Assistant Branch Clerk
As much time as I spent in the Cambridge chapel, I don’t seem to possess any interior photos, nor, a fortiori, any visuals that would clarify what we did in there. So I’ll resort to what we in the Ed. Biz call “hand-waving.” Here, it takes the form of unrelieved prose. Sorry, all you visual types.
Through my freshman year, unless I’m forgetting something I shouldn’t, the local authorities let me be that rarest of active Latter-day Saints, a layman. Perhaps they felt that as a 17-year-old “youth,” with a heavy load of school work, I had my plate too full to share the burdens of the adults of the congregation. Perhaps they were right: I don’t recall chafing under the weight of idleness. In any case, and I could be mistaken, after all these years, but I believe I was a sophomore (1959-60) when Cambridge Branch President E. Earl Hawkes* called me to my first job in the Church organization, as Assistant Branch Clerk, with an assignment to keep the membership records in order. Earl
Elden Earl Hawkes
That, by the way, was a daunting task. The Branch membership gathered from a very large area of Greater Boston/Cambridge. There were smaller branches in South Weymouth, New Bedford, Georgetown, and North Middlesex (later Billerica). Nothing yet in Weston, Marlborough, Worcester or Lynnfield.** Nor, for that matter, in Boston.
Many members of record, or residents who should have been such, were transplants from the West whose records tended to follow them slowly and unreliably. Not a few were running away from their Church affiliation and hoped I’d never connect them back up. At one point I was assigned to supervise two pairs*** of brethren from the Elders’ quorum whose sole Branch Teaching (yes, that’s what we called it, back then) duty was to seek out the lost sheep, whether or not they were voluntarily so.
*Earl was publisher and general manager of a major Boston newspaper of the Hearst chain. The Herald, if I remember correctly. In 1964, he left Hearst to become publisher of the Deseret News in Salt Lake, reportedly on the condition that he wouldn’t have to run “a Church house organ.” He’s credited with proposing, circa 1965, that the Church decorate Temple Square at Christmas with lots of lights and a Nativity Scene.
**Although there had been an earlier Lynn Branch: during the First World War, the New England headquarters of the Church was on Essex Street in Lynn.
***This in a “mission-field” environment, where those who were willing to serve as Branch Teachers typically had six to ten widely-scattered families to check on each month. By way of comparison, in these days (2007) in Kaysville, “The City of Distinction,” Utah, Bob Whitney and I minister to two families who live a block or so from our “Chankly.”
…Next Church assignment: Full-time Missionary
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