The Life of Howard E. Hollingsworth
By the Hollingsworth Family
Howard Earl Hollingsworth was born on October 3, 1927 in Preston, Idaho. He is the second oldest of four children born to Austin Earl and Blanche Merrill Hollingsworth. He was reared on a farm where there was always work to be done. They raised peas that were canned in the nearby Del Monte plant, sugar beets, alfalfa, wheat, and barley. His parents always kept a large garden where they raised produce for the family. Mr. Hollingsworth can't remember when he did not have a family garden. He enjoyed gardening and produced corn, onions, peppers, okra, turnips, beets, carrots, squash, cabbage, and bush beans at his North Las Vegas home where he lived for the past 37 years. He was very well read on the subject and enjoyed experimenting with different varieties of plants.His wife always said,"He is a farmer at heart. He really does love gardening."Mr.Hollingsworth laughed and added,"
When I use my Rototiller,it's like being on a tractor."
A LOVE FOR DOGS
Mr. Hollingsworth loveed dogs and remembered always having one."My brother and I were always given dogs and within a few weeks the dogs were always mine because I played and worked with them.My dogs really loved me and I loved them. Sometimes I'd sleep outside in my sleeping bag,and the dog would run to me. I'd raise up the top of the sleeping bag, he'd run right in,go to the bottom,turn around,and come up and lay right next to me.
Later on,when Dad would give us another dog, I'd buy my brother's half for a nickel. Back then we always had strooches, which is half-stray and half-pooch. Even in my married life, I have always had a dog until these last few months." He remembered a time as a boy when he was in big trouble with his mother and he was saved by his dog."Mother said to go get a willow. (She made us go out and get our own willow for the spanking and that was always the worst part.) She went to spank me and the dog got between us and growled at her. Mom said if she couldn't spank me, she'd spank my dog so I grabbed the dog and held it up close and said 'beat me,but don't beat my dog.'Mother turned around and stomped off."
WANTED TO BE A COWBOY
"When I was a little boy,cowboy heroes really appealed to me and I wanted to have a horse and ride into the sunset," he said. "I had to have a horse.That's all I talked about. So finally my parents bought me a very expensive rocking horse, that's how young I was. It was really fancy.When I saw, it my father could tell I was a little disappointed and asked me about it, 'Oh,it's nice,'I said,'but I wanted a horse that eats and poops.' A few years later, when my parents thought I was old enough, Dad bought me a real horse. It was a pinto that was white with brown blotches. I wanted to run and I couldn't get that horse to run. I have never liked pinto horses since I had that one."
"Later, my dad bought me a brown mare. Her name was Babe; she was a good horse. She had a palomino colt .It was really my pet. As we both grew a little older, I rode that palomino down to the famous Preston night rodeo.That year they had 20 beautiful blonde ladies with beautiful blue outfits on. They all rode palominos on white saddles and wore hats. The manager was always looking for more palominos for the per formers. He offered me $300 for my horse.That was a lot of money in those days, but I couldn't bear to sell her."
Mr. Hollingsworth, who grew up before television, also looked up to Jack Armstrong who had a radio show. Armstong's picture was on Wheaties boxes and Mr.Hollingsworth remembers having a secret ring. As he grew older,his heroes included sports figures like Merlin Olson who played football for Brigham Young University and the Los Angeles Rams."He played offensive line and was able to open up the holes for runners and protect the quarterback," he explained. He also names Dick Butkus, linebacker for the Chicago Bears,as a sports hero. "I love football. Butkus was so strong and so powerful as a middle linebacker. He could stop runners and passers. I loved to watch him play."
He attended grade school at Jefferson Elementary. He remembers trying to skip school once in the third grade."After lunch we'd go down to see what was on the movie theater marquee to see what we'd be seeing on the weekend.One day I decided not to go back to school for the afternoon,so I hung around after the other kids returned to school. But instead of,leaving,I returned to school and looked in the basement window,waving to my classmates who were in class. I was very surprised when my teacher grabbed me from behind and marched me back inside."
"One of the greatest honors I received was given to me by my dad,"he said. "My dad was a great mechanic and could fix anything. I'd watch him and work with him. When it got to the point that he'd just say to me that a certain thing was broken and go fix it,I was really pleased.He had enough faith in me to let me crawl in the big farm equipment and figure out what went wrong,and fix it.I felt really good about that."
