Reader Voices: A special trip from Mississippi to Mesa

By Elmo L. Walker

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, March 10 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Elmo and Wynema Walker traveled from Mississippi to Arizona in 1941 to be sealed in the Mesa Temple.

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World War II was imminent, and my fiancèe, Wynema, and I were unable to visit a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1941 to be married.

With concerns about this, having been inducted into the military service, we went to our mission president for our area in Mississippi for advice relative to our prospective marriage. He advised us to proceed with a civil marriage and go to a temple later when we were able.

We were unable to cross state lines together for the intent of marriage; state laws prohibited this. We therefore were married in a civil union in the home of Wynema's parents. One Mormon missionary, Elder Leon Milner, performed the ceremony; his companion, Elder Lloyd George, who later served in the Quorum of the Seventy, sang "Oh, Promise Me."

Most unique about our wedding is their fathers, Elders Amel Milner and Preal George, respectively, had helped perform the marriage for Wynema's parents two decades earlier — this in a rural branch that served as a founding source for our current LDS local ward in Mississippi.

We could not travel alone — without a chaperone. All of our friends and family were either too busy or too poor to take us. I applied for a pass or furlough; this was granted. It enabled us to begin travel to Mesa, Ariz., which was the nearest temple site at the time.

A missionary who had completed his mission offered to let us ride west with him. This was readily accepted, as we saw no other way to get to the temple. We had very limited money for the trip.

From the beginning, we had trouble. The missionary's car tires began to go flat. We bought four retread tires. Soon they also began to shed. We were using up our money. We then decided to stop in El Paso, Texas.

We bought round-trip bus tickets from El Paso to Mesa. We rode the bus all night, arriving in Mesa at 5 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.

We were tired, hardly having slept since leaving Mississippi. We went to the home of Wynema's uncle, Moses Ball, then to bed for rest and sleep.

About 11 a.m., Uncle Moses woke us up, with "I thought you ought to hear the news on the radio." Pearl Harbor was being bombed!

We stayed with Uncle Moses' daughter and her husband on a ranch, which didn't have a phone or radio, until the temple opened on Tuesday.

We went to the Mesa Arizona Temple on Dec. 9, 1941, and received our endowments and were sealed as husband and wife for eternity.

We left Mesa on Wednesday, Dec. 10, for our return home.

Troubles continued. The bus was crowded; people were jammed together in the aisles. We had round-trip tickets that took us only as far as El Paso. We asked the bus driver if I could get off the bus at El Paso to buy tickets to travel on, letting Wynema stay on the bus to hold our seats. He declined.

When the bus came to a full stop at the station in El Paso, military police got on the bus to arrest a man with a rising sun logo pin on his jacket. We had not seen this man on our bus. I got off when the MPs got on, ran to the agent window, got tickets back to Hattiesburg, Miss., and returned to our seat on the bus.

Our difficulties continued. When our bus reached Shreveport, La., we found the bus line had started a strike.

So what to do? We sat up all night in the bus station depot to get a refund on our money. With morning, our money in hand, we went to the railway station, got tickets to Jackson, Miss. That is as far as our money would pay for rail travel. Wynema had a cousin in Jackson; we spent the evening with his family. He loaned us enough for bus fare to Hattiesburg. Arriving in Hattiesburg the next morning, we were penniless.

Fortunately, I had a friend working in Sears, nearby. He loaned us 25 cents that we used for bus fare to our apartment.

There Wynema opened her dime bank; it contained 90 cents. With this, I went to my base at Camp Shelby, got my rations check for $12. (At that time, this was enough to provide groceries for one month.)

Wynema's comment after this adventure was, "Well, Satan did everything he could to keep us from going to the temple. Even started World War II."

Elmo L. Walker lives in Columbia, Miss.

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