My name is Alan Sears Hintze, son of Henry Herriman Hintze and Ethel Irene Sears. I was born November 20, 1920 in Holladay, Utah. I was the sixth of eleven children and thus had as many older brothers and sister as I had younger. My father was a farmer; consequently I was able to enjoy all of the advantageous and adventuresome experiences of growing up on a farm in a mountain valley of north-central Utah.
My earliest recollections were, of course, living on a farm in Elberta, Utah. I do not remember the name of the place, but it had a lot of cottonwood trees which were ideal for climbing and for playing like Tarzan. My earliest chores were to herd the cows during the summer with my brother, Henry. We would follow them for miles as they grazed the prairies and rolling hills (or sandhill as we called it). While the cows grazed, we would play in the washes and ditches. Quite often we would forget about the cows and then would have a time finding them because as they grazed they would walk and it was easy for them to completely escape our surveillance. Sometimes it would take us several hours to find them, thus making it late before we would get back home in the evening. It was always an unpleasant thing to be late because we looked after Mr. Foot’s cows for 10¢ a day, and if we were late getting home he was generally unhappy. He always seemed so stern and unfriendly. Maybe it was because he had no children and thus didn’t have the experience of dealing with them. But again, I’m sure we were rather exasperating to him much of the time because of our carefree demeanor.
If we drove the cows about three miles from home, there was a small river which may not have been always so good for grazing the cows, but it was ideal for the herders. We could spend all day swimming or running around in the sandy slopes without any clothes on. We were a long way from the nearest farm so being seen was very remote. As I remember, we were not far from nakedness most of the time anyway. My summer wardrobe consisted of a pair of shorts and ragged bib overalls–no shoes or shirt or any other inconvenience to take off when “last one in the water was the nigger-baby.” It was always something greatly anticipated at the end of school. We could then get all of our hair cut off (go bald-headed we called it). We could then take our shoes off and shirts. The first few days we would walk rather carefully and stay away from the rocks and thorns and thistles, but it wasn’t long until our feet were as tough as necessary to go anywhere as if had shoes on.
The houses we lived in didn’t have enough rooms for a large family so in the summer months we would sleep outside on a hay stack or in one of the tool sheds or along side the house. In the winter we would sleep in an unfinished attic. My head still bears the scars of having raised up suddenly and hitting my head on a rafter or shingle nail that protruded like the spikes of a harrow down through the low roof. My brothers and I would have many discussions as to whose turn it was to go to bed first in the winter and get the sheets warm for the other two of us who slept in the same bed. I believe that there is nothing quite so cold as sheets in an unheated room in the winter.
Milking cows was a regular chore after I was 7 or 8 years of age. Dad always had plenty of cows for us to gain experience. We seldom had adequate barns so more often than not we would milk while the cows were standing in the coral. Milking was not an unpleasant job for me – particularly in the winter. The cows body was always very warm and milking was like setting around the stove. Sometimes the milk yield was not as large as it could have been. If the cows were situated at the right angle and distance, with an extra hard squeeze, one could plaster the back of the neck of a co-worker seated at the next cow, with a nice stream of fresh, warm milk. Of course, that would always precipitate a milk war with silver streams of pure, white milk volleying back and forth across the coral. More milk would go into the war than into the bucket. It is no wonder that the profits of the farm were low.
As I understand it, Elberta was first settled by non-Mormon people who vowed that no Mormon would be allowed to live in the valley. Mother and Dad and the older children experienced some hardship because of this condition, but due to the sterling characters of my parents the opposition had, in my recollection disappeared although I can remember hearing the folks talk about it some. As it was for me, life in Elberta was full of fun and pleasures. Much of the reason was that my parents were more concerned about properly rearing their family than they were about doing things just for their own pleasure. All activities were family centered. As the Mormon strength in the valley increased more and more socials included the whole family. A most enjoyable time was had on the summer holidays, particularly the 4th and 24th of July. If my memory serves me correctly, we would meet at a shady spot for a picnic and program. Speeches would be given followed by a lunch with food enough for an army. After lunch the afternoon would be filled with games for all ages. Sometimes some of the men and older boys would race their horses to end all arguments as to who owned the fastest one. It was great sport to see the animals charge down the lane lined with cheering people. I was not old enough to ride a horse in a race, but in my mind I could do it just as good as anyone there, and win every race. It never occurred to me that the horse had anything to do with it.