During high school, Mr. Hollingsworth played football as a right guard. He was also involved in the school drama program and sang in operettas. He remembers meeting with the school guidance counselor to discuss career options. The high school counselor asked Howard what he wanted to do when he graduated. He said, "I want to be a farmer."
COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE
After his mission, he returned to school at Idaho State. He sang in the school choir. Mr. Harris was the music director. The students would sometimes be amused at the way he wiggled and contorted while conducting. Mr. Hollingsworth noticed that the pianist would often turn around from the piano and flash him a smile when the conductor was being particular colorful. He remembered having danced with her once at a church dance and decided that she must really be interested in him. When the choir went on tour, he got up the courage to ask her out on a first day. A few months into the courtship, Howard was telling Wyla the story about how he knew she was really interested in him. She deflated him a bit when she explained that she didn't even realize he was in choir until she saw him on the tour.The fellow she had been smiling at was her brother, Fred, who stood just behind Howard in the choir.
In order to purchase an engagement ring, he had to sell one of his prize bulls. Howard explained,"When I was in high school in Future Farmers of America, I talked my dad into letting me buy a purebred Holstein cow. Her name was Sleepy Hollow Constance Halo Dawn; she was an excellent milk cow. She gave as much milk, nearly, as four of our best milk producers combined." She delivered several calves in the ensuing years. He named the purebred cows she produced after his girlfriends. Mr. Hollingsworth went on to explain that "I then crossed her with a purbred, famous show bull and got a bull calf. He was beautiful, but he was mean, I named him after Wyla thinking that she would take it as a compliment. I sold one of the bull calves to get the money to buy her engagement and wedding rings."
He married Wyla Jean Nelson in the Idaho Falls Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints on June 27, 1951. He sold another bull to finance the honeymoon to Mexico City. They were married for over 62 years. They had seven children: Rebecca, Norman Earl, Daniel Dee, David Allen, Cynthia, Theresa, and Richard Lyn. Rebecca was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 7. They have 20 grandchildren and over 3 great-grandchildren. Wyla received her degree in Secondary Education the year they married. She taught fourth grade for a year while Howard was in college and until their first child was born. She did not return to full time teaching, but taught piano lessons from her home for over 40 years. Music was an important part of their life. When he was younger, Mr. Hollingsworth used to sing often in church with his wife as his accompanist. While in college he had taken an instrument making class and made a xylophone and a ukulele. He also learned to play a little on the guitar. Mr. Hollingsworth graduated from Idaho State College in June 1953.He later received a Master's degree from Arizona State University in 1962.
TWO-ROOM SCHOOL HOUSE
His first teaching job was in Riverdale, Idaho. It was a tiny two-room school. He taught a combined group of 4th through 8th graders and served as head teacher, custodian, coach, bus driver, and was in charge of the hot lunch program. After that year he started a master's program in Logan, Utah and the family moved there just for the summer. He had been working extra jobs in Preston to help provide income for his growing family. Besides the teaching position he ran a small propane gas business, and did farm work doing custom cutting and harvesting. But the bitter cold Idaho winters and the grueling farm labor was hard on him. He had a bad shoulder and other complications from the rheumatic fever he had during his military service. Even though they had put a small down payment on a home in Preston, he was hoping to find a teaching position in a warmer climate and sent out applications to several districts. He was taking a final exam in Logan when word came that the Clark County School District was on the phone trying to reach him about a job. His teacher told him to forget the test, he already had an A in the class and sent him to take the call. They offered him a job and he accepted. He went home to his wife and three small children and told them they were leaving for Las Vegas. He used his last Idaho school paycheck, which he remembered being about $100 a month, to finance the move.
His first position here was teaching 8th grade at the brand new Rancho High School in the fall of 1955. Later, he taught Government there. He developed a real love for American history. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson were some of his personal heroes. "Lincoln taught him self to read; he read a lot because he realized the importance of a good education. He was a person who kept pushing forward regardless of defeat. He finally became president, freed the slaves, and saved the union. In everything he did, he persevered, "Mr. Hollingsworth explained. "I learned from him you can be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, if you pay the price." "George Washington accomplished what needed to be done so we could win our independence from England. He was a marvelous leader, and the people were able to follow him. He set the precedence for presidents. He was for individual rights and freedoms that we fight so much for today. We are still trying to preserve them. He had such personal integrity; he did what was best for the people. I admire the fact that he was a phenomenal gardener. He was a gentleman, and back then gentlemen never worked, but George Washington worked. I admire that." Mr. Hollingsworth also names Thomas Jefferson as a personal hero because "he was one of the great thinkers of that period of time. He gave us the philosophy which carries over today in many of our freedoms."
