Biography


I was born November 8, 1944 in Ogden, Utah. Although technically not a Baby Boomer, things were booming at the Dee Hospital. Insufficient rooms put my mother in a linen closet.

We lived in a tiny house at 332 Patterson St. It had 4 rooms, 5 if you count the back porch, where my brother and I slept. We were Father Ron, Mother Eva, Brother Lin (2 years older), and I.

My parents were late bloomers in that they married when he was 31 and she was 26, which was pretty unusual in 1939.

They suffered from erythroblastosis, so Lin and I were miracle babies, in essence. Their first were Siamese twins born live then died within minutes. After Lin and I were born in 1942 and 1944, my mother had three more full-term stillborn babies.

My father was a miracle baby himself of sorts. His parents had children in 1884, 1887, and 1889. Then my father was born in 1907. His mother died 3 months to the day later.

I was purportedly named after Robert the Bruce of Scotland. Lin was definitely named after Lin Yutang, modern Chinese philosopher and author.

 

Bruce, New to this Business of Life

 

 

Mother Eva, soon after son #2 is welcomed

 

 

Being precocious or obnoxious—not sure which—and my birthday coming after the cutoff date, my parents opted to pay the tuition and send me to a Catholic kindergarten as a four year old.

Around the same time our mother enrolled my brother and me in an accordion band. Lin quit when he learned that he would have to march in the July 24th parade. I graduated to private lessons with the Sam Pezzopane studios, which I attended until I was thirteen.

Lin & Bruce, Big Boy bikes

I attended public schools. I went to Pingree Elementary for my first through sixth grades. Before I entered junior high, my would-be junior high burned down, so seventh grade was at the old Weber Junior College campus.

My eighth and ninth grades were at Washington Junior High School. While at junior high, I was the lead in the school play, was on the baseball team (right field), was on the school newspaper staff, was in the science guild, and ran on the track team.

I went to high school at Ogden High, a beautiful edifice (considered one of the most architecturally significant high schools in the country) completed in 1937 and financed through the WPA. At the time I attended the school had about 2,000 students in three grades and was one of the largest high schools in Utah.

At high school I was on the cross country team, was in the drama guild, was the president of the National Forensic League chapter, was the lead in the school play Look Homeward Angel, and ran track all three years, receiving letters my sophomore and junior years. I was also on the Junior Red Cross Council and in the Booster’s Guild. Having taken Latin two years, I attended the BYU Language Festival and received honors the two years I participated. I was the cross-country team captain my senior year.

I was raised in the Mormon Church, my mother being Mormon, my father not. I was active in church while I was a member. That’s where I excelled in basketball. Our 9th Ward team went to All-Church competition in 1960 where we made it to the consolation semi-final. I led the team in scoring in two subsequent years and was even the team leader while in the Army on the Pacific Grove Ward team in California. I also participated in speech and drama activities and was active in music events. I am no longer a Mormon.

One of the most significant early incidents occurred when dad died of cancer July 26, 1955, over three months before my eleventh birthday.

 

Father Ron, somebody forgot that his head was a little bigger

 

Bruce & Sue playing like grown-ups 1962

 

Ogden High School, Senior Photo

 

My life further changed dramatically when I married Susan Meadowcroft while I was a senior and she was a junior in high school.

After receiving my diploma, I enlisted in the US Army and served nearly three years. I became a member of the Army Security Agency; learned Chinese Mandarin while stationed at the Defense Language Institute West Coast Branch in Monterey, California; learned how to become a voice intercept operator at Petaluma, California, which is where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated; and served over a year in Taipei, Taiwan.

During this time Susan and I had two children, Kellee (born in 1963 in California) and Mike (born in 1964 in Taiwan).

 

Bruce, in the Army at 17, ready to spy

Awards in the Army included Sharpshooter badge with the M-1, Expert badge with the carbine M-2, and a good conduct medal. My highest rank was Specialist 5th Class.

When I got out of the Army, Sue and I spent almost four years living in my old house on 31st Street in Ogden. (My mother moved and allowed us to live in her house while we pursued our education.)