The homes we lived in had no modern conveniences like electricity, running water or inside toilets. We took baths, usually on Saturday evening, in a round washtub with water heated on a wood stove. As it was such a chore to heat water, several of us would bathe in the same water. If you were lucky, your turn to bathe would come while the water was still a little warm. As I look back, I wonder whether the last one to bathe put more dirt into the water or took some of it out. At the time it didn’t seem to matter very much. .
As we grew in years we were able to do more of the farm work, such as plowing, planting, cultivating, irrigating and harvesting. When I was about 11 years old, Dad gave Henry, Keith and me the responsibility of slaughtering a veal calf. We knew how to get the job done but decided to follow a procedure that we imagined was used in a real slaughter house. Keith was to drive the calf through a narrow gate adjacent to the barn. Henry was to straddle the gate, sledgehammer in hand, and give the calf a stunning blow between the eyes as it came through the gate. I was to hide behind the gate post, knife in hand, and slit the calf’s throat after it fell to the ground from Henry’s blow. Keith performed his task very well. Henry’s aim was not quite right and he missed the calf and hit me on the knee. However, I was so intent in carrying out my task that I was oblivious to all else and therefore pounced on the calf while it was still standing and cut its throat. Therefore, we got the job done anyway, but I suffered with a bruised knee for several days.
The grade school I attended was held in a little two-room country schoolhouse in Elberta, where three grades met in one room. I got a slow start in school because it took 3 years to get out of the first grade. With only one teacher and 3 grades, the 1st grade always seemed to be doing more interesting things. Consequently, it was difficult to keep my attention on the 2nd and 3rd grades as I progressed to those rows in the classroom.
We had a bus pick us up at our farm gate and we rode about two miles to School. One winter day I secretly hitched my sled on the back of the bus and was given a very exciting ride to school. When it was discovered that I was there, the driver didn’t stop so the kids in the bus cheered me on as I struggled to stay on the bouncing sled. It was much rougher and faster than I had anticipated. When we arrived at school I was given a stern lecture and warned never to try that again. For Jr. High I rode a bus an additional 5 miles to Goshen. At the beginning of my last year there (9th grade) I was elected class vice president on a day when I was absent. However, no one bothered to tell me until graduation time at the end of the school year when we were lining up for a class picture and I was informed to sit on the front row with the rest of the class officers.
After being graduated from Jr. High school I had to walk 2 miles to catch a bus and then rode 20 miles to High School in Payson. This lasted only one year after which our family moved to Taylorsville (near Salt Lake City), and I was graduated from Granite High in the spring of 1939. The following summer I worked at odd jobs such as hauling coal from the mines in Price, Utah to customers in Salt Lake valley and unloading freight cars loaded with steel for an iron works. I did this to have enough money to enroll at the then Utah State Agricultural College in Logan. However, I was not yet mature enough to apply myself seriously in getting an education and my efforts to go to school were wasted. My next venture was to get a job with the Western Electric Company as an installer and travel throughout Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Montana installing new equipment in the Bell System central telephone exchanges. This proved to be a most rewarding venture for it was while working in Lamar, Colorado that I met Viola Faye Blevens. After a year’s association while I worked in Lamar and another year’s courtship by mail as I worked in Milford, Utah; Rock Springs, Wyoming; Nogales, Tuscon and Yuma, Arizona; Great Falls and Havre, Montana; and Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado, we were eventually married in Colorado Springs on February 14, 1943. At that time World War II was in process and many young men were being drafted for military service. I had been working on what was considered a critical job so the telephone company got me a deferment from the draft, which had to be renewed every six months. When I informed the company that I was getting married, they told me that they would no longer request my deferment from the draft as it was too expensive for them to pay the expenses of a man and his family (which would have been required) in moving around the country doing the type of work that I was doing. Consequently, rather than wait to be drafted into the Army, Viola and I decided that I should join the Navy.
As I grew up through my teenage years, I advanced in the Priesthood and, in fulfillment of my Patriarchal blessing which was received as the age of 12, I was called to be the president of each quorum in the Aaronic Priesthood and in the presidency of the Elder’s quorum after receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood.. I have been blessed with a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and cannot remember a time when I didn’t have a strong feeling about the Church, nor have I ever doubted its truthfulness. It has been a great source of strength to me and a guiding influence in my life. .
