by Martha Sonntag Bradley
and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward
The England Years, 1937-46
“Hold high thy head to wear its crown.”
—Zina Young Card Brown
[p.443] Being president of Granite Stake had been immensely fulfilling, and in the wake of his release in October 1935, Hugh began to feel restless. He explored professional opportunities in California and decided to open a law practice there. Although Zina was not as eager to relocate, arrangements were made to trade the family’s home on Stratford Avenue for one at 1830 Verdugo Vista Drive in Glendale, California, and the family moved in April 1937. For eight-year-old Carol and Margaret, ten, the transition to a new school was easy; for teenaged Charles, the change was more challenging. He had enjoyed attending junior high school with his cousin Bruce Brown, and he bristled at the new requirement to wear a shirt and tie. Possibly the most important event that year, however, was LaJune’s marriage to Clayne L. Munk, a salesman from Gunnison, Utah, on 30 August in the Browns’ new house.
Not unexpectedly, Hugh could not attend the wedding. Almost immediately after their move, in April 1937 President Heber J. Grant called Hugh as president of the British Mission. Hugh felt that it was “an attempt to pacify my turbulent feelings over having been released as president of the Granite Stake.”1 Accompanied by President Grant, Hugh left in June 1937 for his new assignment, touring the mission as part of the centennial celebrating the arrival of the first apostles in Britain in 1837.2 Zina, left be-[p.444]hind to handle LaJune’s wedding, packed their belongings, organized the children, rose to the occasion. If she ever resented the imposition, the children never noticed. Hugh also missed Zina’s and his twenty-ninth wedding anniversary and wrote remorsefully in his diary on 17 June: “We’ve been unusually happy and congenial. I’ve tried the patience of my loyal and devoted wife many times by my foolish side trips into politics and business, but she has stood by me and never complained. This is another evidence of the existence of God, for only God could have made such wise provisions for man’s redemption as to give him a good wife.”3
Traveling through Europe with Heber J. Grant was a memorable experience. The tour took them through northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Wherever they stopped, Latter-day Saints gathered to sing a favorite Mormon hymn, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” In a summary entry, he wrote in his journal: “For five weeks I was in his [Grant’s] presence daily and sometimes during the night as we occupied the same hotel rooms. I learned to love the man and to know something of his deeper nature.”4 At a brief stop near Frankfurt, as the train pulled away from the crowd of Mormons, Grant “turned, tears streaming down into his white beard.” Hugh overheard him voice a private prayer: “I am not worthy of that. They used to sing that to Brigham. … Help me to be worthy of the office and of the kind of respect which the Saints show.”5
When the two completed the tour and returned to London, Hugh immediately began settling in at 5 Gordon Square, headquarters of the British Mission. Waiting to greet him on the front steps was Joseph J. Cannon, his predecessor. In a gracious gesture, Cannon “handed me the keys to the building and figuratively the keys to the British Mission.”6
Two and a half weeks later, Hugh welcomed his seventeen-year-old son, Hugh Card Brown, from the Netherlands. An Eagle Scout, young Hugh had attended the worldwide Boy Scout Jamboree. Before leaving the United States, he had traveled with other scouts and their leaders, and been set apart in Salt Lake City as a missionary, a privilege accorded older teenage children of mission presidents. He arrived at the mission home on 17 August 1937. For the next month after his son’s arrival, Hugh coordinated preparations for the church’s centennial celebration in England, wrote editorials for the Millennial Star, the official mission publica-[p.445]tion, met with missionaries and staff, and wrote letters home to Zina and the children.
Zina and the three youngest children—Charles, Margaret, and Carol—joined Hugh in London after LaJune’s wedding. In New York they were met by their uncle LaVoir Card, who was working at NBC studios. “He showed us around and gave us a tour of NBC,” Charles remembers. “When it came time to get on the boat, he put us in a Taxi and told the driver, ‘You take good care of these folks or I’ll break your arm!’ Typical New York talk.”7 They embarked on the S.S. Manhattan. All four were lodged in a double stateroom and enjoyed the voyage. Margaret and Carol explored the ship’s decks and precariously straddled the safety rails like monkey bars. They pilfered sugar cubes from tables in the dining room, stuffing them into their stockings, and watched adults place bets on staged horse races.8 When Zina and the children docked in Southhampton on 15 September, they found their two Hughs waiting for them. Although Zina had no way of knowing it, she would be hastily returning to the United States less than two years later.
Zina Lou, who had been working as a secretary in Southern California, leased the Browns’ fully furnished house to the general manager of Grand Central Airport and his wife for three years. Grand Central Airport was at the time the western terminus for all transcontinental airlines. The lease was broken, however, in October 1937 when the husband murdered his wife and her lover in the living room. Carol, then ten years old, recalled the living room as “very large, probably thirty feet long and about fifteen feet wide” with arched windows running the length of the room on both sides. The renters and a mutual friend had just returned from an evening of heavy drinking. The exhausted husband retired to the master bedroom, located just off the living room, and collapsed onto the bed. In the meantime, the wife and their friend were talking casually in the living room. For a time, the friend played softly on the piano. When the husband awoke, he saw reflected in the dresser mirror his wife and his friend embracing. Furious, he yanked open his dresser drawer, pulled out a gun, and shot them both dead. Now aware of his actions, he telephoned the police, then walked the length of the driveway to the street to meet them. Carol remembers receiving a Los Angeles Examiner insert showing their home in full color. The newspapers dubbed the murder the “White [p.446] Flame” case, because the defendant said a white flame of anger had come over him.
