was very much of pioneer stock. His parents were mostly of English descent, he believed. He was unable to track his full genealogy. But one thing we know for sure is Winston Spencer Churchhill, former statesman and Prime Minister of Great Britain, was his second cousin.
One Sunday afternoon, in our small living room, lit only by light from the windows and fireplace, Mother was giving Daddy his routine, expert-looking haircut, when we children, catching Daddy “Captive,” saw a good chance to gather around his knees and pepper him with questions about his parents, grandparents, and past.
He was usually busy working. And even now he was hesitant to answer all our forward questions. But when asked about his bloodline, he sheepishly responded:
“My grandmother on my mother’s side was a full-blooded Mohawk Indian squaw. I used to visit her in her Hogan from time to time.” He was embarrassed to admit this. But then he added:
“She was a typical Indian … Sweet, poor, and no furniture to speak of. I can still see her squatting on the floor as she did her routine work in her dark little Hogan that had only one window and a fire burning in the middle of the room — smoke rising up and out through a hole in the ceiling.”
This helps to explain why Daddy used to chide Mother when he saw her squatting on the floor sorting beans or such. He’d cry: “You look like an old Indian squaw! Get up and sit on a chair at the table to sort your beans — like a civilized human being!!”
However, after joining the LeBaron cult and learning from my uncles the Mormon beliefs Joseph Smith taught about the American Indians — that they “were part of the lost ten tribes of Israel, and were going to play a very important role in the last days,” Daddy made an effort to get in touch with the indigenous American Indian side of himself.
He even began to exhibit pride in being at least one-quarter American Indian. I say “at least” because he was not sure of his full heritage — only that his mother was half American Indian.
But one day he took a trip to visit the Hopi and Navajo Indian villages in Arizona and New Mexico, returning home feeling very exhilarated, uplifted, and more proud than ever of his Indian heritage. It rubbed off on me: I’m at least one-eighth American Indian, and proud of it.
PS: It has come to my attention that some people think they can only get to my website through one of my social media sites such as Facebook. So let me give you my URL. That way you may access my Website directly: https://StephanySpencer.com — Stephany with a “y.”
If you click on my “Follow” button and leave me your e-mail address, each time a new blog is posted, you will get an email alerting you. My cell phone number, in case you would like to call me, is 818-624-8522.
I would love feedback from my readers. Your comments, “Like’s,” etc., help guide and motivate what I, a writer, will write next. I would really appreciate it, also, if you would let me know, through comments or calls, if you find any spelling or grammatical errors — or any other errors in my writings.
I have nobody editing nor critiquing what I write before I post it. So your feedback is important. Thank you in advance for any time you take to let me know these vital things. And know you are much appreciated!
Now, till next time, thank you for visiting my website — And for reading especially my blogs that tell you what my Memoir’s intentions are. And thank you for just being you!
Cheers, and enjoy!
Stephany Spencer/AKA: Beulah Spencer Tucker de LeBaron
My Daddy (around ages 18 & 53 consecutively)
“Show me someone who
believes you can’t change history,
and I’ll show you someone who
hasn’t tried to write their memoirs.”
My Daddy, Part 2
Daddy was the oldest of two children, raised Methodist, and held White Anglo-Saxon Protestant values — their strong work ethic, for example. Daddy was always a hard worker, but you might even say he was a workaholic.
That figures: His father was a “raging alcoholic.” (Going to extremes in any area is indicative of addiction. For example, God is a drug for religious addicts; i.e., religious fanatics. Does that ring a bell? It sure does for me!)
“Twelve-Steppers,” especially ACA ’S/ Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families — a 12-step program — will know what I’m talking about. If these terms are new to you, it might be well worth looking up 12-step organizations in your area. They were very valuable in my development, given the dysfunctional family I was brought up in.)
Now back to more Bio about Dad:
“At around age four,” Daddy told me, “my mother gave me away to her sister to raise. When my sister, Doris, two years younger than I,* died at age twelve, Mother wanted me back. But I refused to go back. I was fourteen then, and so angry at what she’d done!! I was happier living with my aunt, anyway,” sadly remarked my father.
