David O. McKay was president of the Church, with counselors J. Reuben Clark and Henry D. Moyle. The twelve apostles were (not in order of seniority): Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson, Marion G. Romney, Howard W. Hunter, Mark E. Petersen, Hugh B. Brown, Delbert L. Stapley, LeGrand Richards, Richard L. Evans, and George Q. Morris. Joseph L. Wirthlin was the Presiding Bishop.
Joseph T. Bentley was superintendent of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, Bertha Stone Reeder was president of the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association. George R. Hill was superintendent of the Sunday School. LaVern W. Parmley was the Primary president, and Belle Spafford was president of the Relief Society.
There were only twelve temples in operation, in the United States, Canada, England, Switzerland, and New Zealand. There were 1.7 million of us, and about 5,000 of us were serving as missionaries.
On March 2, President McKay, visiting Great Britain to dedicate and chapel and organize stakes, called at his mother’s birthplace in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales and placed a plaque on the house where she was born. On March 5, the Leicester Stake, only the third stake in England and the 326th in the Church, was created, to be followed the next week by creation of the Leeds Stake. On March 12, the very first non-English-speaking stake of the Church was organized in The Hague, The Netherlands. In Londonderry, Ireland, the young men of the branch celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with an early morning swim, followed by a hilltop hike and exploration of an old castle. In Salt Lake City on the 21st, remodeling of State Street required the removal of the old 13-foot stone pillars that had supported the Eagle Gate entrance to Brigham Young’s properties; once the street was widened, new metal pillars supporting a refurbished eagle were erected at the same point. A box embedded in the gate’s pillars from an 1890s repair was opened, but water head leaked in and the papers inside had been destroyed. On the 24th, the Ogden 12th Ward defeated Pioneer 1st (Provo), 54-50, in an overtime game to win the all-Church senior basketball tournament; Utah State University’s 5th Ward defeated BYU’s 8th Ward, 54-44, to win the all-Church college basketball tournament.
Roy Baumgart, a missionary based in Stuttgart, was drawing attention to the Church throughout Germany by using his talents as a ventriloquist with a wooden dummy to draw crowds for street meetings and to perform on German TV. Ezra Taft Benson returned to his desk in the Church Administration Building full time, after completing eight years in President Eisenhower’s cabinet. J. Spencer Kinard, later announcer for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 18 years but then a 20-year-old missionary in Samoa, wrote an article for the Church News about mission progress throughout Samoa. Sister (Mrs. Joseph) Edlund of Jonkoping, Sweden, fulfilled a dream she had had since her 1929 baptism of visiting Salt Lake City. The older Primary girls of El Paso 1st Ward shipped colorful laprobes they had made to Primary Children’s Hospital. The Spokane Stake honored their nine Eagle Scouts.
The cover of March’s Improvement Era featured a weathered, pioneer-era dwelling at St. Johns, Arizona.. Inside the magazine, you could order a two-volume album of fifty 33-1/3 rpm hi-fi vinyl records, “narrated with ringing sincerity by two of our finest Voices,” recording the text of the Book of Mormon, for $49.95. Don’t have it all now? No worries – just $5 down and $5 monthly payments, and it will soon be yours! If you were blind, or nearly so, your bishop’s signature could get you a free registration with the LDS Record Club, and you could borrow all kinds of church-themed vinyl records. Listen to them while relaxing with a cup of Postum, advertised by Thayer D. Evans and the Evans Quartet, sipping Postum and singing in the reception room of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers Museum (“Have a cup of friendship … so many talented people do.”) And Keepa’s old friend, Beneficial Life, reminds us that “Life is a series of choices” and “More and more families every day are finding that they choose wisely when they spend part of their income for a Beneficial Life Planned Futures program.” Planning for the future also included food storage – there are ads for apple sauce nuggets from Perma-Pak (“Delicious!”), and Idahoan Instant Potato Flakes (if they couldn’t truthfully be advertised as delicious, at least they needed no refrigeration and took “only seconds to prepare”).
More to the point, the Era carried an editorial by President McKay on the “Aspirations of Men,” urging readers to be true to themselves and loyal to God and their fellow-men. Joseph Fielding Smith answered that annoying question about wearing crosses as jewelry by saying that “the wearing of crosses is to most Latter-day Saints in very poor taste and inconsistent to our worship.” Historical articles featured the “Old Sow” cannon and the “Lord’s House at Kirtland” and the paper “Money of the Mountains” (so many historical features in a single issue! Imagine!) Another article examined “Priesthood: Its Nature, Source, and History,” and another offered cooking advice to the couple whose children are now grown, leaving them “Now We Are 2 Again.”
The “Era of Youth,” a section within the Era that pre-dated the separately published New Era of our day, featured tips on dating with such enlightened and raised-consciousness remarks as “Find a flock of females clucking over boys, and you’ll find complete agreement on one thing. The boy who works out all the date details in advance [is the one the girls accept].” Need new dating ideas? “Consider reading aloud from Robert Frost or thoreau or the scriptures.”
“The Last Word,” the Era’s “Funny Bones,” quipped that “To be absolutely honest about it, what we want most in a new car is us” and “If Moses had formed a committee, the Israelites would still be in Egypt.”
The Relief Society Magazine gave a brief and illustrated history of the monuments on Temple Square and printed a talk by a Relief Society board member given at the previous October Conference, about using one’s time wisely to serve family and world, and celebrated the 100th birthday of Mrs. Susan Peacock Richards of Los Angeles. The Children’s Friend celebrated the theme of transportation – everything from early balloon flights to rockets. “A Miss and Her Magic” showed how a little girl could be practically as magical as a genie by helping Mother around the house. And the paperdoll was an oddly androgynous child figure with western outfits to color and cut out.
In Sunday School, the adults recited the Sacrament Gem “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept,” while the youngest children recited “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The hymn practiced each week in Sr. Sunday School was “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” while in Jr. Sunday School the children learned “If with All Your Hearts,” from Mendelssohn’s Elijah
In March 1961, this picture was made of ye future editore of Keepapitchinin.
And for some reason, which s/he may disclose or conceal at the reader’s discretion, March 1961 was a significant month in the life of one of Keepa’s loyal readers.