 

Sue received secretarial training at a business college while I worked. Then she worked while I attended Weber State College (later University). (I also worked full-time the whole time, mostly at Dee Memorial Hospital, first as a porter [custodian] then as an attendant in the psychiatric ward.)

I majored in English and minored in Psychology. I started college the fall quarter of 1965, but we ran out of money. (That’s when Sue began going to business college while I worked in a department store selling children’s clothes.)

Congress passed the GI Bill, and I started back at Weber in the fall of 1966 and went fall, winter, spring, and summer until I was graduated in 1969.

During the college years we had two more children, Lisa (born in 1966 in Ogden) and Dave (born in 1969 in Ogden).

I achieved all “A’s” except for two “B’s.” My cumulative GPA was 3.97. I was graduated Magna Cum Laude.

I also had a dual plan for a career. One track was to become a high school English teacher. Therefore, a chunk of college was in the teacher-training sector, and I became certified as a teacher. The other track was to become a writer. So I applied to the University of Iowa, Rice University, The University of Denver, and The University of Washington in their Master of Fine Arts programs. I was accepted at Iowa, Rice, and Denver. My GRE scores in English were not so great, so I received no fellowship offers. Therefore, I picked the cheapest school: Iowa.

I was sure that I had been accepted into the Writers’ Workshop. However, when we arrived at Iowa, I was told that I had been accepted into the English program. Furthermore, they told me that I was not allowed transfer into the Writers’ Workshop. So I spent my year working on my master’s program in English. I began at Iowa the fall of 1969 and completed my MA- the summer of 1970 with a GPA of 3.60.

Sue continued her support of the family and me. In Iowa City she got a job working for Johnson County Health Department and then as the Executive Secretary of the Graduate Department of Art.

Sue, First Marriage

It was clear that my writing dreams would be put on hold, so I interviewed for a teaching position. I got two job offers, one with Muscatine High School to teach low-level English all day and the other with Davenport Central High School to be a groundbreaker in their new semester-elective system. I chose Davenport. I signed my first contract at a heady salary of $10,000. (What I didn’t realize is that for a family of six that was not such great pay.)

We moved to Davenport in the summer of 1970. We lived in a townhouse for a couple of months while our federally subsidized pre-fab was being built.

My five years at Davenport Central HS were magical. I taught a potpourri of subjects ranging from Sophomore English to American Literature to Basic Composition to British Literature to Contemporary Literature to Creative Writing, to Expository Writing to Individualized Reading to Intermediate Composition to Mythology and Folklore to Short Story to Thematic American Literature. (I had taken the place of a teacher who had spent her whole career teaching American Literature.)

Central High was a unique high school in that the poorest to the richest students attended as well as the least prepared to the most highly prepared. It was a nightmare at times but was a rich groundwork for future writing possibilities. My last couple of years I mostly taught Creative Writing, and I was the advisor to Wordgrain, the writing and art magazine. My first principal was fired. My first superintendent was fired. We had race conflicts, protests over Vietnam, and a police riot. At the time of my teaching there we had about 2,000 students in three grades, and Central was one of the largest high schools in the state of Iowa.

Our son Brett, our fifth child, was born in 1972 in Davenport.

The marriage was in trouble. I resigned from Central High in 1975 and moved back to Utah to save the marriage. Instead, we got divorced.

 

 

 

I got a job in little Roosevelt, Utah and lived in a tiny mobile home, first with my oldest, Mike, then with Dave and Brett added. In the second year Julie became the second Mrs. Bothwell. I learned rather rapidly that if you cram five people in a little trailer you create lots of personal-interaction problems.

My second high school was unique in the US, I believe. It was called Union High School and sat squarely on the dividing line between Uintah County and Duchesne County. Students attended from both counties. It was also in the middle of the Ute-Ouray reservation, one of the largest reservations in the United States. Like at Central High, my first year was Union High’s first foray into semester-elective courses. So once again I taught many subjects including journalism, Mass Media, literature, and writing. I was the advisor to the school newspaper.

After my second year, pregnant Mrs. Bothwell, the three boys, and I moved back to Iowa. I found a job teaching at Clinton High School in Clinton, Iowa. This time I started without the pressure of a massive daily teaching schedule. I taught Basic Composition and Mass Media.