For the Browns, the loss of rental income was a hard blow. “Mother and Daddy were just living on a pittance” in England, explained Carol. “Part of their living allowance was from the rental of the house. Well, no one would rent the house because a double murder had taken place there.” In a letter to Zola, Hugh commented: “Things go wrong sometimes for a period and then get worse. … I think if he wanted to kill his wife he might have taken her outside instead of mussing up our front room, but we don’t all do things in the same way.”9 LaJune and Clayne moved into the house as caretakers and tried unsuccessfully to sell it. After their mission, “in very dire straits financially,” Hugh finally sold “this beautiful house on a two acre lot … for 12 thousand dollars.”10
These troubles lay in the future, however. Hugh’s responsibilities were varied as he directed the work of the mission and served as surrogate father to the missionaries. Hugh had no counselors and also edited and published the Millennial Star. His children remembered that he usually called the most talented missionaries—Marvin J. Ashton, Arthur Butler, and Perry D. Sorensen, for example—to serve as associate editors of the Millennial Star.11 Hugh wrote an article or editorial for each issue. The Millennial Star had been the official publication of the LDS church in the British Isles since 1840 (and would be until 1970). Editorials written by general authorities, news of current events, and essays on church history and doctrine combined to make it an important source of church culture and theology in Great Britain. Parley P. Pratt, its first editor, outlined its purpose in the inaugural issue (May 1840): “The Millennial Star will stand aloof from the common political and commercial news of the day. Its columns will be devoted to the spread of the fulness of the gospel—the restoration of the ancient principles of Christianity—the gathering of Israel—the rolling forth of the kingdom of God among the nations—the signs of the times—in short, whatever is shown forth indicative of the coming of the ‘Son of Man,’ and the ushering in of his universal reign on the earth.”
Zina’s letters home comment on the way Hugh was mastering his new role. They also describe his complicated travel schedule. Hugh frequently visited each branch of the mission, the missionaries across the country, and kept a close personal eye on their work. In doing this, he [p.447] made sure the mission ran smoothly, but also impressed upon the missionaries his regard and care for them.12
During the Browns’ first year of presiding over the British mission, twelve sister missionaries and sixty-two elders served full time. Among them were Marvin J. Ashton, later an LDS apostle, Hugh’s nephew Emmett L. Brown, who would become a practicing attorney, and Aldon J. Anderson, later a district court judge in Salt Lake City. Lillian Owen, a convert, helped keep house.
Zina’s home management and hostessing responsibilities were heavy. Visiting general authorities, friends from the United States, and, periodically, missionaries from Europe returning to the United States would stay in the mission home. Given the family of four, the mission staff, one housekeeper, and as many as ten guests at a time, Zina often hired additional help, laboring in a constant round of cleaning, washing, and cooking.
Aloa Dixon Richards was a sister missionary who lived in the mission home in 1937-38. “Sometimes I was privileged to sit to the left of President Brown at the dining table. He always sat at the head of the table while Mother Brown sat at the opposite end with missionaries at either side of her, which gave us such a homey feeling,” Aloa later told Mary. “One time when chocolate chip cookies were served to President Brown he broke his in half and gave me the other half saying, ‘There, that’s all you can have!’ He repeated this little prank whenever chocolate chip cookies were served and even after we returned to the States. I lived in Phoenix and whenever he visited his sister Zola Harris there, he’d make sure I got half a cookie. He had such a wonderful sense of humor.” Aloa, far from home, appreciated the affection Zina showed to them all. “I remember so well Mother Brown’s sweet smile and her kind ways to all of us. We felt their genuine concern for each of us.”13
During their first year in London, Margaret and Carol attended All Soul’s School, located in a rundown neighborhood. Margaret developed rheumatic fever that winter and the doctor advised her to return to the states. Her parents sent her to stay with Zola. The arrangement suited them both.14
The mission office was not far from the University of London. Offices for the president of the church’s European Mission, at the time Elder [p.448] Richard R. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve, were located in the same building as the British mission offices. The Browns lived nearby in a large apartment at 9 Gordon Mansions, just off Tottenham Court Road. The mission staff lived in conveniently located flats.
Gordon Square park included a tennis court. Charles remembered that “the story among the missionaries was that their Mission President always transferred to the office the most talented tennis player among his missionaries who became Dad’s tennis partner. They never lost a doubles match.”15
The Browns’ lease included a key to a walled garden at Gordon Square where Margaret and Carol could play monkey games on the jungle gym or pretend they were Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. They also enjoyed traveling with their parents to conference assignments—or were left home in the care of Lillian—where Zina taught her daughters to appreciate a variety of objets d’art when they could coax Hugh into letting them shop or visit antique stores.