Then he continued, “I often had to dig tunnels in the snow during winter time to get to school because the snow piled up so high. Sometimes it was up higher than the schoolhouse door. My school consisted of one room and one teacher teaching all the grades from 1st through 12th.
“I didn’t do very well in her classroom— Didn’t get along with that didactic, strict, bossy teacher. She regularly humiliated me in front of the class … Often made me sit in the corner with a dunce cap on … I was always making the students laugh due to my witty wisecracks, clowning around, and cutting up.
“In fifth grade, I couldn’t take any more of this mean, punishing teacher. (I’d had her since first grade.) So I dropped out — refused to go to her one-room school anymore — though it was the only school around. I just couldn’t learn under the teacher.
“However, from then on, I felt I was a failure, in many ways — not to mention that my parents gave me away when I was so little. That affected my self-worth. But due to my one and only elementary school teacher, I further questioned my self-worth, because I kind of believed it was due to my lack of brains that I wasn’t getting better grades in this teacher’s class.”
That bad impression of himself as a student and person went with my father throughout his life. It sadly affected his self-confidence and self-esteem, further adding to his shyness, and his oftentimes not feeling very good about himself … in some ways.
But lack of a good supporting education, in and of itself, is enough to affect anyone’s self-confidence and achievements in life; i.e, They see many people able to accomplish things they cannot accomplish, often not realizing their only setback was maybe they had no competitive foundation — Only a poor, disadvantaged fifth-grade, one-room classroom education — typical of the early 1900’s in backwoods pioneer towns.
Education of one’s children was not mandatory back in those days. So it was a privilege for him to go to school at all. Families much worse off than my fathers’ didn’t go to school at all.
It was only after the first world war, or 1918, that our country realized public education must be made “free” (paid for by our tax dollars) for all. Especially now that the Industrial Revolution required children not only be able to read, write, and do math: They also needed the discipline mandatory education develops in an otherwise rather unruly, unschooled person, such that they learn to follow the Employer’s directions, show up for work on time, and be dependable.
However, despite a very poor preparatory education, Daddy accomplished much more in life than many people with a far better education and advantages. He was a very proud and confident man in some ways, therefore. His being so gifted, talented, and successful at many things he attempted in life helped build his self-esteem, despite the negative aspects of his early education and childhood. You can see this confidence exuding in his photos.
His teacher and that old-fashioned, backward school system had branded him as “Not Smart, a bad person, and a poor student — a DUNCE!” How sad, because he was a very bright, gifted boy/person. I, having taught school for thirty years, should know what I am talking about!
It grieves me that there are teachers who can be so judgmental as to brand children for life, thinking they know what they’re doing. They don’t! I’ve experienced this branding firsthand. It only shows how ignorant the teacher was that would do such a thing to any child or student.
Their ignorance, arrogance, ego, and the need to control gets the best of them. If they looked at and treated every student as if that child were the son or daughter of the school Superintendent, Principal, or President of the United States of America, I guarantee you that would take any judgmental Educator down a notch or two — and their students up a notch or two!
* I’m not positive about the age difference between Daddy and his sister, etc. So I wrote my best guesstimates. As in this and any other cases, I will greatly appreciate it if you will inform me wherever it seems that I am an error.
“Whatever you can do,
or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, magic,
and power in it.
Begin it now.”
The year was 1958, the setting our home in Hurricane, Utah — The place: Around our average-sized family-room fireplace. While the flames flickered and leaped, warmed and lit our cozy little living room, we eleven Spencer kids huddled around our parents on the colorful rag rug Mother had crocheted.
I was twelve then, second to the oldest, and seventeen months younger than my oldest sibling, Doris — one of my rivals! While sixty-three-year-old Daddy sat situated on a high stool with a towel wrapped around his neck and shoulders, my talented, artistic thirty-seven-year-old Mother was at her routine task of trimming his white hair, employing the hair clippers he’d bought for this purpose.
As was often the case during such times, we kids were once again peppering Papa with personal questions about his intriguing boyhood, family, life … and white hair!
” I discovered my first gray hair when I was only fourteen years old!” Daddy explained. “Gray hairs really stand out when your hair is pitch black like mine used to be!”
