By Ellie Riggs
He has lived in Cache Valley all his life, in the town of Nibley. He was born Aug. 29, 1927, and keeps the history of the valley in his head. He keeps all his memories with him, eager to share with people the stories of his life.
"I was born in this house, lived here 25 years, then we built the house next door and lived there 25 years, and then we moved back into here for another 26 and a half years," said Lavern Riggs.
His wife, Gladys Riggs, jokingly said, "Oh, your time's up then."
Growing up, Lavern learned how to live by doing farm work with his father.
"When I was little I was my dad's shirt tail," he said. "I was with him whenever I could be."
His first jobs included taking the sheep and cows back and forth from the pasture. As he grew up, his jobs changed, he said. He would hoe the beets and the corn.
"When I was 10 my first job with haying was tromping which means that I would get up on the hay and run around and tromp it down for a whole 50 cents a day, and that was a days work," Lavern said.
When he got bigger he had to help milk the cows, he had nine cows when he was younger. In fact most of the people in the neighborhood had six to 20 cows, as well as chickens and pigs, he said.
"In the fall around Christmas time, people would have a day where they would kill a pig, cut him up and dress him. Then cure him and smoke him, so that they would have summer meat," Lavern said. "We didn't have refrigerators back then, so the only time we could store beef was in the winter."
He was 14 when his family got a refrigerator, before that they would put the milk and butter down on the basement floor to keep them cool.
In the Depression, Lavern's family always had a large garden where they would grow potatoes, corn, carrots, and all sorts of vegetables, he said.
"I didn't even know we had a depression, because we lived here and we were always warm, and had a place to sleep, and had a big garden and pigs to kill. Dad raised wheat, which he would trade for flour," said Lavern. "So on Saturday night we would go to the grocery store and get one little sack of groceries, a little salt and sugar."
His mother and father felt the Depression though, he said. They had no money. When he was young he would ask his mother for a penny to buy some candy at the store that was close to his school. She would always say no, he said. But she would give him an egg.
"So mother would give us an egg, and we would go to school in Millville and nurse that egg, and go to the store at lunch and get two pennies worth of candy for that egg," Lavern said. "It was really good, we could buy a package of six caramels, and then you were really happy. Money in your pockets? Well nobody had any money, but I had an egg."
Money was scarce until World War II brought jobs to Ogden, where Lavern's father went to work building, he said. After that he had to take a active role in the running of the farm, milking the cows in the morning and feeding the horses.
When he was in high school Lavern was in the Future Farmers of America which had an arrangement with the bank that they could get a loan enough to buy a calf without interest, until they sold it the next summer and could pay the loan back.
"Well I bought two, I got one bull and a heifer, by drawing lots. Well the bull I got was supposed to be a steer, but it was a bull, and I traded that bull for two red bally heifers and that is how I started in the beef business," Lavern said. "I traded one for two and I had three beef cows, and I have always had some beef cows ever since."
Lavern seriously burned his hands in 1945 when a diesel weed burner exploded. This made him unfit to serve in the military when he was called to get a physical, preventing him from fighting in the war.
Lavern took over the farm when he was 19, he said. He doubled the acreage his father had owned, and he still has it all today.
"The original 40 acres, where this house is, is from an original grant from Ulysses S. Grant to Brigham Young. It was then to Tommy Jessop who was the church representative, who gave it to the twins John and James Riggs, over 100 years ago," Lavern said.
In 1947 Lavern heard about a re-enactment of the trek over the plains to the west, he said.
He joined the Sons of the Utah Pioneers and put in an application to be a part of the company that went.
On the 10th of July he arrived in Nauvoo, Ill., and began the trek two days later across the plains to arrive in Salt Lake City on July 22, he said.
"I wrote a letter to your grandmother and asked her for a date the 23rd, when I got back," Lavern said. " She told she was engaged when she saw me, so I left."
Gladys Riggs confessed that she really had not been engaged. "But you should have seen him, all tired and he had a big beard and I wasn't used to that kind of guy," she said.
They met on the Fourth of July, remembered Gladys, at the Dansante in Logan.
"I was a good dancer, Gladys was a good dancer, we danced good together," Lavern said.
"I did the foxtrot and the waltz the most. I did a little jitterbugging but I was never a good jitterbugger."
Lavern said that dancing was where you met people. There was a stag line at the Elite Hall in Hyrum, and if you had a date you took them to the Dansante, he said.
One time they were in Ogden at this place where the theme was "Sing for your supper with Tommy Tucker." Lavern got picked, along with three other guys, from the crowd to get onto the stage and sing, he said.
"He told me to sing Show Me the Way Home and act drunk," Lavern said.
"And I won it."
"We never really did go steady," Lavern said. "Why we got married I don't know, I guess we were young and dumb."
They had kept milk cows on the farm until all their four children left home, he said.
"You used to raise a big garden, house wives would can, that was her pride and joy when people would come to visit, she'd say hey look at this I got canned, we are ready for the winter," Lavern said.
"We used to can fruit and put them down into the pantry and try to fill up the fruit cellar.
The bottles of fruit were so pretty that we used to go down and dance in the room," Gladys said.
They did not get a TV until 1953; it was a 17-inch console, black and white, Lavern said.
"We would sit across the room from it because we were afraid of it and it hurt our eyes," said Gladys.
Times used to be different, Lavern said. It used to be a small community, everybody knew everybody. The paved roads now, used to be dirt lanes to fields, he said
There have been tremendous changes, said Lavern.
"Most of the buildings were not there," he said referring to Utah State University.
There was Old Main and two buildings to the south and the library on the east, and the Biology and Animal Science building to the North, he said. There was a gym by the alumni house, and the Field House was there. Behind the Animal Science Building there were barns, he said.
"And on top of Old Main Hill was a ski school," Lavern said. "We would ski down the hill and tease the girls."
It has changed since Lavern went to USU. When he was attending college at USU there where only 1,600 students, he said.
"It was slower, people had time to talk and visit. You'd go out in the field and there would two or three guys in the field talking, now everybody has big fancy equipment and nobody has time. Got to get it done," he said.