As head of the Relief Society in the British Mission, Zina traveled widely and was grateful for the training she had received in the Granite Stake. Often, like her mother, Zina entertained investigators who had been contacted by the missionaries. According to one of the young elders, Kenneth Williams, Zina would prepare lunch, during which she would engage them in conversation.16
As the Browns traveled from one district to another, meeting the Saints, Zina became acutely aware of not only the physical needs of her British sisters, but also their lack of self-esteem. For her first Relief Society conference scheduled for London, she wanted to prepare a message that would inspire and encourage them, letting them feel not only her love but also the Savior’s. According to Zola and Mary, she petitioned the Lord for guidance in choosing the right words, but her mind seemed dark and blank. As the conference neared, she repeatedly prayed for words of counsel and motivation. Time after time she sat at the dining room table, attempting to write, but nothing came. The night before the conference, Zina was burdened with worry. Even as she bathed, she thought once more of her desire to help the women she was called to lead. Suddenly words flooded her mind. She hurriedly stepped from the bath, wrapped a blanket around herself, rushed to her desk, and started to write:
[p.449] Ye chosen ones to bear the Gods of heaven and earth,
List to his word: —
“Man is not without the woman in the Lord.”
Think ye then that Gods are half-Gods, not whole,
And reign and make these orbs of light, and live incomplete
And in celestial might make harmony with harps half-strung?
The answer’s thine already. Thou hast it in thy heart.
‘Twas Mary knew from angel bright that she was
Chosen to clothe the Spirit of our Lord. Her heart
Sang its exquisite joy! Told she this to the other
Honored of the Lord. And found believing response from this
Her woman kin.
Followers of our Saviour and His church were women not a few.
How great their love, how complete their trust in Him!
E’en when the cross the Son and Master bore, and lifted,
Broke the chains that bound the mortal man and had bade him
How great I say, in that trusting humility like unto a
Last at the cross were they—first at the tomb—heralds of
The Risen Lord.
“Not honored,” say you, and “below your brother man?”
Open thine eyes and see what place is given thee, O woman
Hold high thy head to wear its crown. Kneel thou, too, in
Reverence to thy Lord. For thank offering remember thou His
“O be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”
Prepare thy souls to bear the souls of men.
When the spirits of the dark shall stalk the earth to stay His
second coming’s time,
Fear not to array thyself in armor white, as symbol of thy
[p.450] And rise in power and womanhood. At the portal of thy home
Guard that which is dearer than life itself. By thy
Uphold him in his priesthood and godly power.
Remember thou art high priestess of the home—the home,
The heart of all the world, and the altar at His throne,
The heart whose throbbing life holds in its power, the
molding of good or ill,
And sends forth the sinner or the saint, or weak ones ’tween
Sends the mortal-clad spirit, born of woman, to sow discord,
hate and greed.
Or be messengers of light, who seek to guide their fellows
Back to Him where only harmonies abide.
O be ye strong, and let not the weak ones grope and find him
Be thou a woman whole and pure, with that militant love
That fights for her own, and God’s.
Take then thy seat in nations great and small.
Still not thy voice when its clarion call should speak for Him
To thy sisterhood the world around,
Thou champions of righteousness, thou mothers of His little
Thou believers of His Word. Lend to His priesthood
Thy powers of purity and love that falter not.
And that faith that makes their faith more strong.
Daughters of Zion, ye mothers of men, hold fast these gifts of
thy calling great,
Lest they be lost—these priceless pearls of purity and
Know ye not that thy place is at the side, and not below,
This companion to whom thou art given of the Lord?
Thou woman exalted, thou first to forgive and last to forsake,
Thou priestess, queen,
Thank thy God who made thee thus, that thou wast born
[p.451] This poem captures Zina’s philosophy of life. Her sense of social order, gender roles, hierarchy, religion, and obligation, her view of women as noble, of their mission as self-sacrificing yet morally supreme—it is all here in lofty images that were the answer to her prayer. As partner to a good man, a woman had a unique opportunity to join in kingdom building, setting a standard of humility, faith, and good works. The poem gathers up the threads that had been alive in her family since the concept of Republican Motherhood that shaped the values of Zina Baker Huntington—the crucial role of women in perpetuating and teaching religious values, being the “champions of righteousness,” setting the standard for civic virtue, and treasuring the “priceless pearls of purity and purpose holy.” Like a “true woman” of the Victorian era spanned by Zina Diantha and Zina Presendia, an “exalted” Mormon woman embodies personal purity and piety, nurtures those around her as a wife and mother, and provides moral direction through encouragement and service.
The poem also describes a gendered division of the world into male gods and “bearers” of gods. Women were chosen before they came to the earth to bear children, the most noble endeavor. A woman’s association with a righteous bearer of the priesthood allowed her to experience true partnership. Women uncertain of their proper role in life could receive assurance through personal revelation. Exalted women were believing, trusting, humble, strong, wholesome, and pure. It was an ideal with all its inherent strengths and weaknesses. It did not provide a role for those whose life circumstances differed—for women whose husbands were nonmembers or indifferent Mormons; for those whose poverty and lack of education made it impossible to provide decent health care, housing, education, and rearing for their children; and especially not for the thousands of British women whose men had been decimated by World War I, leaving them facing a life in which marriage was improbable and marriage to an active Mormon was virtually impossible.