He loved teaching at Rancho but although he made almost as much money in Vegas as he had with all four jobs in Preston, he still needed to supplement the family income. Over the years he took various part time jobs including shoe salesman at JC Penneys, night cleaner for Vegas Village, and insurance salesman. One summer he did so well selling insurance he thought he might not return to teaching, but as the fall approached he decided he would miss it too much to give it up. He also helped run summer youth programs for the North Las Vegas Recreation Department.
During that time Hollingsworth also taught early morning seminary (religion classes) for 19 years. He founded the Institute of Religion at UNLV in 1961 when he became their first part-time religion teacher.
He was appointed principal of John C. Fremont Junior High School (now Middle School) in April of 1966, then at Von Tobel in August of 1973. He became the principal at J.D.Smith in August 1978. He retired from the school district in August of 1984 having spent a total of 12 years as a teacher and 18 years as a principal.
He served on the Clark County School Board from January 1985 through December 1996 having served the students for 42 years. During the time he was on the board, he was president, vice president, and clerk. He also served on every board committee at least once during his tenure. He was considered very predictable. "Everyone always knew how I'd vote. It didn't matter the cost. If it helped the kids, or helped the teachers help the kids, I voted for it. The students are our future, and I always insisted they have the best," he explained.
He also served on the Clark county tax board for two years. He was elected and served for a year on the Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees and was on the North Las Vegas Mayor's Crime Prevention Task Force. He helped to organize the Ensign Federal Credit Union in 1961 and had account number 3. That financial institution has continued to grow and expand. It now has three locations and over 8,500 members. He has always been an active member of his church, serving in many leadership positions including Bishop and Stake High Councilor. He often worked with the youth, particularly the Boy Scouts. He was asked to serve on the LDS Las Vegas Temple Committee and helped give tours during the open house when the building was completed and opened to the community prior to its dedication in December 1989.
A CLOCK MAKER
One of his hobbies was building clocks. "I had always worked with my dad who worked with wood. I helped him with lots of projects. When I was principal at Fremont, Wyla had purchased clockworks for Christmas. I looked around and studied different types of plans and built a grandfather clock. After that I made and sold several and eventually made one for each of my children. The clock company came out with the clockworks for a little alarm clock so I started making those." He also made atomic clocks that receive a radio signal from Colorado so that they keep perfect time. Once while visiting his parents on the farm his Dad was cutting Lombardy poplar trees near his farmhouse. Howard decided to cut diagonal cross sections of a log and make clocks for his family with the wood from the family farm. later, he helped his grandchildren make clocks. He also built Wyla a very elaborate wooden dollhouse complete with turret, lights, carpet, wallpaper, shingled roof, and hand-crafted furniture. It is a favorite with visiting granddaughters.
Both Howard and Wyla took up painting in the 1980's and produced some family heirloom paintings. But after his heart surgery they never went back to it. He also learned to sew in response to a challenge from his mother-in-law who was an expert seamstress. She told him he couldn't make a white, cufflink dress shirt. To prove her wrong, he did. Then he found out if he made three clothing items it would fulfill a requirement for an award he was working on at church. He made a sports shirt then a sundress for his oldest daughter. He never used that skill again. "Once I feel I have mastered it, I'm not interested in continuing unless I really love it." he explained. Mr. Hollingsworth continued to lead an active life, teaching Sunday School, gardening, and giving community service. In 2001 the Clark County School District School Name Committee recommended that an elementary school be named for Mr. Hollingsworth, located at 1776 E. Ogden, near Bruce and Fremont Streets in downtown Las Vegas. The school opened in August 2003. Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth and several family members were present along with Mayor Oscar Goodman, District Superintendent Carlos Garcia, and Councilman Gary Reese on the opening day. He personally shook hands with every student, parent, and staff member as they came through the front doors that first day. He and his wife had frequently visited and volunteered at the school. He built a beautiful wooden school clock which now hangs in the foyer of the school which bears his name. HH