1. You learned to be an individual. A friend of mine once told me that it’s hard to be your own man living where you grew up, in SJ. While you may be known as so and so’s kid or brother or relative, it doesn’t take long for folks in a small town to figure out who exactly you are. You have to take ownership early on of who you are and what you stand for, and I have found that the confidence gained from that has made lots of people from SJ tremendously successful both here and throughout the world. This was well stated in Carol Ashton’s recent submission on this blog.
2. You become extremely well rounded. There are not many places where the Homecoming King plays in the band and is captain of the football team, as has happened many times in SJ. Although not as common as it once was, unfortunately, there was a time when the band or choir involved almost all kids in the school. It still remains that most kids are involved in many different activities in our school that boasts a proud tradition of excellence in ACADEC, Athletics, Student Government, Talent Shows, Volunteer Organizations, and Community Involvement. This makes for a well-rounded future college student, mom, wife, husband, father, employee, employer, civic leader, and on and on. I personally have never had a problem finding a job to support my family because of the many different things I can do and learned from my dad and other good men in our community. The examples of strong work ethic are many amongst the men I admired as I grew up here and continues with many of our community members today.
3. You gained an appreciation for tradition. Who can argue that tradition plays a huge role in St. Johns and is a big part of our strength? There are many traditions that I look forward to throughout the year. I appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that many good people make year after year to carry on traditions that help us remember who we are, who we appreciate, and what we value. These past few years I have attended our Memorial Day program held at the St. Johns Cemetery. I regret that I have not attended before but am grateful to those who provide the program and honor those service people past and current for their service to our Country. I love the Pioneer Days celebration and all that it entails. I love that we have added to the many events and make an effort to include all in our community, not just the LDS people. The 4th of July Celebration, the Living Christmas Tree Programs, the Apache County Fair, and yearly treks to the valley for playoff games or matches are great traditions that many enjoy. Thanks to those who put so much time into continuing those proud traditions. I love that our football crowds in the valley always outnumber the other side.
4. You learned very early about the consequences of making wrong choices. Accountability is sure something our country could use a bit more of these days. You get that in SJ. While some young folks absolutely hate this part of a small town, it has no doubt kept many out of serious trouble. When I was attending SJMS, my Uncle Ken was the principal. As an 8th grader I made the mistake of being present when wrongdoing was happening. You might think that the nephew of the Principal might get some leniency, as I was really only a bystander, but that notion was squashed when I received the same five swats as the other offenders. In fact, the paddle broke on the 3rd swat and Uncle Ken finished the others with Mr. Harvey’s paddle. My parents were definitely in support of this, and I felt worse about disappointing Uncle Ken than the punishment meted out. I hope that our parents today still support their kids being disciplined when they need it.
5. You grew to understand the true definition of Loyalty. The NBA playoffs held nothing over the ‘Skins in the playoffs when Verl Heap was our Coach. I never missed a game as a kid, and I was a wrestler! The old gym downtown was the place to be when there was a home game, and it was exciting. The same went for football games, and, while we have had success in the past, nothing has compared to Coach Morgan’s and Garcia’s run for the past twenty years. Numerous state title game appearances have the faithful expecting to travel in November. It is awesome to see how many people come to the games in the Valley where we always out number our opponents fans. When you are raised with Red and White it’s hard to see any other colors as being good looking on a uniform and that loyalty is rare. I am proud to say there have been quite a few kids in red and white singlets win state titles for the ‘Skins on the mat over the years as well.
6. You established deep and lasting friendships. Many of the kids in your kindergarten pics are also in your high school graduation pics. I have personally not seen some of my classmates for many years, but when I run into them we pick up our friendship where it left off and the bond between St. Johners is undeniable.
7. You absorbed the ability to find joy in the little things in life. Small towns naturally give you an appreciation for simple things. Seeing your name or picture in the paper, a new restaurant opening, your friend’s new car (that is usually older), or, even better , a cool exhaust system were reasons to smile and laugh. Hearing about fun family reunions, improvements to the fairgrounds or ballfields are all reasons to smile and enjoy life in a small town. A few of the simple things that I enjoy here are the change of the seasons, seeing old friends run into one another, hard work rewarded to those who put forth the effort whether in their small business, their sports teams or in personal ventures. I also love to see family reunion shirts and see the many family members that come back to enjoy them.
8. You always understood the importance of family and still do. To most people in our small town, family is very important. Family support at events and contests is not only common but expected. Everyone knows your parents and your siblings, and you are constantly connected to them. Though many of us move somewhere else after our SJ days, the depth of your love for your family never wavers. Growing up surrounded by other families and by your own is incredibly beneficial to you later in life. The good, the bad, the laughter, and the tears, all contribute to the adult that you become and the family that you may one day build, and most want to bring their families back to SJ to share with them the things that they enjoyed here. I also love that there are many here in SJ who are readily adopted into a friend's or acquaintance's family and hold to that for the rest of their lives.
9. You always have a place to truly call home. I would like to believe that everyone from SJ is proud to call it their hometown. I know that I sure am but also realize that a story my dad told me more than once growing up applies here. Here’s the story.,. A man stopped at a gas station in a small town one day to fuel his car. While at the pump he struck up a conversation with another patron gassing up his car. “Are you a local here?” he inquired. “Yep, unfortunately” was the reply. The other man continued to state all that was wrong with this town from the people, its smallness, lack of opportunity and on and on. Eventually he finished gassing up and left. Another man pulled up and started to fuel his car in place of the previous man. The visitor decided to ask the new guy the same question to see if he was of the same sour opinion of this little town. The reply was quite different. “Our town is awesome. I love the people here and how everyone knows one another and is involved in the community. I love the small town feeling and how people get behind our sports teams and volunteer organizations. You really should look at locating here if you want quality of life,” was the reply. My Dad’s point of course was that there is good when you look for it and this goes hand in hand with a favorite saying of my Mom’s, “ Bloom where you are planted.”
I consider myself blessed to have been raised in SJ. I have many friends who come from all walks of life, and I appreciate all that they add to our community. I also feel very blessed to have been able to work with the youth here for almost twenty years now; they are an inspiration to me. My family, both immediate and extended, is a blessing to me, and I thank Heavenly Father for them.