Yet most satisfying to Zina was the reaction of her Relief Society sisters after she read her poem. Many came forward in tears, expressing their gratitude for Zina’s insight and wisdom.
Lilian Owen penned a letter to Zina much later on 11 June 1967, reminding her of the experience they shared when Zina wrote the poem. [p.452] The housekeeper had recently reread “Woman Exalted” which recalled the image of Zina at the dining table at the Gordon Mansions. Owen wrote,
I was in my bed watching you. I guess you will never forget the bath you had that night, when all at once our Heavenly Father revealed to you what you should write to the sisters of the British Mission. You couldn’t get downstairs fast enough so you could put down your thoughts on paper. I am forever grateful to have been a witness to such a sacred moment. You never said a word whilst you were writing. Your pen just flew across the paper. When you had finished you gave a great sigh of relief then read it to me. Yes. I will always love that poem.18
Margaret Dunn Massey later recounted an experience to Mary Woodward which typified the atmosphere permeating the mission home.
One afternoon during early August of 1945 all of the missionaries including Norman and Florence B. Dunn (Mission R.S. Pres.) were eagerly anticipating the arrival of Sister Zina C. Brown along with daughters Margaret and Carol to … the British Mission Home. Pres. Brown was also scheduled to return that same afternoon from Europe where he had been traveling as European Servicemen Coordinator.
The ladies scarcely had time to take their suitcases to their rooms when Pres. Brown returned (a little earlier than anticipated) whistling happily in the hallway entrance of the large … home. Sister Brown later that afternoon, said, she thought “Who dares to whistle like my husband?”19
Before long Zina had made herself indispensable to everyone. Of particular use to the sister missionaries, she helped them acclimate to a new environment and become accustomed to the public activities in which they were engaged—most were the representatives of the church in more sophisticated environments than they were accustomed to.
President Brown occasionally commented to the sister missionaries how “chic” the French women in the city were “with their hair coiffures and make-up.” Zina, Florence Dunn, and a few other older women decided to try some new hair styles and encouraged the sister missionaries to do the same. Margaret Massey remembered that they added flowers to their hair and applied make-up. “It was thought,” she later wrote, “that [p.453] this would cause Pres. Brown to complain. … Everyone sat at the tea table waiting for Pres. Brown to arrive. He did so by walking in, looking at all these ‘glamour girls,’ seating himself comfortably at the table as he commented ‘You all look very lovely.’ Actually,” according to Margaret, “the missionaries did look lovely excepting for a little too much make-up.”20
Late in the summer of 1937, Hugh and Zina took four of their children to Lake Windemere and stayed in a small cottage in the Lake District. One afternoon Hugh C. delighted his younger sister Carol with an invitation to row out to a tiny offshore island. They rented a small craft and eagerly began their adventure. Much to their dismay, however, a sudden squall surprised them and soon they found themselves surrounded by choppy waves. As they had been taught from their youth by their mother, Hugh knelt in the rocking boat and prayed to God to calm the waves. Soon they were able to make it back to shore, where nine-year-old Carol proudly recounted her older brother’s faith.
Their first Christmas in England was memorable for both Margaret and Carol because each received the presents they had most coveted—for Margaret an American Indian outfit, and for Carol a filmy tutu which bounced gently when she walked.
Hugh took the reins of the mission at a politically challenging time. The two-decade span between the Versailles Treaty ending World War I signed on 28 June 1919 and Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 were more like an armed truce than a true period of peace. Hitler’s Mein Kampf predicted the Führer’s intentions to form a “Master Race” and conquer the world. The involvement of the United States in war was inevitable, unfortunate, and brought tragedy into the Brown family.
Only five months after his arrival, Hugh had published an editorial, “The Seeds of War,” in the 4 November 1937 issue of the Millennial Star. Recalling the signing of the World War I armistice nineteen years earlier, he “condemned subsequent efforts to build national security on revenge, greed, avarice, selfishness, envy and hate, [and] … appealed to religious groups to work for peace, saying, ‘In the soil of love the seeds of war must die.’”21
Hitler had become the absolute dictator of Germany in 1933, quelling all rational opposition. Early in 1938 he annexed Austria. British [p.454] Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain went to Germany on three separate occasions in September 1938, signing on his third visit there the Munich Pact, following the collapse of Munich. The pact signaled the death-knell of Czechoslovakia as a separate state.
Zina undoubtedly saw newsreels which showed Chamberlain waving a piece of paper, pronouncing, “Peace in our time.” Regardless of the hopes of the British, Hitler ignored the pact. Instead, in April 1939 conscription was instituted for the first time in British history during a time of peace. Zina wrote to an anxious Mary: “We feel it will not come to war this spring. But I really do feel we may not get to stay all of our last year, for war is surely on its way.”22 Zina had been apolitical all of her adult life, and was a “staunch Democrat” only because Hugh was a staunch Democrat.23 It is unlikely she would have perused newspapers and magazines, so these sentiments must have reflected those of her husband.