My siblings and I were further enlightened when Mother got out Daddy’s scrapbook and a photo album so he could explain the pictures and keepsakes in them. There was a picture of my paternal grandmother dressed to the “T” in the high fashions of the early 1900s:
“My mother was a socialite,” he opined disapprovingly. “She was more concerned about her appearance and joining social circles than she was about being a good mother. She always decked herself out in the latest grand styles of the day — as you can see in this picture,” continued Daddy, pointing to a photo of his attractive mother in a hat.
I never got to meet my paternal grandparents nor Daddy’s aunt who raised him. Daddy was about fifty-two when I was born. I was around five years old when, in her nineties, his aunt died. She lived in Michigan, and we lived in St.George, Utah, at that time. Lack of time, money, and means precluded Daddy’s going to her funeral, though he really wanted to attend it.
Back before she died, I recall how elated he would be whenever a letter arrived from his aunt. Sometimes she would include a photo of herself, so I at least got to see what she looked like as a ninety-year-old woman … And I recall, too, the tears in Daddy’s eyes (a man who seldom showed any sign of tears) when he read the letter that said she had died.
One of the many disadvantages of having a father old enough to be your grandfather is that his parents die before you are old enough to meet them — that is if he even kept in contact with his parents at all — which Daddy did not.
Continuing with Daddy’s pictures, now: In another photo, his handsome “half-breed” entrepreneur mother stood on the porch in front of a wooden building. And Daddy recounted:
“My mother owned a little motel or boarding house. I helped her with the work there, often times — sweeping the big porch, fixing things, and helping at the front desk.
“In my free time, I loved to create things that really worked … like miniature model windmills I carved and devised myself, where the blades of the windmill could actually turn if you blew on them … or when there was wind.”
He was very proud of his ingenuity and creativity — the things he was amazingly able to come up with and make, though only a young boy — a child … things nobody else around him devised, not even adults. He loved to draw, too — funny caricatures and so forth.
“I also loved to design and create things like little wagons and cars with wheels that could roll — and even little houses and buildings.
“And I loved to carve whistles, wooden ducks, dogs, and other toys that had wheels on them so they could be pulled around with us wherever we went — which was how we made our toys move, back in those days.
“My dream was to be an Engineer — How I longed to be in the driver’s seat of a train and to work on trains. Trains were the big thing — an invention just coming into existence when I was a young boy.
“It was back when most people did not own a car, and model T Fords were barely becoming the big rage among the rich.
“One of the first cars accessible to the masses was the 1908 Model T, an American car manufactured by the Ford Motor Company. I was thirteen years old when that car came out. Henry Ford was my idol! I loved that he was an Inventor. I wanted to be an Inventor, myself — to design and create things like Ford and other Creators of my day.
“If I could’ve had my way and I’d had the advantage of money ‘n’ a good education, I would’ve been an Engineer. But instead of goin’ back to school ‘n’ workin’ for years to get the education I needed so as to go to college ‘n’ get an Engineering Degree, I married ‘n’ had a bunch of kids — to help build up God’s kingdom.
Then spent my time workin’ to raise ‘n’ support my families — my first family with Eva, and now this one.” Then Daddy changed the subject:
“As a youth, I never liked to sit around wastin’ time nor to play silly games like the rest of the kids … Liked to put my time to good use … to create things. Silly, noisy kids got on my nerves. But being an only child was a very lonely life. That’s one reason I chose to have lots of kids when I got married.”
“Silly, noisy kids got on my nerves. But being an only child was a very lonely life. That’s one reason I chose to have lots of kids when I got married.”
Explanation: Daddy was an Introvert — a creative like me — only one of a number of traits I inherited from Daddy’s side of the family.
If you do not know the characteristics of the different but unique, special Introvert brain and personality, there are a number of good books on the market that explain this valuable and wondrous trait.
And if you are related to Floyd Otto Spencer, and other such, chances are you or/and some of your children and posterity are also Introverts.
Even so, most Creatives, such as artists and writers, are Introverts or at least Ambiverts, as opposed to Extroverts. The world needs all these personality types.
The following are titles of three spectacular books on this subject that you may be interested in reading or at least skimming. If you can’t find some of these in your library or online, there are other books on the subject.
1- “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World,” by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.
