The trek begins
By the end of summer I left Provo for Seattle to see the World’s Fair of 1962, then and on to Hawaii. I’d found a very cheap airline ticket to Hawaii but to get from Provo to Seattle and see the Space Needle I decided to try my educated thumb. I’d planned to hitchhike from Provo to San Francisco then on to Seattle. I stood on the edge of town; thumb extended, and within a few minutes a red burgundy-colored 1960 Oldsmobile stopped. An older couple was in the car and they invited me in. They were such nice, cheery people. We talked. They asked if I were a BYU student and I said yes. They said they just left their son who was on a football scholarship at BYU. He’d been on a mission and returned, married, and had their first two grandchildren; “the most beautiful grandchildren in the world.” They had another son who had come to BYU on a basketball scholarship but he had returned home to Sacramento and was working in the family business.
I could not believe what I was hearing. I knew the story and asked, “Are you Wayne Shepard’s parents?”
They said “Yes, do you know him.” Wayne was the young man who the previous year, and before we’d met, had switched from being my roommate to being Jim Kimmel’s. Jim was also a scholarship football athlete from Sacramento. Jim had been assigned to be Phil’s roommate but Phil ended up with me as a roomie and a year of slovenly Hell for him. Wayne had gotten very homesick and his parents missed him as well. He was the youngest child. So by Christmas of our freshman year the parents agreed to buy him a brand new Chevy Impala convertible if he would return home. He agreed and returned to Sacramento where he walked on to the basketball team at Feather River Junior College. And here were his parents, giving me a ride to Sacramento. What a small world!
The rest of the time went by so fast I don’t remember much of the ride. When I told them my plans for Seattle then Hawaii they became very concerned. The main north-south freeway between Sacramento and Seattle was Interstate 5. Several servicemen had been murdered while hitchhiking on that highway. They made me an offer. If I would come home with them I could work in their business (Keen Window Cleaning). They had contracts to clean offices at night and could always use another hand. I could drive Wayne’s car (that new Baby Blue Chevy convertible) and they would keep me for free. When I left for Hawaii they would give me all the wages I’d earned so I’d have a grub stake for Hawaii.
The Shepards were a wopnderful family. They came from dirt-poor Okie farmers and had migrated from Oklahoma as a young couple. They had a habit of taking in strays (people that is) and treating them like family. One such example was a Hispanic orphan named Bennie. He had attended school with the Shepard's sons and had been abused in several foster homes. The Shepards opened their home to him and Bennie was considered just another member of the family. Although their formal education was limited they were hard workers and Mr. Shepard had begun washing windows of homes for income. Eventually he added businesses and expanded from just washing windows to after hours janitorial services. The business thrived. The family was Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver wrapped into one. It was truly a stroke of good fortune to have been picked up by them while hitchhiking in Utah.
Theirs was the proverbial “offer I could not refuse” so for the next couple of weeks I worked nights, played days, and earned another grub stake for Hawaii. Some days Wayne and I and another buddy, Bill Grundy, would explore the Northern California towns of Placerville, and other historical sites. One day we even ventured into Reno, though note of us were of age. We were escorted out of several casinos after telling kindly security guards that we'd left our ID in the car (like they'd never heard that one before). It was a profitible and fun-filled two weeks. Finally the day came and they along with Wayne took me to the Oakland airport. We hugged and I boarded the plane.