Charles and a Canadian friend biked through parts of Belguim, Germany, and France in September 1938, oblivious to the impending crisis. There they saw the Belgian army returning from exercises on the German border, as well as evidence of the Nazi regime in the railroad station where they had gone to ask about the location of the American consulate in Cologne. They also inquired about the location of LDS missionaries in the area and were told that there were no missionaries in Germany at the time (they later found out this was not true) and were warned not to ask any other questions when they left the embassy.24
The following year German preparations for war intensified. That June, Hugh and Zina toured parts of France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland on their way to and from the mission presidents’ conference in Lucerne, presided over by European Mission president Joseph Fielding Smith.25 On the trains “they listened to a lot of talk about war. I [Hugh B. Brown] especially remember once riding on a train with a number of German officers. They were rather outspoken, almost insultingly so, speaking English for our benefit and explaining what was going to happen. I felt quite sure that war was not far away.”26 An urgent item on the agenda was a contingency plan if war should be declared.27 Consequently, Hugh reserved about 100 passages on United States Lines to be used on demand. Shortly before they left Charles had been sent to buy extra trunks.28
[p.455] During March 1939 Hitler’s aggression seemed limitless, his troops occupied Prague, while France and Great Britain were pressured to guarantee Polish independence. Regardless of this pledge of support, neither France nor Britain had the means to back the Poles. It seemed the only way to defend Poland was to bring Russia into the alliance against Hitler.
On 23 August 1939, Hugh received cablegrams from the First Presidency advising immediate evacuation of all sister missionaries and of his own family and instructing him to plan for the possible evacuation of the elders. Zina packed at a frantic pace, then left eight days later with the three younger children, twenty-year-old Hugh C., and the seventeen sister missionaries, once again crossing the Atlantic without Hugh but supporting his commitment to remain with the missionaries and members.
The crisis continued to grow, making it impossible for them to run a mission or raise a family in such a dangerous position. Hugh received instructions from the First Presidency to send home the missionaries who remained. Two days after Zina and the family left, the mission’s 112 American elders sailed on 2 September. Hugh remained behind. On 3 September, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany.
Zina and her entourage of children and missionaries were on the high seas when German submarines sank the British liner the Athenia. Every inch of space on the American liner, the USS Washington, was used for the safe passage of American citizens. While the missionary group had quarters, many passengers slept on the side of the ship’s swimming pool which had been drained. When they arrived in New York, the flashing lights on the news sign at Times Square stated that “our ship had arrived after dodging U boats for six days,” Charles later wrote. “Our liner published a daily paper which kept us informed of world events including the sinking of the Athenia.”29
Zola, Mary, and their families were at the Union Pacific depot visibly relieved when Zina and the children arrived in Salt Lake City. Under the constant cloud of apprehension for Hugh’s safety, Zina rented a home at 103 F Street in Salt Lake City and enrolled Margaret and Carol in Lowell Elementary School. Hugh C. attended Brigham Young University, living with Mary and Edwin in Provo. There he was welcomed by five-year-old Eddie, baby Judy, and especially Poochie, the wire-haired terrier who immediately adopted him and insisted on sharing his bed.
[p.456] Charles had matriculated at the University of London, which was the equivalent of graduating from high school, just months before the family’s departure. Zina Lou was still in California. On 26 September 1941, she married Gaurdello P. Brown, a distant relative from Pasadena, California.
As it became apparent that the war would not soon end, the First Presidency called back the presidents of the European missions. On 15 January 1940, Hugh joined Thomas E. McKay, president of the Swiss-German Mission, in Genoa to sail home by way of the Straits of Gibraltar and the Azores. Less than two weeks later, Hugh swung off the Union Pacific in Salt Lake City on 29 January to be met by Zina, the children, and the strains of “Stout Hearted Men,” sung by members of his Millennial Chorus. Hugh had considerable fondness for the Millennial Chorus. Out of love and respect for them, and because they joined him at each of the various district conferences he held in England, he tried to prepare separate sermons so chorus members would not have to listen to a rehash.
When the British Mission was divided, the chorus was retired. However, when chorus members returned home after their mission, they met periodically to sing together and were invited on several occasions to sing in honor of President Brown. Much later, in August 1983, a two-day Brown family reunion celebrated the centennial of his birth and the Millennial Chorus sang his favorite tune, “Stouthearted Men,” at his graveside.
In 1940 Hugh was fifty-two years old, an age when most men are at the peak of their career. He was comparatively old to start a new career or rebuild an interrupted one. Most of the family’s savings had gone into purchasing the California home that had turned into such an albatross. Cheerfully, Zina promised the children that things would soon “turn a corner,” and tucked a red rose into Hugh’s buttonhole. To Mary she confided with faith in July 1941: “This is the temporary deep valley of finance that all mission presidents experience,” but “soon we’ll be riding high.”30 Leaving Zina and the younger children, Hugh accepted a position in September 1940 doing legal work for Charles S. Merrill at his Ogden Deseret Mortuary, sleeping and cooking in a small room in the rear of the building. In characteristic understatement, he remembered, “It was a rather trying time.”31
Hugh was not able to devote himself to rebuilding his family’s shat-[p.457]tered finances. In 1940 the First Presidency asked him to coordinate all LDS servicemen. His travel expenses were reimbursed after he visited camps throughout the United States and Canada, “trying to encourage the boys to be true to themselves and to the church during their military service.”32 Zina accompanied him to camps within driving distance of Glendale, where the family had moved following Hugh’s return from England, and the young servicemen appreciated the presence of a surrogate mother. Zina also spoke at meetings, reminding them to be good to each other and to remember their loved ones back home. Privately she encouraged them, consoled them, baked cookies, pies, and cakes to remind them of home.