Three weeks after we were married and one week before I left for Navy bootcamp, Viola was baptized, which was a source of great joy to me. She has and continues to be a guiding light and strength to me.
My tour of duty in the Navy took me to Farragut, Idaho for basic training; to Ames, Iowa for an electrical course at Iowa State University; to Washington, D C for an advanced course in electronics and instrumentation at the Navy Yard; and then to Williamsburg, Virginia where I served as an instructor in an intermediate electrician mate’s school. While in the Navy I was called and set-apart as an LDS Servicemen Group Leader and, therefore, was authorized to organize study groups and Sunday Schools among the servicemen. This brought many interesting experiences including the baptism of one of my fellow instructors at the school.
Viola was able to be with me for part of my stay in Washington, D C and Williamsburg. Her stay in Williamsburg ended after we learned we were to have our first child and his arrival was to be in about four months. We took a trip to Salt Lake City in May 1945 and had our marriage sealed in the temple. Viola went on to Long Beach, California to await the birth of Jan and I returned to Williamsburg.
After being discharged from the Navy in December 1945, I returned to Utah fully intending to enroll again at Utah State Agricultural College and work towards a degree in agriculture. However, there were many veterans returning to school at that time and, in a one-day search, housing for us could not be found in Logan. Consequently, we made a decision that changed the course of our lives and has proven to be a great blessing.
Instead of getting a degree in agriculture, we decided that since we had an apartment within commuting distance, I should go to the University of Utah and pursue a degree in electrical engineering as I had had a little experience in that field with the telephone company and in the Navy. Consequently, I attended the U of U and was awarded a B.S. degree in 1950. During this time I served as a sunday school teacher and as general secretary for the Aaronic Priesthood. I was also called to be a Seventy. We were blessed with two additional children, Helen in 1947, and Frank in 1950. We also purchased a building lot and I built a basement house in which we lived the last two years of school.
After being graduated from the U, I took my family to Schenectady, New York where I was employed as an engineer with the General Electric Company. It took us six days to go from Salt Lake to Schenectady in our ten-year-old Hudson car pulling all of our earthly belongs in a Sears one-wheel trailer. Near Freemont, Nebraska, while traveling over a rough detour road, our overloaded trailer broke down. The only wheel it had came off, buried in a deep rut. With some very much needed help from a gracious farmer and his son we were on our way again in less than a day.
While in Schenectady, we helped build a chapel and I served as an assistant Priesthood group leader. In November 1951, we moved to south-western Ohio as I was transferred there to work on the development of a nuclear aircraft engine.
We initially rented a house in Mulberry, Ohio where we first experienced persecution because we were Mormons. In March 1952 we moved to Hamilton, Ohio where we had purchased a small home. I was soon called to be the Branch clerk and in October of 1952, was called to be the Branch president of the Hamilton Branch. It can truthfully be said that the years spent in Hamilton as Branch president and later as Bishop (when the Cincinnati stake was organized) were most rewarding. While it can not be said that there were not many trials and tribulations, yet there were many spiritual experiences which strengthened my testimony. While there, we took Olia Hopkins into our home and raised her as one of our family. We were also able to build a chapel which provided much needed strength to the Church there.
In July 1961, I joined the Atomic Energy Commission and we moved to Cleveland, Ohio where I was in charge of the controls and instrumentation development for the nuclear rocket program. From a career point of view, this was most rewarding as we were successful in developing, building, and testing a prototype nuclear rocket engine. While there I served for a short time as a counselor in the bishopric and then was called to serve on the Cleveland Stake high council. As a counselor in the bishopric I was instrumental in getting a building fund established and a lot purchased. A large chapel was built before we left.
In 1972, the nuclear rocket program was terminated and I was transferred to AEC headquarters near Washington, D C. We moved to Germantown, Maryland and I began working on the nuclear power plant safety program. Shortly after arriving in Maryland, the ward we were attending was divided and I was called to be the Ward Clerk of the newly formed Gaithersburg Ward. This was also a very enjoyable calling. When the Washington D C temple was dedicated in 1974, Viola and I was called to be ordinance workers in the temple. We continue to serve in that capacity and it, too, is most rewarding.