2- “Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto,” by Anneli Rufus
3- “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You,” by Elaine N. Aaron, Ph.D.
“You own everything that happened to you.
Tell your stories. If people wanted you
to write warmly about them,
they should have behaved better.”
~ Anne Lamott
Going back to where we left off with Daddy saying he wanted to have a large family of children, let me tell you that this is one dream he fulfilled: He had eleven beautiful children with his first wife, Ava (Eva?) Bowman Spencer.
And fourteen more beautiful children with his second wife, my mother, Esther LeBaron Spencer. Thus, he was not only guaranteed to never be lonely again but to never have a moment’s peace or quietude, either.
And more often than not, there was even a new baby crying — to keep him up at night! But he finally learned how to pretty much fix that: He would waterboard them (not that uncommon, at least among the Mormon fundamentalists). At times he would even beat the tiny new babies incessantly for crying. (Tears!!)
But mainly, he mostly held his big strong hand over their mouth and nose till they were suffocating, all the while yelling at them:
“Shut up the goddamned crying!! Do you hear?! Shut up, I said, or you’ll get more to cry for!!”
After he did that consistently, a number of times, it generally taught most of his babies not to be caught dead crying anymore — if they could possibly help it. (Then you wonder why Morman fundamentalist children are so well-behaved?!)
He, like many fundamentalists, believed the Bible’s “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” meant to literally beat the devil out of the kids, to make them submissive to adults and thus to God — and the sooner they were made submissive, the better.
But some spiritual leaders believe “the rod” is only a metaphor for “the gospel.” In other words, if you don’t teach your children the gospel, they will grow up spoiled, wayward, and rebellious.
I believe force and brutality toward children — or anyone … or any animal — does just the opposite of beating the devil out of them: It beats the devil into them; i.e., can make them angry, hateful, emotionally disturbed, mean, and devilish. It also can cause them to split from themselves, and to lose their will, give up, and become zombies or such; i.e., It breaks their spirit.
In fact, one of the best ways to hypnotize a hyperactive or misbehaving child is to get up close to him/her, plant yourself right in his/her space, and yell vociferously at this child: “Behave!!!! Stop that!!!” Or whatever else it is you wish of the child. The child will do what you tell him/her after that … at least for a while.
So I wonder what kind of abuse my father suffered at the hands of adults when he was growing up since violent and abusive ways of parenting are now understood to be passed down from one generation to the next.
Unless one is able to recognize, then intercept and stop this abusive cycle and pattern learned from one’s upbringing and teachings, it will be passed on to one’s own offspring ad infinitum!
But thank God/Goodness, there are now laws in our country that carry stiff penalties for abusing children — as well as women, animals — or anyone … thanks to coalitions of good people who have worked diligently together throughout our society and other civilized parts of the world to make this world and life a better and the safer place for everyone.
However, reclusive families, such as exist in cults, often remain backward when it comes to improvements in their behavior. Believing they are the only ones with “the truth,” and lead by poorly educated, narrow-minded leaders, they learn nothing much from “the world” that, nonetheless, continues to change as it strives to learn and to make a better world for all: through education, college, books, publications, educational T.V., films, and so forth — and now Computers, Smart Phones, Social Media, and other Hi-Tech devices and mechanisms.
That said, one reason Daddy and Mother were so anxious to move to the LeBaron colony in Old Mexico in 1960 was because shortly before their decision to move, a federal law was passed against Child Abuse. It stipulated dire legal penalties for parents who hit, beat, or otherwise physically abused their children. Daddy proclaimed vehemently, in regards to that law:
“What right has the government to step in and tell me how to raise my children?! I am the Priesthood head of my family! The Bible says, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ In other words, we are to ‘bend the twig’ correctly. We do that by beating the devil out of our children while they are still young enough to be taught how to behave and grow up as straight vines, not twisted, warped ones.
“Once a seedling is warped, you can’t change it. You can observe an example of that in plants and trees that weren’t supported and staked properly so they would grow straight rather than deformed. I can’t wait to get out of this wicked country and gather with the Saints in Zion, there in Colonia LeBaron where I’m free to exercise Biblical laws when it comes to raising my family!”
“A good memoir is born from that uniquely
important place in your personal history.”