Meanwhile, the war took a different toll. During his mission in England and Scotland, Hugh C. had developed a great love for the British people. During the terrible onslaught of Hitler’s forces when Britain’s air power was drastically limited, a group of young Canadians and Americans with some previous flying experience took intensive but brief training as fighter pilots and joined what became the Second American Eagle Squadron of the Royal Air Force in the fall of 1940. Their main assignment was to attack German bombers that were then dropping tons of explosives a week on the unprotected cities, killing civilians along with soldiers.
Hugh C.’s parents were proud of his desire but still tried to talk him out of his decision. They must have harbored the desperate fears of any parents for their son’s safety. Together, Carol and Mary felt that both father and son may have had a premonition of the coming calamity. In a photograph of the three taken at the Union Pacific Depot on the day Hugh C. left to join his overseas pilot companions, recalls Carol, “both Daddy and Hugh C. look very sad but Mother is beaming at their side, looking smiley and happy.”33 Perhaps that smile belied her real feelings. To Mary she wrote anxiously “I am praying that we may find ‘a ram in the thicket’—that he will not be sacrificed.”34
On 17 March 1942, while Hugh was traveling in northern Montana on church assignment, Carol, just home from school, answered the door at their Glendale home and accepted a cablegram from the British War Office. Not realizing that it could contain bad news, Carol took it to Zina who “looked at it and then just kind of fell back in the chair.” Pilot officer Hugh Card Brown was reported as missing in action over the North Sea.35
[p.458] It was three days before Zina was able to contact Hugh in Salt Lake City. Charles was also in Salt Lake City at the time, visiting his girlfriend who was in nurse’s training at the LDS hospital. Charles was staying with Zola, took his mother’s call, and then relayed the terrible news to his father. Later Hugh would write:
We clung to the slender hope that he might have escaped and was only missing, but three days later we received confirmation that Hugh [C] had been “lost over the North Sea,” which broke our hearts. His loss has been a source of sorrow to both Zina and me since that time. In fact, Zina keeps a rose, or some other blossom, by his picture, and recently [1973-74] we selected a burial spot for ourselves and others and have a marker there for him. Although his body is not there, it will remind us of our son who gave his life for country and church. … He was at the wheel of his plane on scout work [volunteer submarine reconnaissance], not fighting or trying to kill, but defending the British people whom he loved. He was in good health, and he flew into eternity with the smile for which we will all remember him. He had had an unusually full life for one so young. Always adventurous, he is now experiencing the greatest adventure of all.36
In the summer of 1942 Zina poured out her grief, anguish, and abiding faith in another poem.
My Son Passes
My hearth is cold. The gray ash of loss is sprinkled on my brow.
The sackcloth of lost dreams will not warm my leaden heart.
I sit numb with shock. ’Til by and by memory fans to feeble life
The coals that were so dead. ’Tis a baby’s smile that flickers
Through those sodden coals—his first smile in my arms.
It reveals the torch of faith I had let fall.
On bended knee I grasp that torch and hold it once again
To my sleeping hearth. It wakes to life anew,
For I have added fuel of trust. Thus kneeling,
With prayer’s sweet mantle securing me from doubt’s assailing blast,
I feel my spirit warm within my breast. As I lift my head
To smile at Hope, the last ash of my despair slips from my brow
And is carried away by the gentle breeze of love
That wafts itself from other hearts to mine.
[p.459] O magic breeze that whispers of that Creator love that holds
Its promise of eternal joys, whose embers ever glow—embers that
Burst into light and warmth. Higher and yet higher grows the flame,
Until that shaft of Holy Fire breaks through the veil of doubt’s dark wall,
And I behold the portals of that home where death has dropped his mask.
I see the spirit born anew; earthly vestures fall away
And reveal the splendor of the new-born soul.
Symphonies of light and sound pour round me
’til my whole being vibrates
To that great harmony! Exultant, I see my child, a child no more,
But come to man’s estate and clothed in holy robes
On which his earth life left no stain.
O, Holy One, hear my song of praise; keep bright this vision
That my steps shall tread the beam that lights my way to thee;
Nor let me step aside until I too shall join the circle of Thy love,
Where dear ones gone before will take my hand.
May this my first born son be then my guide
to one of Thy many mansions
Which he was called to make ready for his own.
Forgive the clouding doubt that one instant hid Thy face from mine.
With my face toward the light I shall walk by faith
until my summons comes.
Dear Father, through Thy Son I pray and praise Thy Holy name.