Katie Lynn, the sole progeny of Julie and me, was born in 1977.

In 1978 the administration was looking for a way to staunch the burgeoning dropout rate, so I was one of those selected to examine a program called Focus that was devised by a psychological counselor and was based on group-therapy strategies. We liked the concept, so we adopted the program and adapted it to our needs. We made it a school-within-the-school. The key component was called Family with each teacher having students who spent one period each day discussing personal life similar to group therapy.

To help these students through their studies, I devised an individualized, self-paced program that I kept modifying over the years. Part of my program was vocabulary and spelling study worked through a continuing story I called “The Perils of Penelope Pomegranate.”

Another life-and-family change occurred in 1980 when I got divorced a second time. I stayed in the family home in Clinton with Mike, Dave, Brett, and Frisbee, the German shepherd mix we brought with us from Utah.

 

 

 

Julie, Second Marriage

 

Linda & Bruce, Third time's the charm

 

 

 

Back to teaching, our school-within-the-school program was so successful we moved to our own campus (in an old K-3 building) in 1985 and named the school Lincoln Alternative High School.

I spent an inordinate amount of time developing my individualized program and eventually ended up with 18 units that students had to work with: Caring, Criticism, Games, Listening, Literature, Lyrics Appreciation, Movies, Radio, Reading, Reforming, Semantics, Speaking, Spelling, Thinking, Television, and Vocabulary.

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Linda looks pretty good in 2011

 

Back to personal life, I met Linda in 1986 through a personal ad in a singles newspaper called Solo RFD. (This was long before e-Harmony and the like.) We dated for a couple of years and married in 1988. She worked in Dubuque. I worked in Clinton. We compromised, and in 1990 we bought a house in Maquoketa, approximately halfway between our two places of employment

Eva Muriel Bothwell Mitchell, Mother Supreme 1987

 

 

 

Lin, Bruce, & Eva Together Again 1987

 

And speaking of employment, Lincoln Alternative HS moved once more, this time to a regular K-6 building in 1996. And that’s the school from which I retired in 2006. I loved alternative education.

I was fortunate during my teaching career to teach with some fantastic teachers and to interact with terrific students, many of whom went on to remarkable lives. I was also fortunate to receive two teacher-of-the-year awards, both in 1988. One was Distinguished Teacher of the Year sponsored by the University of Iowa. The other was Alternative Teacher of the Year. In my last year at the state alternative conference I received the first Lifetime Achievement award.

Having no real need to stay in Maquoketa—Linda had retired in 2004—and considering that Linda’s two sons, their wives, and four grandsons live in Dubuque, we bought a house in the growing community of Asbury, a suburb of Dubuque, in 2006, and that’s where we reside today.

 

Katie, Brett, Dave, Lisa, Mike, Kelle, All 6 together for the only time 1989

Frisbee, sweet old girl

Bruce Bothwell

 

 

 

 

 

Our great question in retirement is the following: how did we get as much done as we did when we were working? We find that we spend long days just trying to keep up the house and yard.

Of course, we each have our activities that keep us busy. We’re both avaricious readers. Linda loves to crochet and work on other projects. We play cribbage and euchre. I am an inveterate collector. I have an Edison phonograph and about 100 Edison 80 rpm records. I also collect 78’s, 33 1/3’s, 45’s, cassettes, 8 tracks, and, of course, CDs. I collect stamps. I collect coins. I collect… But you get the idea.

We also like to travel and have made a habit of traveling to my children’s homes each year and taking a little side trip each time. (I have 6 children and 15 grandchildren and one adorable great granddaughter spread from California to Utah to Texas to Georgia.) I have been to all but a couple of the states; Linda isn’t far behind me.

We will be travelling to Utah this year. We are thinking of taking Amtrak this year. Driving is getting tough for us old folk.

I have a son in Houston. He and his family experienced Harvey, but they were spared the worst of it. They did have air conditioning problems for weeks, but that's fixed now. We wish all those who suffered there and from Irma (and it looks like othrs) the best recoveries even though for some it's going to be a long time.

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