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Wilford Wiseman: Faith and service

Wilford arrived in Barstow with former teacher Jay Oviatt September 1953 to teach school. He recalls when first coming from Utah to find a job in early summer asking him if this was California. He said yes. He said, “I thought California was beaches and orange groves. It is over 100. I would never teach here.” On the way through Lenwood on old 66 was a sign “The Beast of Barstow 10 cents.” he believed it was on Delaney Road. After paying a dime to see a Jackass in a 10 by 10 fence we wondered if the jackass was inside or outside the fence. In Los Angeles they had several interviews. He was offered a job in a town in the foothills of the Sierras for $3,800 a year. He said he had one more interview. They offered me a job teaching the 8th grade for $3,850. Completely forgetting his desert experience, he said, “I don’t know one place from the other. I’ll take the $50.” It wasn’t until he again saw that sign that he realized he had signed a contract for the one place he said he would never teach. It was little time and many warm friendships before he knew his first impression of Barstow was wrong. It has been a wonderful place to live and teach and raise his family of five girls and one boy. How blessed they have been.
After five years teaching 8th grade he went to the high school for thirteen years and then in 1971 went to the college for 31 years retiring in 2002 at age 76. His teaching was in Speech, Anthropology and Archeology. He loved the classroom and would like to still be teaching. Few things gave him greater pleasure than being stopped in a store and reminded of those teaching years. It happens all the time.
Before graduating from the University of Utah he served a two year mission in Australia for the LDS (Mormon) church. He has served here as bishop twice and held other leadership positions over the years. He was bishop in the 60s when the church on Barstow Road was built. That was the same time Barstow College was built.

Q: Why did you come to Barstow?
A: To teach school. Barstow itself was an accident. California salaries were about 1/3 more than they were in Utah in 1953. The details are elsewhere explained. I like to believe I came by design.

Q: Describe a special memory you have of Barstow.
A: The time the community came together in 1992 to help the COGIC church rebuild their church after a bad fire. Aid was given both financially and in labor. Their members have ever been grateful of the caring shown.
I would have to include a second one. When retiring from teaching at the college, the students asked me to give the key note address at graduation. That was very humbling.

Q: Tell us one thing that most people don’t know about you.
A: My frustration at shoppers who leave their shopping carts by their cars even when the stalls are just steps away. It seems so inconsiderate. If everyone did the same even they could not find a parking place. Courtesy would dictate otherwise.

Q: What person, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?
A: There are two. Neither is of the famous ilk. The first is LaMar Hadley. He one time had a “Men’s Wear” store in town. He is the one who said to me my first year here: “Wilford, the Lord sent you to Barstow. You should consider staying.” I quit looking, and have ever been grateful. The other is Bill and Lois Redding. They were the kind of friends that everyone seeks to have in life.

Q: Any hobbies?
A: I like woodwork. I also like construction work. I have doubled the size of my home over the years. I also keep a journal and enjoy research.

Q: Tell us about your faith.
A: I am LDS (Mormon). I love my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. That love and devotion is unshakable. I find great pleasure and solace in reading the scriptures and striving to live the principles taught there in. Faith and Service to those in need are paramount for me.

Q: Tell us about one place you would love to visit and why.
A: Australia (again). That is where I served as a missionary 1947-1949. It is also where I first knew my present wife. In 2005 I lost my wife Ruth to a car accident after 52 wonderful years. Five months later by coincidence (I believe God directed) I re-met “Topsy” after near 60 years. She had also lost her husband. After two years of nightly phone calls I brought her to Barstow from Walla Walla Washington. We both would like to see Australia again.

Q: Where do you get your values from?
A: My father and mother. They showed and taught me the value of truth. I love the scriptures. I find so many good people in all walks of life to emulate.

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: I like the old movies where people talk to people in real life situations.
“How the West was Won,” “Ben Hur,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” are just three.

Q: What is one of your favorite quotations?
A: From the book Ben Hur “His voice took the sword out of my hand” and from “The Robe” by Lloyd C. Douglas. Speaking of Jesus, “But He never thought he was poor. He had a talent for truth, not many people can afford that, you know.”

Q: What is your favorite thing about Barstow?
A: Its early history. I like the high desert. We can get wind and heat, but both only last a short time. Good and caring people are always close by.

Q: What is the ultimate issue facing the United States?
A: One is taking care of the less fortunate and helping them become self sustaining. Too many complain about the little they do — and that includes taxes. You can’t build a road, put out a fire, or feed the needy without taxes. Rather than complain, we just need to be sure our taxes are being wisely used.

Q: What is your secret to living a happy, satisfying life?
A: By staying close to the Lord and giving time and means to those in need, and being blessed with six beautiful and caring children.

Q: What do you miss most?
A: At 86 and good health I enjoy the walks down memory lane. After 50 years in the classroom I miss the exchange with good students like Bea Lint and past faculty like Ed Spear, Garland Dittman, Norman Rowan, Ben Echols, Russ Tarbox, and John Stacy and more. Barstow College is fortunate to have always had, and still has, a caring faculty.


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