I humbly say, “Thy Will Be Done.”37
After the sale of their Glendale home in 1943, Zina and Hugh returned to Salt Lake City and purchased a home at 1028 South 1100 East. Hugh hoped to begin practicing law again. But on 4 March 1944, David O. McKay, second counselor in the First Presidency, set him apart as both president of the British Mission and Servicemen’s Coordinator for the European theater of war, with the same financial support given a mission president. Hugh left for England alone the same day. To his journal he confided: “The parting with my wife and family was one of the most difficult I have ever had.”38 Soon after his arrival in London, he wrote Mary: “Although my coming at this time is a sacrifice to both Mother and me, I feel that it is right that I should come both for the sake of the mission and [for the] boys in uniform.”39
[p.460] The Normandy invasion of Allied forces was only three months away and Germany would surrender the following April. But during those last desperate months, Germany hammered London relentlessly with a new weapon: the unmanned V-2 rocket, more commonly called buzz bombs. Hugh had an office in the building housing the church’s London Branch.40 He also rented an office on Nightingale Lane, and one of the first rockets hit nearby, blowing in windows and doors, breaking dishes, and scattering rubble. “Dad ducked behind his desk when he heard one of the buzz-bombs. Glass was embedded in the front of his desk and would have killed him had he not ducked,” Charles later wrote.41 Injuries and fatalities in the area increased until finally Hugh moved to 23 Booth Street, Handsworth, Birmingham. Food and fuel were in short supply. Hugh was hungry, cold, and lonely. “Guess I’m too old to be away from my mama,” he wrote to Mary in April.42 During this period he would occasionally receive a phone call from his son Charles who was flying for the Air Transport Command from New York to Prestwick. On one of these calls, Charles gave his father the happy news that he and his wife were expecting their first child.43
In December 1944 Hugh suffered several severe attacks of tic douloureux, and asked permission from the First Presidency to return home for treatment. Securing army air priority, he flew from Scotland to Utah, a trip which had been arranged by Victor Brown thanks to his connections at United Airlines. There on 17 January 1945, Reed Harrow, a neurologist, performed a surgical procedure. Prior to this, the pain was controlled by injections of alcohol. Harrow severed the trigeminal nerve, but it later grew back together. The second surgical procedure was conducted 2 December 1946 in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York. At that time the doctors excised a section of the main trunk nerve at the base of the brain so that it would not grow back together. Also the doctors told Hugh it was unlikely he would live longer than eighteen more months. He decided not to confide the news to Zina. His recuperation lasted several months, and the uncertainties of the war further delayed his return.
After Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, Hugh returned to London to serve out the last year of his mission presidency. He purchased a home for the church, “Ravenslea,” at 149 Nightingale Lane. Because [p.461] Ravenslea was a large house, it was possible to combine the mission offices, the family residence, and a chapel under the same roof. The ballroom was often used for dances and other social events.
In September Zina, eighteen-year-old Margaret, and sixteen-year-old Carol joined Hugh. They made the flight in a Sikorsky Flying boat equipped with pull-down bunks and felt fortunate to have sleeping accommodations for the uncomfortable journey. Charles was married and living in Queens, New York.
When they arrived at Ravenslea, Carol remembered staring at the huge front door, a massive ten-inch slab of solid wood that was actually bowed inward. A few months earlier a buzz bomb had exploded in the yard behind Ravenslea. The resulting implosion had sucked the front door inward, permanently warping it.
The family “camped” in Ravenslea for a few weeks; then to Zina’s relief, the church in October purchased Valerian, a house one-half block around the corner on Ravenslea Road, as the mission president’s residence. Accommodations were cozier, for which the family was particularly grateful during the chilly English winter—the country was still suffering severe fuel shortages. Hugh’s office remained in Ravenslea, but Valerian gave the family more privacy.
Carol was a day student at Queens Gate School for Girls, “a rather swanky finishing school, affording cultural opportunities not included in the schools at home,” according to Zina.44 “And quite practical, too,” Carol affirmed. She studied the history of art, the history of music, banking, English literature, and voice. She also absorbed protocol and table manners, although the British style of eating with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right was initially disconcerting. The girls ate their meals in the Primrose Room under the vigilant eye of the headmistress. No one could begin until she gave the signal by picking up her fork. Because no one was allowed to leave the table until everyone was finished, Carol found herself the target of all eyes at the end of every meal, because “it took me so long to eat, shifting my fork from hand to hand.”
Margaret was set apart as a missionary and also worked in the mission office where she was in charge of Millennial Star circulation. She also undertook some proselytizing with Eda Longbone. This American teenager occupied a unique status: she was the only American missionary then [p.462] serving, and the only female missionary during this time. Margaret and Carol both stuffed envelopes monthly when it was time to mail out the Millennial Star.
Zina’s heart was wrung by the privations suffered by members, particularly the shortages of clothing and other essentials such as shoes. She appealed to the Relief Society general presidency in Salt Lake City, then headed by newly appointed Belle S. Spafford, Marianne Clark Sharp, and Gertrude Ryberg Garff. In a well-coordinated effort, the LDS Welfare Department sent clothing from Deseret Industries. Margaret and Carol remember listening to classical music on the mission gramophone while they helped Zina sort the clothing into categories and sizes—sweaters, pants, shirts, and so forth, which were then distributed to church members.