“Writing Your Hot Topic Memoir”
Daddy was an autodidact. In other words, he was self-taught — in many areas. He would get books on auto mechanics, carpentry, building construction, watch and clock repair, farming, health — you name it — and learn how to do these things … How to eat healthfully, for example. Sometimes he took Night School classes too.
By the late 1940s or early 1950s, he was a Singer Sewing Machine salesman and repairman. He went from home to home selling and setting up this then newfangled, popular electric sewing machine that had quickly outdated the old treadle sewing machine.
He taught the proud owners how to use their new modern electric Singer sewing machine and its many attachments — such as the attachment for making buttonholes. And he maintained the machines, should they need service.
Later on, he morphed into a self-employed entrepreneur — a General Contractor, capable of building homes and commercial buildings, from the ground up, including creating the blueprints.
People liked to hire him because he could save them money, time, and trouble by doing everything himself — from the blueprints, foundation, building’s frame, cement work, flooring and roofing, to the electrical, plumbing, brick and rock work, landscape, carpentry, and the painting of his new buildings.
Provided they had time to wait for a one-man job to be finished, he was your man. Hiring a bunch of contractors and construction workers to do the job all at once was more much expensive and time-consuming, but would get the job done a lot faster if that was what one needed to do.
Because he was an introvert (or ambivert?) he preferred to work by himself. It’s a good thing because he didn’t get along well with most people. He had an artistic, fastidious, and perfectionistic personality, topped off with religious fanaticism, plus a high-strung, short-fused bad temper, and a sharp tongue. (He regularly called to repentance people in his presence he saw doing things that were against his religion!)
For example, he would tell mainstream Mormons they were headed for hell because they had given up plural marriage, practiced birth control, and had “mutilated” the holy temple garments Joseph Smith “ordained of God” and said should never be cut nor otherwise changed. This fervent and foot washing fundamentalist father of mine took his religion very seriously!
That said, he would also regularly worry, harass, and chastise women in the Mormon fundamentalist groups, too, for doing things like cutting their hair, sporting “worldly hairdos and makeup” — and for wearing their hemlines too high and their necklines too low! (Hem lines were supposed to be about down to the ankle, and neck lines about up to the collar bone.)
“That tight sweater and skirt you’ve got on is exactly what leads men to want to rape women! You look like a goddamned Delilah!!” he swore at me one day when I was thirteen years old and dressed to go to school. That sure “learnt” me a lesson!
I’m being facetious, of course. Though I took off the sweater and skirt, so popular in the 1950s, and never wore such clothing again (during my life in the fundamentalist cult) I now know there is no excuse for men to rape women under any conditions!
If how women look or dress determines whether they get raped or not, then what about Aborigines and other Indigenous societies, for example, who go/went around (as a way of life) stark naked, half naked — and “half-baked“? (Pun intended!)
It’s all a matter of culture, style, and one’s values, really. Women are not to blame if some all-brawn-and-no-brains men choose to try to dominate and use women to their own advantage.
Just because most men are much more muscular than women, that doesn’t make men superior to women. It certainly doesn’t give them a right to brutalize women so as to run them. Only backward people and cultures adhere to that old-world way of thinking.
In general, men aren’t superior to women, other than muscularly … usually. (When I was young and in shape, I was able to win more than one man in an arm wrestle, LOL!) Women are not objects, either, as some men seem to think. Men don’t own them — nor do they have the right to strong-arm nor otherwise control women — despite what some fundamentalist Mormons, et Al, believe.
But getting back to Daddy: His regularly chastising others and setting them straight led me to believe he was pretty perfect, himself. He must be, it seemed if he could be calling others on the carpet for not adhering to our extremist sect’s strict dress code or other such. If he could do that, he must be doing everything right himself, yes?
However, in hindsight (always the best sight) I see he needed to lighten up, simmer down, mind his own business — and quit projecting his own fears and faults onto others. In other words, like so many of us, he needed more patience and persistence, and less pestering of others; i.e., He needed to exhibit more charity. He just didn’t know it yet.
* NOTE: Parts 6–9 are continued in: “My Memoir: My Father, Floyd Otto Spencer: Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamist and LeBaron Cult Member”