Zina rose to one of the most essential challenges: feeding family and guests. “The greatest thing that could happen to a missionary during that time of scarcity was to be invited to the mission home for dinner,” recalls Carol, “because somehow Mother managed to find some kind of a roast to cook.” She learned to work around the scarcity of fresh eggs by making fluffy omelettes out of reconstituted dried eggs, and found new ways to entice her children to eat the standard English vegetables—brussels sprouts, cabbage, and potatoes. Butter was also a rarity, but Zina became adept at working yellow coloring pills into the pale margarine base to make it look more palatable. Once a week, by pooling their ration stamps, the girls could enjoy a chocolate bar. Because they did not have a refrigerator, Zina kept the milk on a shady window sill.
Both mission homes, Valerian and Ravenslea, were often filled with visitors, servicemen, and missionaries. “We have a houseful of guests and there will be loads more for dinner,” she wrote Zina Lou in early October 1945. “Our rations seem to stretch someway and we get by and will be fed.”45 Hugh had instituted an early morning scripture study class for the missionaries and Zina regularly attended. “It was glorious! Daddy has the real gift to make others ‘see’—because he sees himself. Real inspiration.”46 Zina wrote her daughters about their father’s spiritual growth. “He is a giant. I sit with my heart swelling within me each morning in class as he opens our minds and hearts to the glorious truths that he sees and knows about. He has prophetic vision and a serious outlook in [p.463] all things.”47 It was fulfilling for Zina to share these experiences with her husband. She wrote to Zina Lou in February 1946, “Life was never sweeter to me, darling.”48 Zina’s feelings toward Hugh never waned.
Zina wrote almost weekly to her married children—individual, chatty letters filled with anecdotes and messages of love and compassion. Confessed Carol, “Sometimes now if I am feeling lonely for Mother I read one of her precious letters and it’s just like she’s right there, talking to me.” From London, on 20 January 1946, Zina wrote Zina Lou and suggested names for the baby she was carrying. “As to names for another girl … I like Valerie, Nadine, and the plainer ones just as well. I’ve always liked Vivian, for I had a dear girlfriend by that name in Logan.”49
In February 1946, Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve arrived in London to preside over the European missions. Zina commented to Zola: “Elder Benson is a fine man. He and Daddy are good friends of long standing. … President Benson’s wife sent me a pair of sheer hose and a pound of home made caramels. … I thought that was very kind of her. Daddy just had such a sweet letter from Harold Lee. All such expressions of real friendship are a real lift to morale.”50
With mixed feelings of apprehension and anticipation, Hugh and Zina saw spring come again to England, marking the end of their interrupted presidency. The future was filled with questions. Hugh would turn fifty-seven in a few months, Zina fifty-two. They no longer had a house in Glendale, but wondered if they should nonetheless try to make a new life in California. Or should they return to Salt Lake City? Or listen to Mary and move to Provo? Mary had been urging such a move for months, and Hugh had written to her on 5 October 1945, five months after his arrival in England, “We have not lost sight of the possibility of someday being at the BYU ourselves. A letter from President [Howard] McDonald indicates that such a matter has been mentioned in upper circles. … Keep your eyes open for a good house down there.” Zina added: “I want to come to Provo and have Daddy in B.Y. as a scholar if not as a teacher. … I want him to get his degrees—it is one of the secret longings of his dear heart.” In March 1946 the First Presidency told Hugh that Selvoy J. Boyer had been appointed to head the British Mission and that Hugh would be released when he arrived.
The next month BYU president Howard McDonald sent Hugh a [p.464] formal offer to become veterans counselor and associate professor of political science and religion. Hugh accepted, and Zina wrote gratefully to Mary, “God is good; He has heard our prayer. … Daddy is really awfully pleased!”51
The Boyers arrived in mid-May and the Brown family sailed from Liverpool on 4 June 1946 on board the Benjamin Brown French. A new phase of their mutual adventure was beginning, this time in Provo.
10. Sonntag, oral interview. Charles remembered the complicated efforts they made to sell the property, rent it, or deal with the new leasers. “I don’t recall LaJune and Clayne ever living in that house. My memory says it was Aunt Ida and Uncle Owen. But it could have been both in sequence. It was later leased to a couple who lived there for about a year. When we returned, Dad and Mother went over the house with the renters, and agreed to settle for a few dollars for the breakage of a goblet. I was sent with the man’s check to the drug store down the street to cash the check which had been endorsed, ‘paid in full.’ When I got back to the house, and the former renters had left, mother discovered that the epileptic son had wet the mattresses on every bed in the house.” Brown, “Notes,” 1.
12. For example, one letter written to Zola in 1938 (n.d., copy in authors’ possession) lists the following visits: “Conference of Elders-Bradford, Feb. 8-9; Ireland Feb. 11-12; Bradford/Elders from Birmingham; Norwich; Wales; Bristol; London; Ireland—Elders from Leeds; Sheffield; Liverpool; Manchester; Scottish. Coventry.”
35. Brown, “Notes,” 4: “Hugh C. lost his life on 16 March 1942. Three of the 33 survived to attend his memorial, and all three were lost shortly afterward. Most of the losses were on training missions. By accident, Charles met one of the original members of the 2nd Eagle Squadron (not one of the 33 but by then a Major in the US Air Force) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio in 1943. He told Charles some of the details of his crash. Charles was flying co-pilot in C47s for American Airlines under contract with the Air Transport Command at the time.”